Fri May 17, 2024

By Press Release

BOOZMAN COLUMN: Exploring National Parks
  Summer is quickly approaching and Arkansans are looking for places to explore away from home. Our national parks have always been popular destinations and some folks are crowdsourcing for ideas about locations to visit and things to do at these outdoor gems.

 America’s National Parks continue to see a record number of visitors. The National Park Service (NPS) reported a four percent increase last year with more than 325 million visits. Arkansans planning a summer road trip to any of our national treasures are encouraged to plan ahead to make sure they have the opportunity to see everything on their wish list.

 As a result of the increasing demand, more locations require reservations for timed entry. At some parks, this is only for the most popular sites and peak times. However, many of our busiest parks require reservations for all park-goers as officials try to better manage resources and make sure visitors get to experience the full beauty and history of these important places.

 Be sure to check out the reservation system used by many of our parks, campgrounds and historic sites across the country at This site handles everything from a day pass at Rocky Mountain National Park to tour reservations at Blanchard Springs Caverns in Arkansas. Available dates are rolled out at different times, so check back frequently. In addition, some parks and campgrounds still handle their own booking, so be sure to check this website and the specific webpage for the destination. 

 For outdoor enthusiasts planning to spend a lot of time in the national parks, it’s worth considering getting an annual or lifetime pass to sites managed by NPS. These range in price, but are less expensive for individuals 62 and older. Congress also recently passed a law making them free for veterans, Gold Star Families, active-duty military and their dependents, Americans with permanent disabilities and fourth graders nationwide.

 Additionally, NPS offers several free entrance days during the year for all national park visitors. The remaining days in 2024 are June 19, August 4, September 28 and November 11.

 Arkansans opting for a staycation or a long weekend close to home are blessed with easy access to beautiful state and federal parks, forests and historic sites – many of which are free to visit. The National Historic Site in Fort Smith recently announced it is now fee-free so families can enjoy the museum and walk around the grounds on the banks of the Arkansas River at no cost.

 I have been proud to help deliver significant investments for the upkeep of public lands alongside most of my colleagues as we approved initiatives such as the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA). The measure became law in 2020 and is now supporting the repair backlog in our national parks and public lands infrastructure nationwide including locations in Arkansas.

 Hot Springs National Park received GAOA funds to make two more historic bathhouse buildings more accessible, safe and energy efficient, which will allow the park to lease the buildings to private business.

 In Fort Smith, funding from GAOA was used for preservation and restoration on the historic Commissary Building at the National Historic Site.

 Documentarian Ken Burns calls the national parks “America’s best idea.” These jewels of our country’s landscape are settings perfect for exploring and learning. We’re working to protect and enhance them so Arkansans can plan to visit these popular destinations on summer vacations and experience the unique offerings they hold for years to come.