Mesa Verde National Park reopened Monday morning after an extended federal government shutdown and an effort to repair road damage from rockfalls.
An announcement that the park had reopened was posted on the park’s Facebook page just before 10 a.m. Monday.
“We are open! Thank you for your patience while we had the extended closure to get the park ready for you, our visitors,” stated park public information officer Cristy Brown. “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 were open, according to a park official. The Mesa Top Loop Road with views of the ruins was closed.
Park guide Jacob Collins drove in from Oklahoma Sunday night to return 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 was clear, he said, though a few icy spots remained, as expected in winter.
The park is gearing up for a “welcome back” Winter Festival on Feb. 15 from 5:30-9 p.m. at the Morefield Campground. Parking will be available at the Morefield Campground Store, and the 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 were encouraged to dress warmly and take a headlamp.
“Enjoy a unique opportunity to explore Mesa Verde’s Morefield Campground and the Meadow Bliss and Cottontail Loop trails in the moonlight,” Brown stated in a press release.
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 the event even if snowfall is inadequate, and encourage people to hike the trails. For more information, call 970-529-4461.
The park also announced it will implement a prescribed fire between Feb. 4 and March 29, weather permitting. The burn in the Chapin Mesa area will dispose of material created during fuel reduction projects from summer. The burn area is an 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.
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 before the park reopened.
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.