Suzanne Downing: Feds say to ‘leave no trace’ at national parks, but you must use a traceable credit card to get in



The rush toward a cashless society has hit the most basic of government transactions – entry fees into national parks. 

On May 26, Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state will be the latest park to stop accepting cash at the entry booth.

Instead, visitors will be required to pay with credit or debit cards to enter what is a taxpayer-supported recreation area meant for hiking, biking, climbing, camping, exploring, and sightseeing. The park management has, in its wisdom, decided that it’s not worth it to collect actual money, a marked change in the relationship between the people and the agencies that oversee the land owned collectively by the people.

Mount Rainier Memorial site.

In 2022, Badlands National Park in South Dakota, Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan went to a plastic-only payment system. Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming and the historic home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who signed the law taking the U.S. dollar off the gold standard, now are tap, chip, or swipe destinations. 

The Wright Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina, Chaco Culture National Historic Park in New Mexico, and Cumberland Island National Seashore also went cashless last year.

So far, resistance has been muted, with only a few, such as the ACLU, raising concerns about government barriers being raised against the poor. 

Others worry about what may be seen as an invasion of privacy, or exposure to data breaches. There is also the question of whether this creates precedent for the federal government to coerce citizens to doing all transactions through government-regulated banks as a third party, raising the specter of social credit scores or tracking a person’s carbon footprint.

Most visitors to major national parks and monument lands have wallets full or plastic or, increasingly, a phone that they can tap for contactless payments. 

But not everyone loves the idea of a bank getting up in their business. About 4% of Americans are “unbanked,” meaning they are part of a cash-and-carry world that most of us cannot imagine. They are the ones who are not able to meet bank balance requirements, can’t make their credit card payments, or who just don’t trust banks. Granted, they are not the prime marketing target for national parks, but creating yet another barrier seems unAmerican. This is government keeping what it considers undesirables out of parks by erecting a behavior barrier.

Reducing cash collection at entries to parks may allow resources to be diverted to other needs, perhaps cleaning latrines or reducing fraud, waste, and long lines at the booth. It also may keep out young people who don’t yet have credit cards, or those who have maxed out their cards but still want to get some fresh air. Opponents of this move say that an ongoing “war on cash” imperils privacy, limits access, and puts us all at the mercy of untold technical glitches, such as chips that malfunction, or a malware attack on a credit card processing entity. We’ve all had these experiences to greater or lesser degrees, even at a grocery store or gas pump.

At Cumberland Island, accessible only by ferry, the National Park website said the quiet part out loud: “Although there are multiple benefits for going cashless, our main priority is the safety of our visitors and staff.”

There you have it: Money is not safe, the government is saying, without exactly explaining why.

It’s reasonable to ask what will happen if other agencies decide legal tender is not safe. Will transit agencies stop taking coins and only accept “tap here” payment? This is not theoretical: In Seattle, the King County Metro Transit has been planning for three years to discontinue the acceptance of coins and bills by 2023.

The U.S. is not alone in this rush to a digital transaction mandate. Currency is quickly becoming obsolete in China, where hardly anyone carries Yuan notes. All Chinese transactions are traceable by the government. The same holds true for India and its disappearing relationship with the rupee.

The federal government, which established the U.S. dollar with the Mint Act of 1792, should never require a bank account in order for a citizen to gain entry into a national park, historic site, or museum. Disallowing the dollar bill is not exactly like coming face-to-face with a grizzly bear, but it’s a short stroll to the next authoritarian thing —  an America where every transaction is traceable by a federal bureaucrat and the idea that “leave no trace” does not include your wallet.

Suzanne Downing is publisher of Must Read Alaska.


  1. We are China. Track and watch everyone. Digital currency from our government to be introduced. I will not support any national park that keeps people out! If we don’t stand up to tyranny we are all doomed. People didn’t do it with the masks, death jab or any of the ridiculous mandates tested on us. It doesn’t take everyone, just 20% to not be afraid to say no. Live free or die……

  2. This move to banning cash is simply more Orwellian, dysptopian evil.
    If I ever decide to visit any of those national (or are they now globalist?) parks, I will simply pass through the entryways without paying, and if challenged later by a ranger, offer my CASH in payment — “Legal tender for ALL debts, public and private”.
    Why are there not more howls of outrage about these kind of totalitarian moves by the ruling class?

    • NPS, USFS (and all others) are foreign corporations registered overseas in the City of London for instance which is stateless like DC and the Vatican among the other foreign-owned incorporated “agencies” with authority to operate “given” by Presidential Executive Order by Ulysses Grant in 1871. These corporation agents are supposed to only operate in DC after getting business licenses. Well, all these corporations/agencies have owners usually unknown to Americans. These agencies may not be our agents at all but foreign agents. I believe they are possibly unConstitutional.

    • There will be outrage when it’s to late to do anything about it, after the rest of the banks fail and your money will then be issued to you on a plastic bank card. Sorry folks. No cash.

