Yellowstone, Grand Teton set records for park visitation
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Visitation at Yellowstone National Park last month has increased by 40% compared to 2019, an increase of about 19,000 people and a record for the month, park officials said.
Superintendent Cam Sholly predicted the park would be busier early this year based on the inability of tourists to travel internationally as demand for outdoor recreation increased last year, The Billings Gazette reported Friday.
“I predicted a record season, and I think we’re on track for that,” he said, noting that more than 34,000 visitors entered the park through the north entrance and another 33,000 people entered the park through the west entrance.
The previous high visitation for April was in 2016 when more than 59,000 people visited Yellowstone, officials said.
Grand Teton National Park also experienced high visitation in April with more than 87,700 visitors, a 48% increase compared to the same month in 2019, officials said. The high set a record for April in the park. The previous high in April was 60,500 set in 2018.
Last month, Glacier National Park recorded more than 53,000 visitors, about 50% more than in 2019, but it did not surpass the record for the month set in 2016 with more than 55,000 visitors.
The parks were all temporarily closed in April 2020 as the National Park Service determined how to operate during the coronavirus pandemic. Once the parks reopened, visitation increased and records were set.
Sholly now predicts a crowded summer, with more people receiving the vaccine, more seasonal employees being hired and more campground reservations. He said park officials are considering plans to limit or control visitation to protect the park’s environment and wildlife.
“There’s a lot we can do to ensure we focus on the resource areas with the highest visitation,” Sholly said.