Tourists kicked out of landmark United States parks

A US park ranger gives a visitor suggestions of other nearby places he can visit while Joshua Tree National Park was shut down, at the entrance to Joshua Tree, California, on Oct 2, 2013.  Thousands have been left angry at being locked out of la
A US park ranger gives a visitor suggestions of other nearby places he can visit while Joshua Tree National Park was shut down, at the entrance to Joshua Tree, California, on Oct 2, 2013.  Thousands have been left angry at being locked out of landmark US national parks due to the government shutdown. -- PHOTO: AFP

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, United States - For many people it is the trip of a lifetime. But thousands have been left angry at being locked out of landmark US national parks due to the government shutdown.

Hundreds who were lucky enough to already be staying in places like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon faced have until Thursday to leave, 48 hours after the shutdown went into force due to a budget standoff in Washington DC.

"We grew up seeing pictures of it in books," said Clare Cogan from Cork, Ireland, on honeymoon with her husband Mohally but locked out of Yosemite National Park, shuttered since Tuesday.

"You know, the cars underneath those huge sequoia trees. That was America," she told the Los Angeles Times, which called the spectacular Californian park "an emblem of partisan divide."

The National Park Service closed its gates on its 401 sites as soon as the shutdown went into effect after midnight on Monday, leaving visitors - including many from overseas - frustrated at park entrances across the country.

Tourists who were already staying in hotels, cabins and campgrounds inside national parks like world-famous Yosemite were allowed to stay - but only for 48 hours, after which they were told to leave.

"Guests ... who are already checked-in can continue with their vacation plans, but they are required to leave by October 3 at 3:00 pm," said Lisa Cesaro of the company that operates over 1,000 rooms in the park, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite.

The park, which was already partially closed in August due to a massive wildfire, is known around the globe - especially for Yosemite Valley, where tourists flock to see landmarks including the spectacular El Capitan and Half Dome rock formations.

The Yosemite spokeswoman said that since Tuesday most activities, including horseback riding and bike rentals, had been suspended.

Other world-famous tourist attractions shuttered until further notice include the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park, and the Alcatraz prison island in San Francisco Bay.