  3. “……..But not everyone loves the idea of a bank getting up in their business. About 4% of Americans are “unbanked,” meaning they are part of a cash-and-carry world that most of us cannot imagine……..”
    I lived in an America when the only “card” known was American Express, it wasn’t credit, and few had one. Everybody used cash, and some used checks, and the checks eventually went away because of the scumbags who ripped people off. That world has been long gone for decades. Those 4% are in deep hot water if they can’t fit in, and I’m not going to make a sign and wave it in the middle of the freeway for them. They’d better buy their tent while they can, or call Ms. Zalatel for shelter with their free Obama-phone.

    • Perhaps some of them prefer privacy- apparently that life IS beyond your Imagination, if all you can imagine is that these people are on welfare

    • The 4% shouldn’t be in any form of hot water. This is the land of the free. I can choose to pay cash for everything if I wish. That the gov’t has put up a barrier saying I can’t is an infringement on my right to choose how to live.

      Being cashless isn’t my choice, but being without a cell phone is. I don’t want one at all, free or not. Now is someone going to tell me I don’t have a right to live without a cell phone?

      Gov’t is supposed to be here FOR the people, not to tell people they have to live a certain way.

  4. When they control your money it’s easy to control you. Talk to your representatives in congress about fighting Central Bank Digital Currency. You don’t have to use China or India for examples. Just point to Canada as to what can happen when governmnt controls your money. They froze the bank acounts of folks who donated to the truckers rebellion. Kind gentle Canada my patooty.

  5. The government has outlived it’s usefulness as it has been perverted by the bureaucrats in the background into a pure vacuum into which all wealth that is accumulated by the masses flows. They have managed to make banks rich businesses by allowing them to steal your money just for putting it in the bank. They have added immeasurable taxes into every little purchase or expense in society. And if there existed an area where there was no expense, they legislated a fee into existence. The Covid BS was a pure taking of wealth by the government bureaucrats. Inflation is the greatest of taxes and is created by government spending and over creating the money supply.

  6. ……and don’t forget to submit your fingerprints and DNA to the NPS too. Electric vehicle owners get discounts.

  7. This discrminates against folks of meager means who do not have credit cards nor bank accounts.

  8. The parks belong to the people and it’s time to replace those who manage it. The nps is not a essential part of our country and should be unfunded asap.

  9. Of you need a credit card to get into a National Park, and you presumably need a bank account to get a credit card, and you certainly need some form of identification to get either a credit card or a bank account, then why are there large areas of our country where you can vote without any identification whatsoever?

    • Steve, simply by asking that question, you are clearly identifying yourself as a MAGA extremist, a racist, and a transphobic anti-non-binary bigot. Or something like that.

  10. So the trillions of dollars the government printed for the so called inflation reduction act are no longer good to do business with the government. Hmm…

    • Ding, ding, ding.
      I think this has more to do with it than anything else. I worked for a small business 20 years ago, and the policy was no cash. The owner didn’t want to do a daily bank drop and having no cash in the office meant burglars wouldn’t find any.

  11. Try to hire an American for a job into a soon to be bankrupted foreign “government” agency without proper state business licenses. What could go wrong. The US Constitution does not permit Americans to sell, debase, or deliever their childrens’ national heritages, birthrights, liberties, historic coastal or other assets to foreign invaders and gangs and corporations.

  12. I’ve fought this battle for 40 years. I’ve had the cops called on me dozens of times, and being well versed in banking and monetary law I’ve never been arrested for non compliance. In 1984 as a long haul trucker on I-90(!) I had an Illinois toll road collector refuse a $100 bill. I pointed out “Legal tender for all debts public and private” which had no impact on her. ‘It’s the law not a suggestion’ I told her…again no meaningful response. Finally. “I offered you payment, you refused it. Bye.” Five miles later I was pulled over by a State Highway Patrol. He heard my argument and didn’t want anything to do with me. This would play out again and again when I’d snow bird it to the lower 48. Didn’t use cards specifically so I couldn’t be tracked by their use. That meant lots and lots of hundred dollar bills! The way it works is that if you’ve already received a service or product (filled you tank with gas, ate a meal) they can NOT refuse cash. However, private businesses have gotten away with refusing cash under certain circumstances for services not yet performed or goods not yet received. The government, especially the federal government, refusing to take FEDERAL reserve notes is a BIG NO!!! I’ve done my part fighting this, now it’s YOUR turn. Contact your Senators, yes even Murkowski, etc. Someone needs to challenge this in court as well. Why is this IMPORTANT? I worked for National City Bank in college (late 70’s). Pioneers in ATM’s and bank debit cards. They tried issuing cards to ALL their customers and it failed miserably. The seniors and Conservative Christians of that time saw it as the “number”, or at least a big step towards the “mark of the beast” referred to in Revelation. They were right!!! Unfortunately, the future is already written. The only question is; do you have what it takes to walk away from your house, your luxuries, lose everything and be thought of as crazy and a criminal??? I don’t think as many of you as you think are making it to Heaven. THIS ISSUE, (that no man might buy or sell save he that has the number) is how YOU will have to prove you really do “BELIEVE”.

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