Yellowstone reports drop in winter visitation
by Yellowstone National Park
April 2, 2009
Preliminary figures show visitation to Yellowstone National Park during the recently concluded winter season is down compared to the previous winter.
The total number of visitors to the park for December 2008 through March 2009 was 86,793, down 13.2 percent from the 99,975 visitors recorded for the previous winter season.
An average of 205 snowmobiles and 29 snowcoaches a day entered the park during winter 2008-2009. That compares to an average of 294 snowmobiles and 35 snowcoaches a day during winter 2007-2008.
The number of people driving through the park’s North Entrance from December through March totaled 47,259; down slightly from 50,175 the previous year.
Park managers believe a lack of early season snowfall and continued legal uncertainty surrounding oversnow travel at the beginning of the season, coupled with the weak economy, all contributed to the decline in winter visitor numbers.
Winter visitation represents a small but important portion of the park’s annual visitation, which again topped the 3-million mark in 2008. During the peak of summer, more people visit the park in just four days than visit during the months of December through March combined.
Despite a recent U.S. Commerce Department report showing that nationwide travel spending was down 22 percent during the last quarter of 2008, a staff analysis of impacts on park visitation during previous recessions shows economic downturns have had a limited impact on annual visitation to Yellowstone National Park.
History also indicates that even though Yellowstone visitation has declined some at the onset of previous recessions, as the economy has recovered, visitor numbers have bounced back to equal or exceed pre-recession levels.
The National Park Service Office of Tourism is relatively upbeat about summer travel to the national parks; noting that during tough economic times many families decide to take shorter trips to authentic, domestic destinations like Yellowstone.
Visiting the national parks remains a good value. A seven-day pass good for both Yellowstone and Grand Teton is just $25; a pass good for entrance to any national park for an entire year is just $80. Many travel costs have declined, with gasoline prices currently half what they were last summer. Overnight stays in Yellowstone are available for as little as $12 a night at some park campgrounds, and special lodging rates are being offered on rooms in the park and in nearby communities.
All communities near and on the way to Yellowstone are open all year, with local businesses offering a wide range of recreation opportunities.
Lots of information and help planning a visit to Yellowstone can be found on the park’s web site at http://www.nps.gov/yell.
Information and reservations for in-park campgrounds and lodging is available by contacting Xanterra Parks and Resorts at 866-GEYSERLAND or online at http://www.travelyellowstone.com.
Information on lodging, camping, services, and activities near the park in the Montana communities of Gardiner, West Yellowstone, and Cooke City, is available by contacting their respective Chambers of Commerce or from Travel Montana at 800-847-4868 or http://visitmt.com/.
Information on visiting the Wyoming communities of Cody and Jackson is available from their Chambers of Commerce, or by contacting Wyoming Travel and Tourism at 800-225-5996 or http://www.wyomingtourism.org.