Exposure

Death Valley National Park, 30 Days into the Shutdown

Photographer Ian Tuttle visited Death Valley last week and asked tourists and locals about how they see the desert park faring a month into the government shutdown

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Photo: Ian Tuttle

On Wednesday, Ivan Nedeljkobic, who’s worked at national parks for over 40 years, headed to his job at the Inn at Furnace Creek, a privately managed hotel within Death Valley. “They’re cutting hours for private employees,” he says. “Now we’re getting 30 hours, we used to get 35 to 40 a week. We’ll see what happens when I get to work today.”

Photo: Ian Tuttle

Dean Smith, a retired economics professor, last year moved to Lone Pine, California, about 100 miles from Death Valley. “We have a lot of people on the [Highway] 395 corridor who are federal employees,” he says. “If you’re not slinging hash or beer, you’re working for the federal government. There are lots of people affected.” 

Photo: Ian Tuttle

Kaelyn Schreiner, from Maple Grove, Minnesota (left), and Logan Godfrey, from outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin (right), were staying in Las Vegas and visiting nearby national parks, including Death Valley. “I’ve looked at other parks around us, because there’s no entrance fee, so it’s like free reign," says Godfrey. "It's sad, but I’d still like to see these parks. It’s a guilty indulgence.”

Photo: Ian Tuttle

Ernie Jackson, from Houston, Texas (left), and Mustapha Khan, from New York City (right), at the Mesquite Dunes. “I’ve been planning this trip since August,” says Jackson. “I’ve been to 24 of the 59 national parks. Since the park shut down, I’ve been asked a hundred times, ‘Are you still going to go?’ But I’m not letting the people responsible for this shutdown keep me from doing what I want to do.”

Photo: Ian Tuttle

Paul Warden, from South Dakota, at the gas station in Furnace Creek, Death Valley. I asked him if anything seemed different with the shutdown in effect. “I haven’t noticed a change. Most people are good.”

Photo: Ian Tuttle

Cristina Santín, from Spain, photographed at Badwater. She was traveling with her partner and his parents in a rented RV, touring a number of national parks. “We couldn’t go into Sequoia National Park because of the snow. Under normal conditions the park rangers would have plowed the roads,” she says. “There are a lot of things that are closed. We go to pay, and they say ‘No.’ I can’t say that’s a positive though. I think the national parks should close to put more pressure on the government.”

Photo: Ian Tuttle

May Terwindt (left) and Josephine De Bruijn (right), both from the Netherlands, photographed at Badwater. They were on holiday in the U.S. for a month, touring the national parks. “We planned two days here but everything is closed,” says Terwindt. “The visitor centers are closed, campgrounds are closed...Nothing like this could ever happen in the Netherlands. It’s not possible.”

Photo: Ian Tuttle

Manuel Lopez (second from right) with his wife, Carla, and sons Manuel (left) and Andrew (right), from Las Vegas, were visiting Death Valley for the first time. “We didn’t know we didn’t have to pay until we got here. That was awesome,” says Manuel.

Photo: Ian Tuttle

Michael Gordon, a professional photographer from L.A., guides workshops and photography trips all winter in the park. “I’ve been affected because lots of places have no bathrooms open for my clients,” he says. “I’ve been finding excrement and toilet paper all over. In a shutdown, I’d stand to lose a lot [of business].” 

Photo: Ian Tuttle

Gordon’s client, Joanne Gilmore, from New Hampshire, booked her trip six months ago. “Some people have been trashing [the park] because it’s lawless,” says Gilmore. “It’s a serious problem, people doing donuts in the mud where they shouldn’t.”

Photo: Ian Tuttle

Cindy Stinnett, photographed at the Stove Pipe Wells General Store, has worked at national parks since 1981. “Every other shutdown, I didn't work,” she says. “It’s been a little harder because more people are coming in for things they’d normally go to the park for, asking permission for things we can’t give permission for.” Cindy’s employer, Ortega National Parks, has volunteered to maintain the Stovepipe Wells campground so people will have a place to stay. “We’ve been very fortunate that we’re still working.”