Yellowstone sets September and year-to-date attendance records

(CNN) – Yellowstone National Park has done it again.

That number is 872,695 recreational visits, a National Park Service news release said Tuesday. That’s a 4% increase from September 2020.

Perhaps even more remarkable is the record number of visitors since the beginning of the year.

So far in 2021, Yellowstone has recorded 4,463,599 recreational visits, up 32% from the same period in 2020. It’s like the entire state of Oregon is visiting Yellowstone and inviting over 200,000 friends.

It is the first time that the park has surpassed 4 million visitors so at the beginning of the year, even before the pandemic, NPS said.

Busy, busy, busy

“Never in Yellowstone history have we seen such a dramatic increase in visits in such a short time,” said Superintendent Cam Sholly in the press release.

“We will continue to work with our teams and partners to develop and implement appropriate short and long term actions to manage the increase in visits across the park.”

An influx of visitors is forcing Arches National Park in Utah to temporarily close its gates almost every day. And disappointed visitors aren’t the only consequence of overcrowding. The National Park Service is anticipating one of its busiest summers on record, so Arches won’t be the only popular park where crowds might be an issue. CNN’s Lucy Kafanov reports.

This announcement comes as no surprise to people who have been part of the huge waves trying to gain entry to the famous national parks for months.

Even in October, Arches still warns potential visitors that “the parking lots at the start of the trails may fill up before 9am, causing park access to be temporarily restricted until congestion subsides.” Its website states that restricted access can last anywhere from three to five hours.

Lots of people, lots of wildlife

You shouldn’t count on crowds thinning out for fall in national parks, the NPS previously warned, as people are flocking to outdoor spaces after so long locked up indoors during the pandemic.

If you’re planning on enjoying Yellowstone, NPS recommends that you make plans well in advance and be prepared to share the space with other travelers.

More people also mean more potential wildlife encounters gone wrong. The NPS says they keep a minimum of 25 yards (23 meters) from all wildlife and 100 yards (91 meters) from bears and wolves.

NPS takes this warning seriously. Last week, a 25-year-old woman was sentenced to four days in federal custody and hefty fines for being too close to a grizzly bear and its cubs.

Be ready for the weather

You also need to be ready for all kinds of weather in Yellowstone at this time of year. After all, it’s located in northwestern Wyoming and reaches into Idaho and Montana quite a bit.

NPS states that “snow is common in the spring and fall with regular accumulations of 12 inches.”

in fact, at 6:45 pm local time on Wednesday, the temperature at the park was a shocking 20 degrees Fahrenheit (nearly -7 degrees Celsius).

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