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Yellowstone visitation breaks record with two months to go

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Numbers increase to Yellowstone

Tourists photograph Old Faithful erupting May 21, 2011, in Yellowstone National Park.

POWELL — Without counting attendance at Yellowstone National Park in November and December, the nation’s first national park has already posted its busiest year ever with nearly 4.8 million visits.

For much of the year, the park set monthly records. Visits were down 12% in October (316,662 visits) as compared to October 2020 (which was the busiest October on record with 359,889 visits). Weather may be partially to blame for the lower numbers, but they were still much higher than October 2019, which saw only 171,339 visits.

So far in 2021, the park has hosted 4,789,644 recreation visits, up 28% from the same period last year, and up 20% from 2019. The previous record was set in 2016, with 4,212,782 visits.

Visitors have flocked to natural spaces in response to social distancing efforts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Interestingly, the park surpassed the record despite having very few foreign visitors; the Biden administration just lifted restrictions for vaccinated foreign travelers on Nov. 8. A report compiled by the National Park Service prior to the pandemic found international visitors from 25 countries comprised 17% of total visitation to the park in the previous record year.

Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly had guessed that 2021 would be a record-breaking year back in April.

“I predict it will be the busiest on record — and ironically,” he said then. “I mean, look at COVID last year: Who would have thought that we’d be having this conversation a year ago?”

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