Despite a deep economic recession and a slow winter season, 3.29 million people visited Yellowstone National Park in 2009, a new record.
The previous record for visitation, 3.15 million people, was set in 2007. The numbers in 2009 were 7.5 per-cent above 2008’s 3.06 million visitors and 4.6 percent above 2007.
The increase in park visits could reflect free access on two summer weekends, attention from a new PBS television series on national parks and relatively low gasoline prices.
All park entrances recorded annual visitation increases compared with 2008. Double-digit percentage increases were recorded through the Northeast and East entrances. The West Entrance near West Yellowstone continues to be the park’s busiest with more than 1.3 million visitors in 2009.
Visitation for the month of December was up 10.8 percent over December 2008. Of the 18,107 visitors to Yellowstone in December, 9,483 came by automobile, RV or bus; 4,740 were passengers on snowcoaches, and 4,512 entered the park on guided snowmobile tours.
Access to the interior of the park is restricted to oversnow travel from Dec. 15 through March 15. The North Entrance and the road from Gardiner through Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyo., on to Cooke City is open to wheeled travel all year.
An average of 183 snowmobiles and 32 snowcoaches a day entered the park from the Dec. 15 start of winter season to the end of the month. Both numbers are down compared to the same period in 2008 and 2007. The peak day for snowmobiles was Dec. 29, when 284 snowmobiles were in the park.
The peak day for snowcoaches was Dec. 27, when there were 56 snowcoaches operating in Yellowstone. Up to 318 snowmobiles and 78 snowcoaches are allowed per day this season.