Superintendent Cam Sholly says there are no plans to institute a daily Yellowstone reservations system, but an internal bus system between popular points could be studied.
Speaking in Cody, Sholly says that while crowding in Yellowstone National Park is an issue, small changes — like this year’s road upgrades near Fishing Bridge — can help improve the traffic flow on peak visitation periods. And, at 2.2 million acres, there’s plenty of room in Yellowstone National Park for all. But some of the frustrations are outside the control of National Park Service officials, as when there’s a traffic jam caused by a slow-moving bison herd. From the Cody Enterprise:
Despite a chorus of complaints that periodically float around about Yellowstone being overcrowded, Sholly said a visitor survey from last year indicates “75 percent of first-time visitors” are “pretty happy” with their experience.
Others, who are repeat customers with a specific destination, “are frustrated” because they might be the 30th car in a bison jam and can’t progress at a faster pace.
Historically, it takes about 20 years for Yellowstone annual visitation growth to jump by a million people a year, Sholly said, with the leap from 3 million to 4 million being much swifter. However, since 2015, and including this year, attendance has been counted at 4 million or so.
“There are a lot of places in the Park even in July that are not that crowded,” he said.
The issue, then, is to address crowding at congested areas like Old Faithful and Mammoth. One solution that could be studied, Sholly said, was an internal bus system shuttling between these popular areas, cutting down on road usage.
Another huge issue Sholly and his staff continues to study: improved cell-phone service. Yes, in theory, a visit to Yellowstone should be a time when folks disconnect from the rest of the wired world, but the reality is that many folks feel the need to connected. And while the notion of tourists navigating the geyser boardwalks while glued to their screens is a little unsettling, high-speed connectivity is inevitable in Yellowstone.
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