People can float on the Current and Jacks Fork rivers that flow through the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in southwest Missouri but they can't set foot in the closed parks until the partial government shutdown is over, a Riverways official said.
When the parks were closed Oct. 1, officials indicated rivers in the area would be closed to floating. On Thursday, Riverways Superintendent Bill Black said the U.S. Solicitor General's office had clarified that people can float on rivers through federal parks but they must stay off federal park land, including gravel bars in the rivers.
Black said all park facilities are closed and boats can't be launched from park property. But there are some places at Eminence and Van Buren, and some county roads, where boats can be put in, The Springfield News-Leader reported.
People who go on the rivers during the shutdown should be aware that it might be difficult to obtain emergency services from the few park rangers who are still on duty, Black said.
"We are operating with limited resources and if you do decide to go on the river, take extra precautions and safety equipment with you," Black advised.
The closure has already hurt businesses that cater to tourists along the rivers. Joe Devall, owner of Silver Arrow Canoe Rentals, said the shutdown has had a "dramatic impact" on his business, which is a National Park Service concessionaire south of Salem.
"We don't have any business," Devall said, adding it would violate his contract to even shuttle anyone to access points on the Current River. He said he normally has a brisk business this time of year but he's had to turn people away.
"They're holding on, hoping Congress will get their act together. But as of today, still nothing's changed," he said.