Teton park eclipses visitor record

January 18, 2018 GMT

Each of the past four years, more people ventured into Grand Teton National Park than the year before.

The year that started the spree, 2014, was the busiest in park history, and a new visitation record has been set every year since. The new high mark is 2017’s 3.3 million recreational visitors, an influx of people flocking to the Tetons that’s about double the size of crowds from the early 1990s.

“The last several years, we’ve had record visitation not only at Grand Teton National Park but across the country,” park spokeswoman Denise Germann said. “I think there’s a trend, and it’s building every year.”

National Park Service visitation data across the agency as a whole has not yet been posted.

All-time highs for visitation to Teton park were recorded in June, August, September and October. There were numerous signs the park’s infrastructure was stretched thin: All campsites were regularly spoken for, as were all backcountry permits — at one point for three days straight.

Much-larger Yellowstone National Park drew 4.17 million visitors to northwestern Wyoming in 2017, a number that trailed only 2016’s 4.26 million visitors. Visitation to the world’s first national park has increased by about 40 percent over the last decade.

“Yellowstone is a place known and loved by local, regional, national and international visitors,” Yellowstone officials said in a statement. “In this era of increased visitation, park officials remain committed to preserving Yellowstone’s resources and the experience of people who come here.”

Resources to deal with the steadily swelling crowds, however, have largely stagnated. The joint federal base budget allocation for Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Parkway, for example, was $13.15 million in fiscal year 2012. By 2017, despite Teton park having to manage 22 percent more people, the federal allocation fell slightly to $13.13 million.

The park tries to make the best of the situation, Germann said.

“We utilize all the resources we get,” she said, “including all of our partners and our volunteers in the community.”

Notable events — 2016’s Park Service centennial celebration and 2017’s total solar eclipse — have undoubtedly buoyed visitation to the Tetons the past couple of years. Although 2018 has no clear counterpart magnet event, Germann’s hunch is that there will be a carryover effect and bustling crowds in the year ahead.

“It’s building year after year,” she said. “I anticipate another busy year.”