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Southern Utah state parks reach visitor capacity early during busy weekend

Sand Hollow State Park
Posted at 3:16 PM, May 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 18:32:37-04

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Utah — The first weekend of "orange" or "moderate" COVID-19 risk level in Utah brought droves of people to state parks — especially reservoirs in southern Utah.

Sand Hollow, Gunlock and Quail Creek State Parks were closed to new visitors early Saturday due to massive numbers of visitors.

Gunlock State Park announced that its boat ramp was completely full just after 7 a.m. Later, in the early afternoon, they announced that the waterfall and beach areas were also at capacity.

Sand Hollow State Park, which had already been forced to close its gates last weekend, hit capacity for boats around 9:30 a.m. and for all other areas around 10:30 a.m. A limited number of additional boats were allowed in around 1 p.m. At the latest update, park officials said they anticipated limiting access until about 4 or 5 p.m.

Just before 2 p.m., Quail Creek State Park announced that it was closed to new visitors for boating, day use and camping.

Both Gunlock and Sand Hollow also hit capacity early Friday afternoon. All three parks are asking visitors to check social media pages for the individual parks as well as the Utah State Parks & Recreation. They also suggest visiting during the week instead.

"We’ve taken protocols in regards to doing it at 3/4 capacity, that way it gives us some leniency and we can monitor the social distancing a lot better," Quail Creek Park Manager Candace Smith told FOX 13. "Whether it’s Quail Creek State Park, or Gunlock or Snow Canyon, Sand Hallow, get to the park before, right at opening. Don’t wait til 9 o’clock, 10 o’clock — that’s the norm as in regards to when we get busy. Our norm now is 7 a.m. when the park is opening. Sand Hallow opens at 6; they had a line of boats at 6 a.m.”

All five of Utah's national parks are currently closed, but Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks have announced plans to open in the next two weeks.

On Wednesday, Bryce Canyon National Park will open the main park road, all viewpoints to Rainbow Point, restrooms at Sunset Point and trails in the Bryce Amphitheater area. Visit the park's website for more details and the latest updates.

Zion National Park will reopen access to select areas starting May 13. Further details have not yet been released, but will be provided on its website.

Later on Saturday, Capitol Reef National Park announced plans to reopen limited access starting Tuesday, May 5, with the following limitations:

Earlier this week, Southeast Utah officials announced that Moab will start to welcome visitors in a limited capacity, although no plans to reopen Arches or Canyonlands National Parks have been released.