CODY, Wyo. – The superintendent of Yellowstone National Park says he expects visitor numbers to continue to grow but that he’s gotten better at managing the crowds.
The Cody Enterprise reported that the park is coming off two straight years of record attendance and Superintendent Dan Wenk does not believe it has peaked yet.
Yellowstone saw 4,097,711 visitors in 2015 and had topped that number by October this year, when it reached 4,221,782. Wenk said the 2016 numbers might have been even higher if it wasn’t for early October snow and a busy fire season that closed the South Gate for a time in August.
“We have seen a steady growth and over the long term it continues to grow,” Wenk said. “We will be dealing with increased visitation into the future.”
Yellowstone opened in 1872 and is the country’s oldest national park. It was overrun by fans in summer 2015, said Wenk, causing overcrowded roads and bathrooms and lots of complaints from the public.
But Wenk said the park beefed up its staffing for summer 2016, which went more smoothly.
“We learned a lot from the summer of 2015,” he explained. “Adjustments were made and they made some of the congestion better.”
Wenk said he remains concerned about some dangerous and illegal activity at the park, including visitors putting a bison calf into a vehicle, tourists leaving footprints at the Grand Prismatic Spring and a young man stepping off the boardwalk and being killed by a geyser.
“I was disturbed our messages weren’t getting out,” the superintendent said. “People actually knew, but they thought the risk was worth taking. We have a lot of behavior in the park where people risk their lives or the resource. You can’t protect everybody from everything.”
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