Dr. Boozman's Check-up

America’s National Parks continue to see a record number of visitors. Last year alone, the National Park Service reported a four percent increase with more than 325 million visits. If you are taking a summer road trip, plan ahead to make sure you aren’t left outside the gates.

As a result of the increasing demand, more locations require reservations for timed entry. At some parks, this is only for the most popular sites and peak times. However, many of our busiest parks require reservations for all park-goers as officials try to better manage resources and make sure visitors get to experience the full beauty and history of these important places.

Before you take off, be sure to do a few things: 

First, check out the reservation system used by many of our parks, campgrounds and historic sites across the country at Recreation.gov. This site handles everything from a day pass at Rocky Mountain National Park to tour reservations at Blanchard Springs Caverns in Arkansas. Available dates are rolled out at different times, so check back frequently. In addition, some parks and campgrounds still handle their own booking, so be sure to check both Recreation.gov and the specific website for your destination to make sure you have the passes and information you need. 

Second, consider getting an annual or lifetime pass to our National Park system. These range in price, but are less expensive if you are over 62.  They are free for active military and their dependents, Americans with permanent disabilities and fourth graders nationwide. 

Finally, don’t forget about Arkansas! We are blessed with beautiful state and federal parks, forests and historic sites – many of which are free to visit. The National Historic Site in Fort Smith recently announced it is now fee-free so families can enjoy the museum and walk around the grounds on the banks of the Arkansas River at no cost. In addition, the National Park Service offers several free entrance days during the year for all National Park visitors. The remaining days this year are June 19, August 4, September 28 and November 11.