Visits to Yellowstone National Park in October increased by more than 39 percent over 1987 figures for a new visitation record at the park, according to park officials.
Park officials have attributed the increase of almost 50,000 people visiting the park in October to mild fall weather and an interest in seeing the impact of this summer's fires on the country's first national park.According to park figures, 175,019 people toured Yellowstone in October, compared with the 1987 figure of 125,597, which had been the previous record for October.
In the last 10 years, an average of 100,500 people have visited the park in the tenth month of the year.
"Park officials attribute the significant increase in October visitation to warm weather and the many visitors wanting to view the park after the fires," the release said.
The figures were released Thursday, the same day Yellowstone officials closed all roads in the park to automobile traffic for the winter because of snow.
With the arrival of winter, only the road from the park's north entrance at Gardiner, Mont., to Cooke City, Mont., will be kept open. Roads are not expected to reopen until spring.
The October figures bring the number of people to visit the park during its summer season, between May 1 and Oct. 31, to almost 2.07 million, a 16.05 percent decline from 1987 figures of almost 2.47 million.
The park's record for summer season visits was set in the 1978, when about 2.47 million visits were recorded.
Despite the fires that caused the early closure of most of the park's major tourist areas, the decline in visitations seen in 1988 was not the largest seen in the park's history, said park Superintendent Robert Barbee.
"The 1988 decrease . . . was exceeded in 1979, when visitation dipped 22.3 percent from 1978," he said. "The drop in visitation that summer was due to a combination of factors such as increased gasoline prices and park budget cuts that limited normal visitor services that season."
In addition, the 1988 summer visitation figures represent only a 5 percent decline from the 10-year average of almost 2.17 million, Barbee said.