Lake Mead Fully Reopens to Visitors - 8 News NOW

Lake Mead Fully Reopens to Visitors

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LAS VEGAS -- After 16 days of turning visitors away, Lake Mead National Recreational Area and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area are finally back open Thursday, following an agreement by Congress to end the partial government shutdown.

At Lake Mead, the park service says it has now reopened hundreds of camping facilities and trails.

Last weekend, the shutdown canceled several large events at the lake including a few fishing tournaments and a beach cleanup.

There is a huge triathlon at the lake for this weekend, and until last night, organizers were not sure if it was going to happen.

Cedric Keppler has been organizing the Pumpkinman Triathlon for months. Until Wednesday, he didn't know if all that work was for nothing.

"On Tuesday, we thought it wasn't going to happen," Keppler said.

The lake-based event will go on as scheduled Saturday, but organizers are still frustrated.

The shutdown caused more than 300 of its athletes to cancel because they were unsure Lake Mead would be open for the race.

"It was a lot of unnecessary losses for no fault of ours. We took a huge hit because of it and it was completely unnecessary," Keppler said.

Lake Mead is one of the country's most popular national parks. It lost more than $160,000 in revenue during the shutdown.

According to the park service, rangers turned away 140,000 visitors. Furloughed workers moved quickly Wednesday night and Thursday morning to reopen hundreds of facilities and restrooms.

"We have restrooms all over the park. It is a 1.5-million-acre park. We have some back country areas where we have restrooms, back country areas where the roads are closed. So it does take a little bit of time to reach all of the areas." Christie Vanover with the Lake Mead National Recreation Area said.

For tourists like Rainer Doeaer and his family, who came all the way from Germany, they're just glad the lake is open for visitors.

"It is a fantastic area. Lots of clear water and good for dogs!" Doeaer said.

Those who depend on Lake Mead for business cannot easily forget.

"Now, it is like nothing happened and we're still recovering from our loss," Keppler said.

Triathlon organizers say the shutdown could have a lasting impact on sign ups and profits for years to come.

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