by: Dave Faherty Updated:
BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY - The hundreds of people planning to camp at the Blue Ridge Parkway will be disappointed after being turned away because of the partial government shutdown.
Visitors can still travel the 252-mile-long Blue Ridge Parkway to see the fall colors but they should plan ahead because there are not any welcome centers open.
Jeff Stallings and his family were hoping to find a picnic table but instead they found signs reading picnic areas were closed, as well as campgrounds.
"We're on vacation and it's kind of cramping your style to come up here," Stallings said. "You come and visit these areas and they got them all closed."
A gate to the visitor center blocked an access road to Linville Falls, along with nearly 100 nearby campsites.
Some visitors did not know about the closures until they arrived.
People parked their vehicles along the road and had to hike a mile to reach a trailhead.
"I thought it was a little bit inconvenient to have to walk an extra mile-and-a-half just to get to a hiking trail," Laura Tawil said.
"It is just such a shame that it has to be that way. On a day off we were looking forward to coming in. It's kind of a disappointment," Kristen Macemore said.
This is the first big weekend of the fall leaf season where colors are already showing at elevations above 3,500 feet. The parkway attracts more than 2 million people in October and is vital to the mountain economy.
At the Price Park campground, Ted Williams and his wife stood at the vacant site.
All 198 campsites were booked this weekend but are vacant now.
Williams said he has a message for Congress.
"I'd tell them to go to work," he said. "Get things straightened out."