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Yellowstone Visitation Study Launches

There is broad agreement that Yellowstone National Park is far too crowded during the summer’s peak season. To work on potential solutions, a new Yellowstone visitation study will research visitor demographics and actions.

With visitation records being set over the last five years — most recently last month, when we saw the highest Yellowstone May visitation numbers — the issue of overcrowding is a very real one. Overcrowding adds stress to animal populations, strains valuable infrastructure and leads to some unpleasant visitor experiences. So a Yellowstone visitation study, detailing who is entering and exiting the Park, while outlining what folks do when within the Park, is a very valuable tool for National Park Service officials. Everyone, of course, has their own theory as to why Yellowstone is crowded and leading to subpar visitor experiences — too many tour buses! too many foreign visitors! too many Utahns! the great economy allows more travel! the bad economy keeps folks closer to home! — so some concrete numbers would be very useful. Besides Yellowstone visitors, the survey organizers will be talking with local business owners and politicians. From KTVH:

This summer, some visitors to Yellowstone National Park will be asked questions about their visit. But others will have a completely different experience. “People are going to be handed a digital tablet,” [Yellowstone National Park spokeswoman Morgan] Warthin added.

They’ll use it to record their experiences in the park. For instance to show how long they stay at certain places and how long it takes them to travel someplace else.

“And then as they’re wrapping up their trip, to leave the tablets at visitor centers and or entrances,” said Warthin.

The surveys will wrap up in September when officials will take a closer look at the results. “It informs the decision making,” said Wenk.

As noted, everyone has their own theories as to the reasons for overcrowding, and everyone has their own solutions to address the overcrowding, like a cap on daily visitors, bus-only travel within the center of the Grand Loop road, and mandatory reservations. Any recommendations arising the the Yellowstone visitation study aren’t expected to be unveiled until April 2019.

Image courtesy National Park Service.

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