Following floods, Zion officials discuss park status, cyanobacteria, restrictions ahead of busy weekend

Memorial weekend visitors await entry in Zion National Park in Springdale, Utah, May 30, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park's Facebook page, for St. George News

SPRINGDALE — In light of recent weather events and given the state of drought in Utah, Zion National Park officials have released information in advance of what they anticipate to be a busy holiday weekend, during which visitors should expect vehicle and pedestrian congestion and high temperatures.

Crews work to clear Zion Park Boulevard after flash floods swept through Zion National Park and Springdale, Utah, June 29, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Due to recent flooding on Tuesday, which brought more than 1 1/2 inches of rain within an hour and caused damage in Springdale and the park, visitors should expect traffic delays and debris on roads as clean-up continues and damage is being assessed. According to a press release from park officials, the Watchman Trail is currently closed due to flood damage, but the oversized vehicle parking lot will reopen on Friday.

Park visitors are reminded to recreate responsibility and plan ahead. This includes knowing the local fire restrictions. Currently, no campfires are allowed in Zion National Park due to extreme fire conditions.

Additionally, those celebrating the holiday need to be aware that discharging or using any kind of fireworks or other pyrotechnic devices is prohibited at all times on all federal public lands, including Zion National Park. Firefighters are responding to increasing numbers of human caused wildfires across the region, and increasing fire danger is expected for the summer months.

Visitors should expect crowded conditions and long lines. Parking typically fills very early, so visitors entering later should plan on parking in Springdale and walking or taking the free town shuttle to the park’s pedestrian/bike entrance. Once parking is full, vehicle admittance into the park will be metered based upon availability.

This 2017 file photo shows visitors in line for shuttle access to Zion National Park, Utah, circa 2017 | File photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News

The Zion Mount Carmel Highway may be closed to through traffic periodically when parking has filled in order to safely relieve congestion both east and west of the large tunnel and to restore traffic flow. Alternative routes include Utah Highway 59 /Arizona Highway 389, Utah Highway 14 and Utah Highway 20.

The Zion National Park shuttle system consists of two shuttle routes. Face masks must be worn on the shuttle buses. No tickets are required to ride the shuttles; they are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

The first route is in the park. It runs from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center up the Scenic Drive to destinations like the Zion Lodge and trailheads, including Emerald Pools, West Rim Trail and Temple of Sinawava where hikers depart for the Narrows. The second route serves visitors within the town of Springdale. The town shuttle stops at marked locations in town and picks up and drops off visitors at the Zion Canyon Village at the park’s pedestrian/bike entrance.

The town shuttle starts at 8 a.m. MDT. The last shuttle back into town picks up park visitors from Zion Canyon Village at the park’s pedestrian/bike entrance at 6 p.m.

The last park shuttle up canyon leaves the Zion Canyon Visitor Center Plaza at 5 p.m., and the last park shuttle down canyon leaves the Temple of Sinawava at 8:15 p.m.

The town of Springdale will be hosting a parade on Saturday, and traffic will be stopped from 9-9:30 a.m. Visitors should expect traffic delays and congestion.

The line for Angels Landing that often forms at Scout Lookout will be managed from the West Rim Trailhead at the Grotto, much like it was during Memorial Day Weekend. This effort will reduce crowding on the chains section and provide a better visitor experience on the trail.

This 2019 file photo shows an hourslong line forming at the Grotto to hike Angels Landing over Memorial Day weekend, Zion National Park, May 25, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News

Those waiting at the Grotto will enjoy more shade, flush restrooms and water filling stations at the trailhead prior to starting their hike. Lines of several hours are possible, so hikers should be prepared. Hikers who want to hike Kayenta Trail, continue up the West Rim Trail without hiking the chain section to Angels Landing or only go as far as Scout Lookout will not be required to wait at the Grotto.

National Park staff have been actively monitoring the presence of harmful cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins in three major tributaries of the Virgin River within the park: North Fork of the Virgin River, North Creek and La Verkin Creek. North Fork Virgin River is currently at a warning advisory based on the most recent monitoring results.

During a warning advisory, visitors are advised to avoid swimming or submerging their heads in the water. Children are especially vulnerable to cyanotoxins. Minimize risk by avoiding primary contact (i.e. swimming or submerging your head) with all waters in Zion National Park. Keep dogs on a leash and out of the water. Dogs are vulnerable to cyanotoxin exposure as it is difficult to control how they interact with potentially toxic algal mats.

An online flyer from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality showing examples of what pieces of a harmful algal bloom in the Virgin River may look like. | Image courtesy of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality / Zion National Park, St. George News

More information about the danger to dogs from cyanotoxins can be found here. Do not drink any in-stream water in Zion National Park. Contact the Utah Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 with concerns about cyanotoxin poisoning and call 911 in the event of a medical emergency.

Park visitors are reminded to “Know before you go”; research the park and the activity you plan to do and potential hazards you may encounter, be realistic about your limits and of those traveling with you, identify the right equipment for your trip and test it and/or try it out before you go.

Visitors should be prepared to hike in the heat, with plenty of water and proper footwear. Visitors who can be flexible with their schedule are encouraged to visit Friday or Monday rather than Saturday or Sunday, as well as consider arriving early or starting their visit after 3 p.m. to avoid the greatest crowding and warmest daytime temperatures. Visitors are reminded that your safety is your responsibility, so please avoid unsafe behaviors and risk taking.

The National Park Service requests the public’s cooperation utilizing Leave No Trace (LNT) practices throughout Zion National Park. Following these principles and tips helps to protect the natural and cultural resources of Zion National Park during your visit. The park also encourages visitors to take the Zion National Park Pledge, a personal promise you can make to protect yourself and the park. Please share your #ZionPledge story on social media and encourage family and friends to do the same.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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