October 2017 marked the third busiest October in Yellowstone National Park history, a marked decline given the recent visitation trend.
According to a Yellowstone press release, there were 211,987 visits to Yellowstone in October 2017, down 12.4 percent from October 2016, when 242,004 people came to the park.
The busiest October on record came in 2015, when 252,013 people visited the park.
The decline in visitation is likely attributable to inclement weather, which closed most of the mountain passes in central Yellowstone. The same thing happened in September, where visitation was curbed due to inclement weather. You can see the full table below.
|Year-to-Date Recreational Visits through October
Despite this October setback, 2017 is still poised to surpass 2015 in terms of visitation. It’s unlikely 2017 will surpass, 2016, however.
Compared to this time in 2016, visitation to Yellowstone National Park is down 3.04 percent. 2016 saw the largest number of visits to the park, buoyed by the 2016 National Park Service Centennial, which included a concert event at the Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, Montana.
The decline in visits may come as a relief to some, especially as Yellowstone (and the NPS) try and prepare for increasing visitation to the park.
A pair of visitor use and traffic studies published earlier this year predicts constant high visitation to Yellowstone National Park could render the roads terminally poor by 2023. Further, many park visitors report difficulty finding parking, especially during the summer, when most people visit Yellowstone.
Park staff in both Yellowstone and other national parks has weighed instituting vehicle/visitor caps or promoting shuttle travel to alleviate this congestion.
Indeed, the NPS’ maintenance backlog for infrastructure, rated at approximately $12 billion, is a perennial concern for the agency.
Indeed, earlier this year, the NPS floated the possibility of instituting peak season entry fees to 17 parks, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton. The hike would raise the weeklong entrance pass from $30 to $70.
Following the last fee hike, both Yellowstone and Grand Teton saw an uptick in Interagency Annual Pass purchases. The Interagency pass permits people to visit any national park in the United States.
It is not known whether this latest fee hike would lead to a similar increase in Interagency Annual Pass purchases.