In a year of record-setting visitation to Yellowstone National Park, September was not going to be left out.
In a new record for the fall month, more than 882,000 recreation visits were recorded, a 5% increase from last September and a 27% jump from September 2019.
This is first time the park has hosted more than 4 million visitors at such an early date – 4.47 million to be more precise. That's a 32% increase from the same period last year, and up 17% from 2019.
"Never in Yellowstone's history have we seen such substantial visitation increases in such a short amount of time," said Superintendent Cam Sholly in a statement. "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."
Although visitation was heavy, park officials noted that most people are crammed into Yellowstone's road corridors, parking areas and developed spaces, which are a small portion of the 2.2-million-acre park.
Consequently, 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; and 4) gateway communities, including economic and recreational access. The park is concentrating on the most congested areas including Old Faithful, Midway Geyser Basin, Norris, Canyon rims and the Lamar Valley.
This summer the park piloted an electric shuttle, moving more than 10,000 visitors at Canyon Village and testing technology that could be used in the future. A major shuttle feasibility study is underway to analyze the viability of a shuttle system in the Midway Geyser Basin corridor. The park is also taking advantage of data derived from recent visitor surveys and transportation studies to inform future decisions and is working closely with adjoining Grand Teton National Park on future solutions.
Yellowstone has completed more than $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.