Yellowstone ends ’10 with 3.6 million visits
By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
January 8, 2011
Yellowstone National Park officials say 3,640,184 people visited the park in 2010, smashing 2009’s record of nearly 3.3 million visitors.
Recreation visitors through the park’s South Entrance, which serves travelers from Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole, jumped 7.3 percent from 713,137 in 2009 to 765,012 last year.
Last year’s record-breaking visitation continues a string of strong years for the park, spokesman Al Nash said.
“We’ve had records three out of the past four years,” he said, explaining 2008 only saw 3,066,570 visitors and did not break a record. “Even 2008 was still in our top ten of all time. We’ve had four really strong years in a row.”
The root of this strong visitation isn’t clear, but money is likely a factor, Nash said.
“The value for your travel dollar would top my list of reasons,” said Nash, who also credited state tourism offices in Montana and Wyoming for promotional efforts. “And stable gas prices were certainly something that may have been to our benefit this past year.”
While the recent Ken Burns documentary on national parks probably helped generate some interest in Yellowstone, that film isn’t the only reason for the strong numbers.
“Could that PBS series have prompted a spike? Sure,” Nash said. “But if you look at the three years prior to that, we still had strong visitation.
“If you look at our visitation trends, absent some very significant change in some external force, I think it’s fair to assume that we will see 3 million visitors or more a year to Yellowstone in the future,” Nash said.
For December, over-snow travel increased slightly while overall visitation was down a bit compared with last year. Overall recreation visits dropped from 18,107 to 17,388, a 4 percent decline.
Snowy weather may have contributed to the shortfall, Nash said.
“Those first two weeks of December, the only way to get in was through the North Entrance in your automobile,” Nash said.
There was enough snow in some places that people may have decided not to travel, he said.
“On the flip side, we had great snow to start out our over-snow season,” Nash said.
Park officials say 9,409 people entered the park on snowmobiles or snow coaches last month, an increase of just more than 1 percent from the 9,298 visitors who used over-snow vehicles during the same month in 2009.
Motorized use through the South Entrance dropped from 2,787 in December 2009 to 2,449 last month, a decline of 12 percent.
Overall, the number of snow coach passengers increased slightly last month to 5,059 from 4,786 in December 2009. Snowmobile passengers dropped slightly from 4,512 in December 2009 to 4,350 last month.