In fact, the numbers released by the park service are nothing short of amazing. Over 260,000 people visited Yellowstone in May, up over 20 percent from last year’s levels. Sure, good weather had something to do with the uptick: the numbers always go up when there’s good weather. Memorial Day landing on the calendar as early as possible in May certainly didn’t hurt: Memorial Day is the traditional launch of the summer season in Yellowstone, so the timing was good. And perhaps the national recession is finally grinding to a halt: Yellowstone attendance is a leading indicator of the economic health of America.
The park’s East Entrance saw the greatest increase in visitation, up nearly 21 percent in May compared to the previous year. The West Entrance remains the park’s busiest, with nearly 115,000 visitors passing through the gate in May, up nearly 17 percent from 2008. The South and North entrances also showed increases compared to last year’s levels.
In terms of yearly numbers, the May attendance gives a strong boost to the 2009 figures. For the first five months of the year, nearly 360,000 people came through the park gates, a nearly 11 percent increase over the same period in 2008. Visitation figures for the first five months of the year are also up compared to the five-year average of just over 340,000 visitors.
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Photo by RG Johnsson, courtesy of the National Park Service.