By Mari Heithoff, Cowboy State Daily
As the warm weather returns to Wyoming, so does its annual influx of tourists.
And although the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the nation’s way of life, Wyoming’s tourist season is well underway.
A brief stroll through Lander City Park and the main campground in Sinks Canyon State Park reveals crowds of of vans, pop-up campers, RVs, and SUVs, many of them sporting license plates from such far-flung states as California, Tennessee, Washington, Texas, and Iowa, as well as from neighboring states such as Colorado and Utah.
Ann and James Yearout of Chickamauga, Georgia, were drawn to Wyoming by its natural beauty.
“We’ve been to Wyoming many times,” said Ann. “Cody is my favorite place, but we also love Jackson, and of course, Yellowstone.”
The couple said their plans were not greatly impacted by the coronavirus. Their daughter, Julia, was interning at Sinks Canyon with Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources division through the Student Conservation Association, and a Wyoming trip was on the books for the spring.
“We had to wait to see if everything would open back up, of course, but we weren’t too worried about it,” said Ann, who works at an infectious disease clinic in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
“We tend toward more remote activities and areas when we come out here, and so there’s plenty of opportunity for social distancing in the backcountry,” she continued. “We come out here to go on remote hikes—we want to get away from crowds.”
The couple said although they had never been to Sinks Canyon before, they were happy to have stopped on their way to Cody.
“I have friends that ask me why I’d want to come out here, and when I get out here, I always wonder how they could ask that,” said Ann. “I mean, why wouldn’t you? It’s so peaceful and absolutely beautiful.”
According to Augie Castorena, who volunteers as a host at the main Sinks Canyon campground, visitors this season have been diverse and plentiful.
“In mid-May, everybody was out here,” he said. “Like opening the floodgates. There have been lots of out-of-state plates, lots from New York.”
Castorena explained that the campground has reopened in stages.
Originally, it was completely closed. It then reopened for in-state campers with reservations, and finally out-of-state campers were allowed back in to camp.
The State Parks and Cultural Resources division has instituted measures designed to help control any possible spread of the virus, such as extra cleaning and reservations for campsites, but Castorena emphasized that much of the responsibility rests with the visitors themselves.
“We ask visitors to please practice safe distancing,” he said. “We’re not trying to be rude, we just want to keep you safe. It seems like a lot of visitors forget to be mindful when they’re out here.”