National Parks Free On Juneteenth – But Be Safe In Death Valley’s Heat, Officials Advise

National Parks Free On Juneteenth – But Be Safe In Death Valley’s Heat, Officials Advise

As part of this year’s Juneteenth celebrations, the US National Park Service is offering free entrance to all of its parks. This includes Death Valley, where the day is set to be an absolute scorcher.

California recently experienced a record-breaking heatwave, and the high temperatures seem set to continue. Death Valley National Park currently has an “Extreme Summer Heat” alert in place, with temperatures expected to reach 38°C to 54°C (100°F to 130°F).

Juneteenth is likely to be no different, with temperatures at Furnace Creek, where the park’s visitor center is located, currently forecast to reach highs of 43°C to 44°C (109°F to 112°F). As a result, park rangers have issued advice on how to stay safe during a trip to Death Valley on Juneteenth, or any other summer day in the park.

One tip is to try and avoid the heat entirely. If you’re after a long hike, this might be by sticking to higher elevations where temperatures are cooler, such as the Telescope and Wildrose Peak Trails. For shorter walks down in the valley after 10 am, it’s recommended to stay close to an air-conditioned car – there’s still plenty of scenic locations like Badwater Basin and Dante’s View to be seen this way. 

Either way, it advised to travel on paved roads and also keep an eye on whether or not there’s any cell service – many places in the park are without it.

Higher temperatures mean that it’s important to drink plenty of water, as the risk of dehydration is increased; our bodies sweat more in the heat to try and keep themselves cool, but those fluids need to be replaced. Park rangers also suggest eating salty snacks, as this helps to both retain water and regain sodium – which has multiple important roles in the body – lost through sweating.

Advice from the park also includes avoiding the Sun by seeking shade during the hottest part of the day and making good use of accessories like sunhats and umbrellas.

Keep all that in mind and you’ll be ready for a Juneteenth visit – but why are the parks waiving fees on that day?

What is Juneteenth?

January 1, 1863, marked the issuing of the final Emancipation Proclamation by US President Abraham Lincoln, a significant step in bringing an end to slavery in the country. However, not everyone was freed immediately – much was hanging on the Union gaining military victory over the Confederacy.

Over two years later, Union troops finally arrived in the westernmost Confederate state of Texas with news of freedom for the 250,000 enslaved African Americans there. This happened on June 19, a date that came to be remembered and celebrated in the form of Juneteenth, a portmanteau of the date.  

Though it’s been honored by many since that time, it was only in 2021 under President Joe Biden that Juneteenth became a federal holiday. Following what it’s done for other important holidays in the US, the National Park Service announced last year that it would be offering free entry to its sites on June 19 to honor the day.

“In addition to protecting beautiful places, the National Park Service protects our nation’s emancipation sites and stories,” said Death Valley National Park in a statement.

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