Spring is in the air, and with that, several U.S. national parks have started routine annual closures of select roads and various park areas to protect wildlife during their mating season.
Here’s why it’s important to protect wildlife during this critical stage of their lifecycle. In the case of peregrine falcons, the presence of humans can deter the raptors from even nesting in the first place. If they have already nested, human activity in the area may cause the falcons to temporarily — or even permanently — abandon their nests. If that happens, the chicks are susceptible to hypothermia, starvation, and predation.
It’s not just peregrine falcons that are being protected, however. Some U.S. national parks have implemented seasonal closures to protect wildlife ranging from harbor seals to various amphibians, and even wild steelhead fish, during their mating season or while they raise their young.
Here are some U.S. national parks that have started annual closures or restrictions.
Acadia National Park
Acadia, one of the top 10 most-visited U.S. national parks, is called 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 approximately 50 miles from Bangor, Maine.
It isn’t just people who visit Acadia, however. Peregrine falcons also mate and nest within Acadia’s boundaries.
To give the falcons space to nest and remain undisturbed, the National Park Service has closed areas including 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-acre Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area includes more than 150 miles of trails as well as 40 miles of the Middle Delaware River. The park is known for numerous waterfalls, including Raymondskill Falls, the tallest waterfall in Pennsylvania, 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 salamander. 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 make their way to moist pools to mate.
The road will only be closed on nights when the forecast is 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 Delaware Water Gap are also closed to protect nesting peregrine falcons.
Rock climbing routes between Mount Minsi and Arrow Island Trail are now closed until May 15 to protect the falcons. Also, model airplanes cannot be flown at Flying Hawks Airfield until May 15.
Finally, some trails in the recreation area are now closed to protect nesting bald eagles.
The section of the McDade Trail is closed between the Pittman Orchard and Conashaugh trailheads until mid-July. The section of the Sawkill Creek Trail on the west side of Sawkill Creek is also closed until mid-July so the eagles won’t be disturbed.
You can monitor current conditions and learn more about the closures at Delaware Water Gap here.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park in Washington encompasses nearly a million acres, including a vast wilderness and more than 70 miles of wild Pacific Coast. There also are 800 lakes, and 4,000 miles of rivers and streams that support some of the most extensive runs of wild salmon, trout, and char in the Pacific Northwest.
Fishing in the Hoh, South Fork Hoh, Bogachiel, Dickey, and Quillayute river systems within Olympic National Park are now closed to protect wild steelhead, a type of trout.
The closure, which began March 1, is in response to information from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife that indicates fewer-than-expected wild steelhead are in the spawning run. Wild steelhead numbers are declining, so the closure is necessary to prevent their accidental hooking by people fishing recreationally.
Fishing in many rivers, streams, and Lake Crescent within the park is expected to reopen on June 1.
You can learn more about the fishing closures at Olympic here.
Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore, which is 30 miles north of San Francisco, is famous for its beaches and the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse. The area — which includes beaches as well as grasslands, hillsides, and forested 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 sandbars and beaches in Drakes Estero, Estero de Limantour, Tomales Bay, Double Point, and Bolinas Lagoon to give birth and then raise their pups. During what’s known as pupping season, the seals, which are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, are extremely vulnerable.
To protect the seals and their pups, the National Park Service closed some areas of Point Reyes on March 1. The closures will remain in place through 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, and underwater diving are prohibited. Double Point and the westernmost point of Limantour Spit are also closed to all human activity during the pupping season.
Since nesting seabirds are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, various areas of Point Reyes are closed through July 31 to protect storm petrels, rhinoceros aucklets, common murres, pigeon guillemots, pelagic cormorants, double-crested cormorants, and other seabirds. The closed areas include Miller Rocks, Hob Island, and Duck Island.
Also, pets, kiteboarding, and kite flying are now prohibited in the area from the North Beach parking lot to Kehoe Beach, and within Abbotts Lagoon, to protect nesting snowy plovers. Those closures will remain in place through September 30.
You can monitor current conditions and learn more about the closures at Point Reyes here.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park, another top 10 most-visited U.S. national park, is home to 355 miles of hiking trails and 76 mountains, which are all more than 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. Officials at Rocky Mountain close areas of the park each year to ensure those birds won’t be disturbed while they nest.
This year, various areas of the park were closed on February 15 to protect the nesting raptors. The closures will remain in place through July 31, however, they may be extended if necessary.
There are numerous closures. For example, the Loch Vale area, including Cathedral Wall, is closed. The areas above the Loch Vale-Sky Pond Trail are also closed to off-trail travel.
Furthermore, 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 rock climbers like the same places, the mentioned formations as well as all climbing routes, outcroppings, cliffs, faces, ascent and descent routes, and climber access trails in these areas are closed to protect the nesting raptors.
You can find detailed information about the raptor closures at Rocky Mountain here.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is well known for rock climbing, river trips, and hiking trails because it’s 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 change of 1,488 feet and offers a view of the Zion Canyon 1,500 feet below.
Considering that Zion features spectacular 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 that in mind, the National Park Service has closed numerous climbing routes to protect the peregrine falcons as they nest. The closures went into effect March 1 so the falcons can find suitable nest sites. The date for the climbing routes to reopen varies from year to year depending on the falcons’ nesting activity, however, it generally is late spring or early summer.
California Condors, protected under the Endangered Species Act, also nest on Zion’s cliffs. As is the case with peregrine falcons, California condors may abandon their nest when disturbed by humans.
Numerous climbing routes in Zion are currently closed. For example, since the Angels Landing area has been known to host 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 climbing closures at Zion in the park’s 2022 Climbing Guide to Seasonal Raptor Closures.
While you’re thinking about national parks, be sure to check out all of our U.S. national park coverage, including: