Yellowstone: Record-Breaking September Pushes Year-To-Date Visits To Over 4 Million

Yellowstone: Record-Breaking September Pushes Year-To-Date Visits To Over 4 Million

Written by on October 15, 2021

Yellowstone National Park shatters its September and year-to-date records, which raises questions on whether the park can handle such vast crowds.

The record-breaking year at Yellowstone National Park continued into September. Last month’s numbers surpassed 2020’s, making September 2021 the busiest September in the park’s history.

Yellowstone National Park hosted 882,078 recreation visits in September 2021 – a 5% increase from September 2020 and a 27% increase from September 2019.

It’s worth noting that 2019 was the last “regular” year in the park. Thus, it was wholly unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic and is the most reliable recent year for number comparisons.

September 2021 pushed the year-to-date visitation numbers well over four million.

So far, in 2021, the park has hosted 4,463,599 recreation visits – up 32% from the same period last year and up 17% from 2019.

And there’s still three months of 2021 to go . . .

The last busiest year in Yellowstone was 2016, with 4,257,178 recreation visits.

September 2021 Visitors on Old Faithful boardwalk

Courtesy Yellowstone National Park

But with the millions of people comes numerous questions and concerns – can the park handle such numbers?

“Never in Yellowstone’s history have we seen such substantial visitation increases in such a short amount of time,” said Superintendent Cam Sholly. “We will continue working with our teams and partners to develop and implement appropriate short- and long-term actions for managing increasing visitation across the park. My thanks to our teams here for working through a record visitation year, especially with the continued workforce challenges presented by COVID-19.”

Yellowstone’s road corridors and parking areas equate to less than 1,750 (0.079%) acres of the park’s 2.2 million acres. Yet, most visitors stay within a half-mile of these corridors.

Yellowstone’s visitor use strategy, developed in 2019, focuses on the impacts of increasing visitation on:

  1. Park resources
  2. Staffing, infrastructure, and operations
  3. Visitor experience
  4. Gateway communities, including economic and recreational access.

Park officials are concentrating their efforts on the most congested areas: Old Faithful, Midway Geyser Basin, Norris, the Canyon rims, and Lamar Valley.

Yellowstone officials already have a comprehensive resource tool developed to monitor and respond to impacts on resources.

This year, park officials piloted an AV shuttle system, moving over 10,000 visitors at Canyon Village and testing technology that could be used in the future. In addition, a significant shuttle feasibility study is underway to analyze the viability of a shuttle system in the Midway Geyser Basin corridor.

The park will also use data derived from recent major visitor surveys and transportation studies to inform their future decisions. In addition, Yellowstone officials are working closely with Grand Teton National Park on mutually beneficial solutions since both parks share a substantial number of visitors each year.

Furthermore, Yellowstone has completed over $100 million in projects over the past two years to improve transportation infrastructure, reduce traffic congestion and enhance visitor experiences.

Substantial additional investments will continue in 2022 and 2023 in multiple areas of the park as part of funding received from the Great American Outdoors Act.

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