Help economize national park trips with fee-free entrance days

The National Park Service (NPS) will offer free national park entrance fees in 2019 on five days. Shown is the Moose Entrance Station to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM
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Journey vs. Destination

The National Park Service (NPS) announces it will waive all entrance fees on five days in 2019.

The five entrance-fee-free days for 2019 will be Monday, Jan. 21 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; Saturday, April 20 – First day of National Park Week/National Junior Ranger Day; Sunday, Aug. 25 – National Park Service Anniversary; Saturday, Sept. 28 – National Public Lands Day; and Monday, Nov. 11 – Veterans Day.

“The entrance fee-free days hosted by the National Park Service are special opportunities to invite visitors, volunteers and veterans to celebrate some important moments for our parks and opportunities for service in those parks,” said NPS Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith.

The National Park System includes more than 85 million acres and includes national parks, national historical parks, national monuments, national recreation areas, national battlefields, and national seashores. There is at least one national park site in every U.S. state.

Last year, 331 million people visited national parks spending $18.2 billion, which supported 306,000 jobs across the country and had a $35.8 billion impact on the U.S. economy.

Only 115 of the 418 parks managed by the National Park Service charge entrance fees regularly, with fees ranging from $5 to $35. The other 303 national parks do not have entrance fees. The entrance fee waiver for the fee-free days does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, transportation or special tours.

The annual $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass allows unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including all national parks. There are also free or discounted passes available for senior citizens, current members of the U.S. military, families of fourth grade students and disabled citizens.

Other federal land management agencies offering their own fee-free days in 2019 include the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Migration; health update

Now that we’ve got you thinking ahead to possibly making some 2019 plans to visit national parks on entrance-fee-free days, let’s all just take a step back and turn our attention to the here and now. It’s been unseasonably cold, or as someone noted with a smirk, “How are you liking our January temperatures?” Normally, I’d still be out rock hunting and pursuing our lovely scenery, but the snow and late fall shock of frigid, mid-winter temps has kept me indoors.

Well, that and another situation have kept me inside; medications for a cat bite have kept me under the weather for over two weeks.

A lovely, well-cared-for and collared cat showed up at my door on Nov. 1. It was very friendly and head-butted my legs as it rubbed them. It even looked like it was ready to jump up into my supposedly waiting arms, as it sat back on its haunches and looked up, ready to spring.

“No, no, no, no, no!” I yelled because I wouldn’t have been able to catch it and that would have meant a bunch of deep scratches.

I’m always going to pet and play with cats because I love them and am the proverbial “cat person.” But, although it was super, super friendly, this cat didn’t appreciate my overtures to play with it — and sunk a fang into my hand. That was quite a surprise!

I discovered whose cat it was and that it was up to date on its rabies vaccine. But I still went to the doctor to get antibiotics, since cat scratches and bites can turn especially nasty.

Then began the stomach aches and issues related to the strong, bacteria-killing antibiotics I had to take for a week. The pharmacist warned that it could cause a person to get a yeast infection by killing not only potentially nasty bacteria from a cat bite, but also killing needed bacteria in the gut. And so goes my luck — yes, I was afflicted. Then yet another prescription for that was needed. Oh, did I mention I had to get a tetanus booster, too?

It all was rather aggravating. Plus, my birthday fell toward the beginning of the ordeal. Feeling crappy, I had to turn down some invites to do things. I also was unable to get over to the Mississippi to see the fall migration, which I try to do annually. That’s pretty much over by now, as I’m finally recovering and might be able to go.

With our cold weather, birds are moving out as backwaters freeze – moving on with their migration. To get an update, go to and look for the Brownsville Overlook and Pool 8 headings.

Lisa Brainard still enjoys lifelong pursuits of the outdoors, history and travel as able following a serious accident and stroke in September 2012. She’s written this column weekly for over 15 years.