Spring is in the air, and with that, several U.S. national parks have begun routine annual closures of certain roads and various park areas to protect wildlife during their breeding season.
Here’s why it’s important to protect wildlife during this critical stage of its life cycle. In the case of peregrine falcons, which are an endangered species, human presence can deter raptors from even nesting in the first place. If they have nested before, human activity in the area may cause hawks to temporarily or even permanently abandon their nests. If this happens, the chicks are susceptible to hypothermia, starvation, and predation.
However, peregrine falcons are not the only ones to be protected. Some U.S. national parks have implemented seasonal closures to protect wildlife ranging from harbor seals to various amphibians, and even wild rainbowfish, during their breeding season or while they raise their young.
Here are some US national parks that have started annual closures or restrictions.
Acadia National Park
Acadia, one of the 10 most-visited US national parks, is dubbed the “Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast” by the National Park Service. The 47,000-acre recreation area, which is primarily on Maine’s Mount Desert Island, is about 80 miles from Bangor, Maine.
However, it’s not just people who visit Acadie. Peregrine falcons also mate and nest within the boundaries of Acadia.
To give hawks space to nest and stay quiet, the National Park Service closed areas such as Jordan Cliffs Trail, Precipice Trail, Valley Cove Trail and a section of the Orange & Black Path in Acadia. The closures began March 1 and will remain in place until further notice.
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
New Jersey, Pennsylvania
The 70,000 Acres Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area includes over 150 miles of trails as well as 40 miles of the Middle Delaware River. The park is known for its many waterfalls, including Raymondskill Falls, Pennsylvania’s tallest waterfall, as well as Silver Thread and Dingmans Falls.
Delaware Water Gap is also home to 25 species of frogs, toads, and salamanders, including northern spring peepers, green frogs, eastern newts, and spotted salamanders. Peregrine falcons and bald eagles also nest in the area.
The National Park Service is preparing to close River Road in Middle Smithfield Township between park headquarters and the Hialeah Picnic Area on mild, rainy nights from March to mid-April to protect several species of amphibians as they head to wet pools to mate.
The road will only be closed on nights when the forecast calls for rain and mild temperatures. The road closure will begin at 6 p.m. and remain in effect until approximately 6:30 a.m. on those evenings.
Some areas of the Delaware Water Gap are also closed to protect nesting peregrine falcons.
The climbing routes between Mount Minsi and the Arrow Island Trail are now closed until May 15 to protect hawks. Also, model airplanes cannot fly at Flying Hawks Airfield until May 15th.
Finally, some trails in the recreational area are now closed to protect nesting bald eagles.
The McDade Trail section is closed between the Pittman Orchard and Conashaugh trailheads until mid-July. The Sawkill Creek trail section on the west side of Sawkill Creek is also closed until mid-July so the eagles are not disturbed.
You can monitor current conditions and learn more about closures at Delaware Water Gap here.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park in Washington spans nearly a million acres, including vast wilderness and over 70 miles of rugged Pacific coastline. There are also 800 lakes and 4,000 miles of rivers and streams that support some of the most extensive migrations of wild salmon, trout and char in the Pacific Northwest.
Fishing in the Hoh, South Fork Hoh, Bogachiel, Dickey and Quillayute river systems in Olympic National Park is now closed to protect wild rainbow trout, a type of trout.
The closure, which began March 1, follows reports from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife that there are fewer wild rainbow trout in the run than expected. Wild rainbow trout numbers are declining, so the closure is needed to prevent accidental phishing by people fishing recreationally.
Fishing in many of the park’s rivers, streams and Lake Crescent is set to reopen on June 1.
You can read more about fishing closures in Olympic here.
Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore, which lies 30 miles north of San Francisco, is famous for its beaches and the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse. The region – which includes beaches as well as grasslands, hillsides and wooded ridges – is home to more than 1,500 species of plants and animals, including harbor seals, nesting seabirds and other birds.
Female harbor seals haul themselves out of the water and onto the sandbars and beaches of Drakes Estero, Estero de Limantour, Tomales Bay, Double Point and Bolinas Lagoon to give birth and then raise their young. During what is known as the pupping season, seals, which are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, are extremely vulnerable.
To protect seals and their young, the National Park Service closed certain areas of Point Reyes on March 1. The closures will remain in place until June 30.
Until then, the waters of Drakes Estero and Limantour Estero, including tidal areas, are closed and recreational activities such as fishing, kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, paddle boarding, snorkeling snorkeling and scuba diving are prohibited. Double Point and the westernmost point of Limantour Spit are also closed to all human activity during calving season.
As breeding seabirds are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, various areas of Point Reyes are closed until July 31 to protect storm petrels, rhinoceros aucklets, common murres, pigeon guillemots, pelagic cormorants , double-crested cormorants and other seabirds. Closed areas include Miller Rocks, Hob Island and Duck Island.
Additionally, pets, kiteboarding, and kite flying are now prohibited in the area from the North Beach parking lot to Kehoe Beach, and in Abbotts Lagoon, to protect snowy plovers nesting. These closures will remain in place until September 30.
You can monitor current conditions and learn more about closures in Point Reyes here.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park, another of America’s 10 most visited national parks, is home to 355 miles of hiking trails and 76 mountains, all of which are over 10,000 feet high. Visitors frequently see bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, and other wildlife here.
The park is also home to various species of raptors. Rocky Mountain officials close areas of the park each year to ensure these birds will not be disturbed while nesting.
This year, various areas of the park were closed on February 15 to protect nesting raptors. The closures will remain in place until July 31, but can be extended if necessary.
There are many closures. For example, the Loch Vale area, including the Cathedral Wall, is closed. Areas above the Loch Vale-Sky Pond trail are also closed to off-trail travel.
Also, in the Lumpy Ridge area, Checkerboard Rock, Lightning Rock, Batman Rock, Batman Pinnacle, Sundance, Thunder Buttress, The Parish, Bookmark Pinnacle, The Left Book, Bookmark, Twin Owls, Rock One, and the Needle are all closed .
Since raptors and climbers like the same places, the formations mentioned as well as all climbing routes, outcrops, cliffs, faces, ascent and descent routes and climber access trails in these areas are closed to protect nesting raptors.
You can find detailed information about raptor closures at Rocky Mountain here.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is well known for rock climbing, river trips and hiking trails as it is home to the 15 mile long Zion Canyon. Two of the park’s most popular hiking trails are the Narrows and Angels Landing – a 5.4-mile long (one-way) trail that has an elevation gain of 1,488 feet and offers views of the Zion Canyon at 1 500 feet down.
Considering that Zion features dramatic rock cliffs with magnificent views of the valley floor far below, it’s only natural that peregrine falcons and California condors love the park.
With this in mind, the National Park Service has closed many climbing routes to protect peregrine falcons while they nest. The closures came into effect on March 1 so the hawks could find suitable nesting sites. The reopening date for climbing routes varies from year to year depending on hawk nesting activity, but is usually in late spring or early summer.
California condors, protected under the Endangered Species Act, also nest on Zion Cliffs. As is the case with peregrine falcons, California condors may abandon their nests when disturbed by humans.
Many climbing routes in Sion are currently closed. For example, since the Angels Landing area is known to be home to both nesting peregrine falcons and California condors, three different climbing areas near Angels Landing are now closed.
You can find detailed information about peregrine falcons, California condors, and Zion climbing closures in the park. 2022 Climbing Guide to Seasonal Raptor Closures.
While you’re thinking about National Parks, be sure to check out all of our coverage of US National Parks, including: