Why Yellowstone National Park visits are hitting record highs

More people visited Yellowstone National Park last month than any other September on record, and 3.8 million people have visited the part in 2015.

(AP Photo/Robert Graves, File)
Bison graze near a stream in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. For the second time in three weeks, a bison has seriously injured a tourist in Yellowstone National Park. Park officials say injuries to the 62-year-old Australian aren't life-threatening though the bison tossed him several times into the air on June 2, 2015.

Yellowstone National Park has set a new record this year with more than 3.8 million visits at the end of September, and is on track to top 4 million visits by the year's end.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports that according to park statistics, the number of recreational visits this year has surpassed a 2010 record of more than 3.6 million by nearly 5 percent.

Visitation has been following an upward trend all year, as each month topped its 2014 total. This year's numbers have already outpaced 2014's end of year visitation count by 300,000. 

Yellowstone spokeswoman Amy Bartlett says the increase in visitors can be attributed to the "Find Your Park" campaign, lower gas prices and the upcoming National Parks Service centennial, which takes place next year.

The Cody Enterprise reports that the bigger crowds in September appear to be part of a well-defined trend in Yellowstone that has been building for some time.

For the decade from 2000-09, Yellowstone saw an average of 416,481 visitors during September. Since 2010, September has averaged 570,727 visitors, an average increase of 37 percent.

That’s thanks in part to efforts by the National Park Service, state tourism boards and local industry leaders to promote September and October as a “shoulder season” when visitors can book at lower rates, enjoy decent weather and watch wildlife and fall colors without the summer crowds.

Elsewhere in Montana, Glacier National Park is also setting attendance records. Despite fires and view-obscuring smoke last month, Glacier National Park is still on pace to break last year's record 2.3 million visitors.

The Daily Inter Lake reports that August visitation numbers dropped about 14 percent from August 2014, but year-to-date visitation is still strong thanks to a record-breaking June and the second-busiest July the park has ever seen.

Park visitation is estimated by multiplying the number of vehicles by the average visitors per vehicle.

Park officials expect visitation to keep climbing as access to Going-to-the-Sun Road has been extended by two weeks to Oct. 4. Vehicles will be able to reach Logan Pass from the west side until the third week in October, weather permitting.

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