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Reader Participation Day: Have You Ever Called A National Park In Search of Information?

GRSM-Cherokee Mac's Indian Village

Mac's Indian Village was an old motel in Cherokee, North Carolina with fake teepees in front of each cabin. It was used in the movie Digging to China.

When I was a volunteer at the desk at Oconaluftee Visitor Center at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most frequent question on the phone was, "Is US 441 open through to Gatlinburg?"

That was easy to answer officially, either "yes" or "no."

But they were not all that easy. A woman called and asked if I knew where in Cherokee, North Carolina, the movie Digging to China was filmed. She was looking for the motel in the film. My first thought was, "It's a good thing that I answered this phone. I just happened to have seen this obscure movie."   

I don't call a national park lightly. I scour the website several times for the information before I telephone. Then I ask to talk to someone who will know the official answer. And if the right person is away, he or she has actually called me back -- something that rarely happens when I call a company or store.  

So the question is: Have you ever called a national park with a question that was not answered on the website? What has been your experience? Has anyone in the park called you back, if needed, with the information you requested?

Bonus question: If you work for the National Park Service and have worked in a visitor center, what was the most unsual question you've ever been asked?


I have called Great Smoky Mountains Natioanl Park on several occasions, either for myself or in response to calls we've received here at Friends of the Smokies.  In my experience, whether dealing with a Park employee or a well-trained and experienced volunteer like you, Danny, it's better (faster & more accuaret) than Google!

I prefer e-mail over a call anytime, sending and receiving. The results with regard to mails to parks or NPS offices are mixed. Some answers were excellent, thorough, quick and incredibly helpful, far too many don't answer at all. Very few fall between that. So in my experience, when they answer, the reply usually is of high quality.

We were racing 80-90mph from Harlingen to Corpus Christi to get
Passport stamps and were running very short on time at Padre Island ...
not knowing how long the island was. I called ahead to ask them if they
were closing on time [yes!] ... and if we didnt make it, would they
stamp for us and tape an envelope to the door. "Of course" ... we got
there just as the Rangers were walking to their cars ... so we got our
stamps AND a chance to thank them personally.

Worked and volunteered in a few different visitor centers. My favorite question is "are you open?" Folks, if we weren't open, I wouldn't have answered the phone. I always stifle the sarcastic reply but it does give me a chuckle each time.

The last time the Grand Canyon engineered a flood on the Colorado River to restore beaches, someone called my boss:
My boss thinks, uh, oh.  This won't be good.
"Dude!  They're flooding the Grand Canyon!  Where's a good place to go cliff jumping?"
Myself, I probably would have recommended the Skywalk.

I've called Rocky Mountain NP to get an up-to-date trail condition report before we decided to head out of the house for the hour drive up there.

Yes, on a number of occasions I've called Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and others. And I was never disappointed with the information I rec'd. But, I haven't done it since the internet was 'born.'

I once called the Jackson Visitor Center direct line at Mt Rainier. I wanted to ask about their showers in advance of my visit. They actually had two pay showers for 25 cents for 7 minutes. The guy who answered the phone was pleasant about it, but he described it as "7 minutes of warm water if you're lucky". That was the only pay showers I've ever heard of at an NPS visitor center. I guess now we're not even lucky enough to get any public showers at all in Mt Rainier. The new visitor center has no shower facilities. It's like they really don't want people to camp, or perhaps they want people to smell bad enough to scare off wildlife.

However, I couldn't find a live NPS employee or volunteer phone number for Yosemite other than the wilderness permit reservation line. I thought it might be intentional.

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