October 1, 2013

Missouri’s Current River among popular outdoors spots closed by federal shutdown

Outdoors activities on federal lands and waters, including the Current River, Missouri’s most popular float stream and part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways Park, have ground to a halt as a result of the governmental shutdown.

The Current River, Missouri’s most popular float stream, was unusually quiet Tuesday morning.

In fact, the fish and wildlife had the river to themselves. In stark contrast to most fall days, there were scant signs of human activity in the beautiful Ozarks park.

The Current and the adjoining Jacks Fork River are part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways Park. And that meant they were abruptly closed for business Tuesday morning, the result of the federal government shutdown.

“(Monday) we rented out eight or nine canoes and we had people in our campground,” said Gene Maggard, 73, the longtime owner of Akers Ferry Canoe Rental on the Current River. “Today, it’s like a tomb.

“It’s just eerie. There’s nobody around.”

Maggard, whose family has had the business for 59 years, has been through this before. He remembers back in the mid-1990s, when there was a shutdown that closed the National Scenic Riverways. It was an abrupt change — but not nearly as ominous as this time around, Maggard said.

“That shutdown came in November, a time when we usually don’t get many floaters or campers anyway,” Maggard said. “This time, it’s costing us money. If this isn’t resolved by next weekend, it will cost us a couple thousand dollars.”

The Current and the Jacks Fork rivers weren’t the only places where fishermen, hunters, hikers, campers and paddlers found the outdoors closed for business Tuesday.

• All U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-run boat ramps, campgrounds and day-use areas also were closed as of Tuesday. Campers who had been using the sites were given until 8 tonight to vacate the campgrounds. Customers who had reservations and were scheduled to arrive during the time of the government shutdown will be able to get a full refund by calling 888-448-1474.

• Federal reservoirs remain open to fishing and boating, but the only access to boat ramps will be on state land, such as state parks.

• The Buffalo National River in northern Arkansas also is closed for business, and outdoors activities have ceased on federal lands and water.

• Squaw Creek and Swan Lake, popular national wildlife refuges in northern Missouri, are among the 561 refuges across the nation that will be closed. That means their visitors centers and wildlife driving loops will be unavailable to the public.

• Planning on camping at a corps campground this weekend? Better make other plans, unless the shutdown is resolved.

• Until the federal shutdown is resolved, there will be no hunting or fishing allowed on public federal land. Also, the country’s 73 national fish hatcheries will be closed.

“Closing off public access to our national wildlife refuges and public lands is the last thing we want to do, but it’s consistent with operations called for during a government shutdown,” Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a news release.

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