The closure of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the federal shutdown cost the region $33 million in lost tourism, according to an analysis released Friday.

The News-Observer, Charlotte, N.C., reported that the study looked at visitor spending in 18 North Carolina and Tennessee counties surrounding the park during the first 10 days of October after the partial shutdown of the U.S. government.

That period is normally prime leaf viewing season for tourists.

Not this year, and business owners are hurting, said Steve Morse, director of Western Carolina University’s Hospitality and Tourism

“This is a critical time in October. It’s their last big push for sales, anything from food service restaurants, souvenirs, retail,” Morse said. “The fall foliage season is a Southern tradition.”

Morse was traveling in the area Friday. He said people can drive through the park from Gatlinburg, Tenn., to Cherokee, but can’t get off the main road, U.S. 441.

“Everything else has yellow barricaded cones, trail heads for hiking are barricaded off, visitor centers are closed, bathrooms are closed, the camping areas have been evacuated,” Morse said. “It is empty.”

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the nation’s most visited, with 9.68 million people a year. October is the third biggest month, after July and June.

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