Yellowstone draws more than 2 million visitors this summer

Depending on how visitors are counted, the trend for 2013 shows what is probably a slight increase in visitation to Yellowstone National Park over last year.

The number of recreational visits to Yellowstone for the first seven months of 2013 has surpassed 2.5 million, with more than 2 million visitors to the park during the three busiest summer months.

Total visitation so far this year appears to be up slightly over last year, although a change in how visitors are counted complicates that comparison.

There were 725,136 recreational visitors to Yellowstone in August, and a total of 2,161,777 during June, July, and August, according to figures released by the park’s public affairs office. Year-to-date, the park has recorded 2,554,000 recreational visits in 2013.

Comparing this year’s numbers with those of years past gets a little tricky because the National Park Service has changed how it calculates total visitors to Yellowstone.

Park managers have based visitation figures on vehicle counts, and for the past 20 years they have multiplied the total number of vehicles by 2.91, based on the idea that an average of 2.91 people per car enter the park.

But based on visitor surveys conducted last year that re-examined that multiplier, the per-car average has been revised down to 2.58. This means that even if slightly more cars enter the park this year, the lower multiplier could yield a number showing fewer total visitors.

The total number of recreational visitors to Yellowstone through August was down 5.77 percent but vehicle traffic was up 4.37percent compared to the same period in 2012. So comparing total vehicles year-to-year would indicate an increase of slightly more than 4 percent in total visitation over last year.

Compared to August 2012, the North, South, East and West Entrances all saw an increase in vehicle numbers, while vehicle travel through the park’s Northeast Entrance was down 261 vehicles compared to the previous year.

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