Devils Tower visitation up in fall after coronavirus closure
GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) — Perhaps it’s true what they say about wanting what you can’t have.
Devils Tower National Monument, like the entire collection of National Park Service parks, closed in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. By late May, it was back open to the public, and visitation has set records every month since September.
— August saw more 113,000 people visit the park that month alone, and that was more than 13,000 visitors than in 2019.
— September saw a record number of visits at 68,726, which was 6,000 more visitors for the month than 2019.
— October continued the trend of record visitation when nearly 30,000 people came to the park. In 2019, the total for the month was 17,290 visitors.
— November’s visitations also set a record in a month that typically sees a steep decline in the number of people coming to Devils Tower. This year, more than 9,000 recreation visits were recorded, which represents a nearly 110% increase for the month over last year.
Overall, the park has seen 420,330 recreation visits this year through November, which is down 7% from 2019, the Gillette News Record reports.
Ogden and Rosanne Driskill, owners of Devils Tower KOA campground, both said 2020 was by far the best year they’ve ever had in terms of business. Nationally, KOA had its best year ever, Rosanne said, and Devils Tower was a prime example of it.
“The vast majority were distancing in an RV, were tired of sitting in a city, locked in a room where they couldn’t get any fresh air,” Ogden Driskill said of the 2020 surge.
Many of them were first-timers when it came to such adventures.
“So many of the customers were truly grateful.” Rosanne said. “They hard-core love America. It was a weird year, because there were so many brand new to camping and the outdoors.”
The Driskills are hopeful that 2021 continues to provide increased visitation.
“We’re holding our breath for 2021,” Ogden said. “But reservations are coming in very strong, vaccines are coming and we’re just hoping it will be OK.”