Mesa Verde National Park has reopened after an extended federal government shutdown and work to repair road damage from rockfalls.
“We are open! Thank you for your patience while we had the extended closure to get the park ready for you, our visitors,” states park public information officer Cristy Brown wrote on the park’s Facebook page Monday. “Please be prepared for winter driving conditions, as we have a couple of storms forecasted.”
The Visitor and Research Center, Chapin Mesa Museum and public restrooms are also open, according to a park official. The Mesa Top Loop Road with views of the ruins is still closed.
Park guide Jacob Collins drove returned from Oklahoma go get back to work. He said visitors arriving Monday were pleased to access the park.
“People are happy to visit the park and the museum, and we’re thrilled to be back serving our guests in any way we can,” he said. “Hats off to our road crew for their hard work getting the road ready for the public.”
The main road into the park is clear, he said, with a few icy spots expected in winter.
Park services shut down beginning Dec. 21, and employees were sent home on furlough. The winding, 21-mile road through the park remained open briefly after the shutdown, despite the closure of park attractions and services. But it was closed after the Dec. 25 snowstorm because there were not enough resources to sufficiently plow the road. During the shutdown, several large rockfalls occurred on the main park road between mile markers 2 and 3, causing damage to the road and guardrail. Repairing the road damage and replacing the guardrail, along with substantial snow removal, were necessary to ensure visitor and staff safety prior to the park reopening.
The partial federal government shutdown was triggered by a budget dispute between Congress and President Donald Trump on funding a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
A deal was struck Jan. 25 to fund and reopen the government until Feb. 15 to allow time for a budget resolution.
The reopening lets the park get back to business with events.
A “welcome back” Winter Festival will be held from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Morefield Campground. Parking will be available at the Morefield Campground Store, and ski and snowshoe trails will be open. Snowshoes will be available to borrow, and there will be complimentary cocoa, cider, s’mores and night sky viewing next to a bonfire. Participants are encouraged to dress warmly and take a headlamp.
Morefield Campground is 4 miles past the park’s entrance station, and parking is available at the Morefield Village parking lot.
A limited number of adult and child snowshoes will be available for checkout during the event.
Activities are subject to cancellation because of weather or road conditions. The park will host even if snowfall is inadequate, and encourage people to hike the trails. For more information, call 529-4461.
The park also announced it will implement a prescribed fire between now and March 29, weather permitting. The burn in the Chapin Mesa area will be to dispose of material created during fuel reduction projects from the summer. The burn area is 1 acre in size, and fuels are primarily gamble oak, piñon pine and juniper. Winter burns can decrease fire behavior.
Ignition operations should take one day, but the prescribed burn may produce smoke for several days. Visitors may see smoke in the southwestern part of the park.