Yellowstone National Park eases some restrictions amid increased visits

Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 12:20 AM CDT
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YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Yellowstone National Park is a hugely popular tourist destination, with annual visitation averaging more than 4 million people per year. But because of the pandemic, this year has seen a steep decline in the number of people entering the gates.

Part of that is due to limited lodging options, because Xanterra Parks and Resorts made the decision to keep their hotels and lodges closed for health reasons. But Rick Hoeninghausen with Xanterra reports that just this week, officials made the decision to open up more lodging for visitors.

"On July 3rd, the Sandpiper Lodge near Yellowstone Lake Lodge opened," he says, adding that in the coming week some rooms will be available at Canyon Lodge and the Old Faithful Snow Lodge.

“And then on the 17th of July, at the Mammoth Hotel, we’ll be able to open some hotel rooms.”

Hoeninghausen notes that the mandatory use of masks by both staff and guests is one of the reasons why Park officials feel confident in opening more properties.

“We’re very front line,” he points out. “We’re talking to a lot of visitors from all over the place, and so it seemed like a good step to make.”

Hoeninghausen says that the demand for lodging is increasing as visitation continues to rise. Morgan Warthin, Public Affairs Specialist for Yellowstone National Park, says that they have seen a marked increase in numbers since the Park first opened in the middle of May.

“When we opened the Wyoming gates on May 18th, we were at about 19 percent of 2019 visitation,” she reports. “And what we know from visitation for mid-June is that we’re at about 89 percent.”

Both Hoeninghausen and Warthin note that upwards of 600 Park employees - both Park Service and Xanterra staff - have undergone rigorous testing for coronavirus, and so far, every test has come back negative.

But because Yellowstone is truly here for the people, Warthin says the Park Service has one overall request.

“We are asking visitors to recreate responsibly. We highly recommend wearling masks, and to social distance.”

Copyright 2020 Wyoming News Now. All rights reserved.

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