Fossil Butte opens Visitor Center

On Saturday, June 20, the Fossil Butte National Monument re-opened its Visitor Center to guests after closing because of COVID-19. Although the center is open for reduced hours (9 a.m.-5 p.m.), the park employees are excited to open, Kim Acker, supervisory park ranger, said.

“We want to make sure we can do it safely and according to state and CDC guidelines,” Acker said. “We just want people to be safe.”

In order to facilitate this, modifications have been made to the Visitor Center, Acker said. One-way stickers have been placed on the floor to direct visitors as well as maintain a six-foot distance, Acker said. Plexiglass has been placed by the registers and info center in order to protect rangers when interacting with the public, according to Acker. 

According to a press release by the National Park Service (NPS), the park encourages state, local and CDC guidelines for gatherings, social distancing, masks and hand washing. NPS also asks visitors to continue practicing Leave No Trace principles such as pack-in, pack-out, in order to keep Fossil Butte safe and clean.

“We have seen about two-thirds to three-fourths of our usual visitors,” Acker said. “People are wanting to stay close to home.”

Acker said they have lost nearly all of their usual international visitors. Fortunately, the Park Service was able to keep the same level of staffing they had before COVID-19, Acker said.

Summer events, such as last year’s Summer Night Sky series, hosted at Fossil Butte are halted because of COVID-19, Acker said.

Even though restrictions have been extended until mid-July, Acker said they are excited to be able to keep the park open to visitors who like outdoor activities. Acker said that visitors planning trips to the monument in one or two months should be aware that because of COVID-19, things can change rapidly.

“They should give us a call before they leave to make sure of openings and restrictions.” Acker said.