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Yellowstone National Park Extends String of 3-Million-Visitor Years


Strong economy or weak economy, Yellowstone National Park is proving to be a strong attraction, as the park in 2011 attracted more than 3 million visitors for the fifth straight year.

Not since 2006, when annual visitation to the park totaled 2.87 million, has the park counted fewer than 3 million visitors a year.

Overall 2011 visitation to Yellowstone was 3,394,321.  While down 6.8 percent from the record 3,640,184 people who visited the park the previous year, 2011 was the second highest visitation year on record.

Annual Recreational Visitors

Rank Year Visitation

  1.      2010  3,640,184     
  2.      2011  3,394,321       
  3.      2009  3,295,187     
  4.      2007  3,151,343      
  5.      1992  3,144,405
  6.      1999  3,131,381
  7.      1995  3,125,285
  8.      1998  3,120,830
  9.      2008  3,066,570
  10.      1994 3,046,145

More than one-fourth of the park’s total annual visitation was recorded during the month of July, with 906,934 recreational visits. December visitation was down 5.0 percent compared to year ago levels, with 16,509 visitors recorded in 2011 compared to 17,386 during the same period in 2010.



That's alot of people!  I do have a question as to how the count is done.  For example, we visited YNP for 3 weeks in 2008 entering through the west entrance.  However, we went in and out of the park through the various entrances at least 5 times during that stay visiting Teton, Cody, & various other places.  We purchased the yearly pass since we were going to be there over the 7 days the regular entrance fee allows.  So were we 'counted' once upon paying the fee (which would be a correct count), or were we 'counted' everytime we went in and out (which would have been counted as a total of 6-7 'visits) which could give inflated numbers if people visit outside the park and return as we did.


Rather than try to explain the protocol myself, I've attached as a PDF the Park Service's explanation for how they count heads at Yellowstone. Not sure it's an exact science, but it puts things in the ballpark.

Thanks Kurt! Now I know what an 'inductive loop counter' is.  It appears to count every time a vehicle passes over it.   

So no constant backing up/pulling forward to boost the counts, Stormy;-)

I recall as a seasonal ranger at GT and YE for most of the 1970s that Yellowstone topped 3M most years that decade.  Is the counting the same then as now?   

To obtain counting methods info (past or present) for an NPS unit, visit the NPS Stats site select the relevant park, highlight How We Count, and then click on View Report.

I do not know if a new counting method for Yellowstone was launched this year ('scuse my ignorance), but if so, that information is not available at the NPS Stats site. The counting method used to obtain last year's visitation data (calendar year 2010) at Yellowstone dates back to 1995. 

Aw, Kurt.  Caught me!   It does create an amusing 'mental picture' of our truck & travel trailer pulling forward & backing up while hubby & I laugh maniacally shouting  "3,000,001...3,000,002...3,000,003! 

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