By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Yellowstone National Park saw 1,080,767 recreation visits in July, the highest number of visitors seen in one month in the park’s history.
The total announced by park officials is a 13% increase from July 2020 (which saw 955,645 recreational visits) and a 15% increase from July 2019 (which saw 936,062 recreation visits).
The visitor numbers in July also marked the first time visitation to the park exceeded 1 million in a single month.
So far in 2021, the park has hosted 2,668,765 recreation visits, up 16% from 2019. This year is compared to 2019 instead of 2020 because of COVID-19, which forced the closure of the park for part of 2020.
The list below shows the year-to-date trend for recreation visits over the last several years (through July):
2021 – 2,668,765
2020 – 1,674,699
2019 – 2,294,691
2018 – 2,322,271
2017 – 2,316,541
2016 – 2,427,988
“Increases to Yellowstone’s visitation have accelerated rapidly over the past 12 months and we continue to be on pace to set record numbers for 2021,” said Superintendent Cam Sholly. “We are actively developing defensible short and long-term solutions, with our partners, which focus on protection of park resources, improving visitor experience, and considering impacts on park staffing, infrastructure and our gateway communities and regional economies.”
Yellowstone’s road corridors and parking areas equate to less than 1,500 acres of the park’s 2.2 million acres. Most visitors stay within one-half mile of these corridors.
As such, the park’s efforts to deal with the high visitor numbers are focused largely on the most heavily congested areas: Old Faithful, Midway Geyser Basin, Norris, Canyon rims and Lamar Valley.
A report on the economic indicators for Wyoming for the first quarter of 2021 issued by the Department of Administration and Information shows tourism numbers have skyrocketed in the state this year compared to 2020.
Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks both saw more than a 20% increase in visitations from January through March of 2021, with Yellowstone seeing 107,846 visitors in the first quarter (up 20.7% compared to last year) and Grand Teton seeing 194,447 visitors (up 22.8% compared to last year).
“Visitation figures for both national parks were the highest recorded for the first quarter in history,” the report said, noting that this was attributed to people wanting to spend time outdoors during the pandemic, while coronavirus cases also trended downward.
According to a National Park Service report, more than 3.8 million people visited Yellowstone National Park last year and spent more than $444 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 6,110 jobs in the area near Yellowstone, which had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $560 million.