Among the many casualties of the government shutdown are some of the popular webcam views of locations around the National Park System, since NPS and some other government web services have been disabled for the duration of the dispute. If you enjoy the ability to check in on favorite park locations via those cameras, all is not lost, however, and we'll provide some leads in this story to park webcam views provided by non-government sources.
Just in case the term isn't familiar to you, "webcam" is short for "web camera," and it's simply a digital camera that can send pictures from its location via a computer and the Internet. In the past several years, these cameras have been installed in a number of park locations, allowing anyone to enjoy the view and check on current conditions at that site.
How's the weather look right now in Yosemite Valley, or on Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park? Want to enjoy watching a sunrise at Lake Mead or the views of Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Webcams can make that possible.
Some of these scenic views are a bonus from "working" cameras, which I'll define as those which were installed to perform useful and specific tasks, such as gathering images for air quality monitoring or keeping track of current weather conditions at remote locations. Standard weather stations, by comparison, can transmit data such as the current temperature, relative humidity and wind speed, but without an image, those stations can't "tell" you if it's actually snowing right now—and sometimes that's useful information.
Parks Views Via Webcams Come From a Variety of Sources
Some of these cameras are operated by the NPS or other government agencies, but others are provided primarily for their scenic, informational and/or promotional value. Examples are cameras provided by a park partner organizations, park concessioners or gateway communities to showcase an area's appeal to potential visitors.
This second group has become much more valuable in recent days, because unfortunately, most of those "working" webcams operated by parks aren't, well, working these days. The camera feeds have been shut down due to the shutdown.
If you're a webcam fan and miss your daily view of a favorite park, or are now simply curious about these cameras, all is not lost.
Park Partner Organization Webcams Help Fill the Shutdown Void
In several locations, key park partners such as the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and Yosemite Conservancy either maintain their own webcams, or provide a feed from a privately-owned camera. Here's a sampling of some cameras that are still on-line, either in parks or in adjoining locations that offer views of some park areas. If I haven't included your park of interest, try doing an on-line search for a terms such as "webcam" and the park's name.
Here's one more suggestion: You may find a few park-operated webcams that are still on-line. If so .... mum's the word. Just enjoy them, but don't mention them in a comment below, or someone may be forced to pull the plug!
Blue Ridge Parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is developing a network of webcam and weather sites along the Parkway, and eight of the cameras are currently up and running. Those sites are near Montebello, Virginia (Mile Marker 29), James River (MM 67), Rocky Knob (MM 169), Linville Falls (MM 316), Spruce Pine (MM331), Asheville (MM 384), Mount Pisgah (MM 408), and Balsam Gap (MM 443).
Canyonlands National Park. The Canyonlands Natural History Association website hosts five webcams, with views of the Colorado River, La Sal Mountains, Island in the Sky, Abajo Peak and Bald Mesa.
Capitol Reef National Park - this nice view of the park includes some fall color.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A view of the Smokies is available via this local business.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area (Lake Mead Marina, provided by Lake Mead Cruises)
Mount Rainier National Park – several park views via this commercial site.
Olympic National Park, including Hurricane Ridge and La Push and First Beach.
Yosemite National Park. The non-profit Yosemite Conservancy has four webcams up and running, offering views of El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite's high country and Yosemite Falls.