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Yellowstone Prepares for Another Record Year

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In 2015, there were more than four million visits to Yellowstone National Park, making it the biggest year on record for the iconic park. (Steppinstars/Pixabay)
In 2015, there were more than four million visits to Yellowstone National Park, making it the biggest year on record for the iconic park. (Steppinstars/Pixabay)
January 19, 2016

JACKSON, Wy. - Yellowstone National Park hosted a record number of visits last year and 2016 is set to be even busier. Thanks to low gas prices and Wyoming's marketing efforts, the park saw more than 4 million visits in 2015, up over 16 percent from the previous year.

Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk is already at work preparing for guests eager to see the world's largest collection of geysers and other sights as the park celebrates its 100th anniversary.

"We have a lot of the people from around the world who come and visit Yellowstone," says Wenk. "It's a place that is really special in this country. It's a place where people can see things and experience things that they can't anyplace else, literally, in the world."

Wenk adds last year's numbers tested the park's capacity with increased demands on staff, facilities and resources. He says during peak months, more than 4,000 workers manage what is essentially a large city. They deal with medical emergencies, family conflicts and traffic snarls, all while protecting the park's wilderness areas.

Congress recently boosted funding for national parks and is considering special Centennial legislation for additional support and to create more volunteer and philanthropic opportunities. Wenk thinks these investments are important to keep Yellowstone and other national parks healthy and accessible to all Americans.

"They really tell the story of America's history," says Wenk. "Not only their natural history, but also their cultural history. It goes back through some of the greatest conservation stories in the country, with the recovery of bison."

Yellowstone also played a critical role restoring grizzly bear and wolf populations in the region. Wenk is asking visitors for their patience in 2016, and recommends planning trips before June 15 or after the end of August to avoid the biggest crowds.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY