People can float on the Current and Jacks Fork rivers that flow through the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in southwest Missouri but they can’t set foot in the closed parks for now, a Riverways official said.
When a partial government shutdown closed the parks Oct. 1, officials indicated rivers in the area would be off limits to floating. On Thursday, Riverways Superintendent Bill Black said the U.S. Solicitor General’s office had clarified that people can float on rivers through federal parks but they must stay off federal park land, including gravel bars in the rivers.
Black said all park facilities are closed and boats can’t be launched from park property. But there are some places at Eminence and Van Buren, and some county roads, where boats can be put in.
Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration is working on a proposal that could allow national parks to reopen in Missouri with help from the state. Nixon said Friday that Missouri’s proposal would specifically include plans to reopen the Gateway Arch grounds in St. Louis and the Ozark National Scenic Riverways Park in southern Missouri.
Work on the proposal comes after President Barack Obama’s administration said it would allow parks to reopen if states are willing to pay the costs. Utah and Colorado already have struck deals to re-open some of the national parks.
For now, people who go on the rivers during the shutdown should be aware that it might be difficult to obtain emergency services from the few park rangers who are still on duty, Black said.
“We are operating with limited resources and if you do decide to go on the river, take extra precautions and safety equipment with you,” Black advised.
The closure has already hurt businesses that cater to tourists along the rivers.
Joe Devall, owner of Silver Arrow Canoe Rentals, said the shutdown has had a “dramatic impact” on his business, which is a National Park Service concessionaire south of Salem.
“We don’t have any business,” Devall said, adding it would violate his contract to even shuttle anyone to access points on the Current River. He said he normally has a brisk business this time of year but he’s had to turn people away.
“They’re holding on, hoping Congress will get their act together. But as of today, still nothing’s changed,” he said.