CREATED Oct. 5, 2013
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Many people have spent months planning their trips to area parks, and when they arrived this week to find the national parks closed, they started searching for other options.
"The first day we counted about 230 calls in an eight hour period with the same question, 'Are you open?'" Valley of Fire Park Supervisor Jim Hammons said.
Those phone calls led to lines of people waiting at the main gate for the Valley of Fire State Park, as well as at the visitor’s center where rangers were giving visitors advice on the best places to visit.
"He called and they said it was a state park and would be open, and we ended up here and it is beautiful," Las Vegas resident Ginette Sembiazza said.
Over the last week rangers say they have seen two to three times their normal business.
"Anywhere from a thousand cars to 1,500 cars a day, depending on the day," Hammons said.
Many of the people who stopped at the Valley of Fire State Park were originally planning stops at Lake Mead, Red Rock, Zion or even Bryce National Parks, but when they got here the rangers recommended one of three popular trails like Rainbow Vista which many were pleasantly surprised.
"We really enjoyed the canyon in here and there were some beautiful arches. We probably wouldn't have come otherwise," tourist Meghan Kish said.
"We were driving to Hoover Dam and were planning to go through the Lake Mead area and got stopped and turned around. Extra miles, did not get to see it, but we eventually got to Hoover Dam," tourist Les Moore said.
All these extra visitors are putting a big strain on the park campgrounds, where people can stay overnight, but rangers tell us there's plenty of room in the park for people who want to explore just while the sun is out.
"We are always glad to see a lot of people in here," Hammons said.
Rangers said they normally work to increase staffing in early November, but because of the increase in visitors this week they are bringing in a couple extra rangers from Northern Nevada to help.