Despite raging forest fires that closed areas of Yellowstone Park several times last summer, some 2.2 million visitors made the trek to the United States' oldest national park.
While tourism was down by about 15 percent at Yellowstone in 1988, Utah national parks reported record numbers of tourists last year and give part of the credit to the Yellowstone closures.Tourism at Zion National Park just off I-15 north of St. George, is becoming so intense that officials are looking at proposals to either limit the number of tourists visiting the scenic park or develop a shuttle system that will reduce vehicle traffic in the park itself while allowing high-volume tourist visits.
Zion attracted 2.17 million visitors in 1988, a 10 percent increase over 1987 and the fifth consecutive year the park has set a new attendance record.
Roy Given, the park's acting chief naturalist, said Zion's close proximity to I-15 is one reason for its popularity. It also has been promoted heavily by European tour companies. Last year, tourists from France, Germany and Israel accounted for about 20 percent of the visitor traffic.
Also, the park's weather tends to be mild, allowing year-round access. Many tour companies offer packages that include visits to Zion, the Grand Canyon and Glen Canyon national parks, Given said.
Given said the park tested a shuttle service for five days in August and found response positive among the volunteer participants. He said this appears the best option for meeting growing tourism demands.The steep cliffs, a river and a narrow flood plain that is subject to flash flooding make expansion of roadways unlikely. He said there is also concern that such expansion would create geological problems.
Yellowstone officials are pleased with their tourist traffic, saying anytime the park exceeds the 2 million mark, it is considered a good year. Officials believe tourism will rebound in 1989 and have received word that travel organizations are working hard to assure the public that Yellowstone is still there and worth a visit.
Other Utah national parks and monuments reported similar tourist growth. Arches National Park experienced an 11 percent increase in visits and exceeded the half-million mark for the first time. Canyonlands National Park, which will be 25 years old in 1989, topped the 200,000 mark for the first time. Natural Bridges National Monument experienced a 12 percent increase. The parks are expecting continued visitor increase in the 5 percent to 10 percent range for 1989.
Unfortunately, state parks did not do so well and were down about 9 percent in visits. Much of the decline was directly attributable to the drought, however; many of the parks experiencing lower usage were those bordering lakes and reservoirs.
State parks (through November):
Parks where visits decreased:
East Canyon 115,730
Deer Creek 314,532
Hyrum Lake 155,710
Lost Creek 36,091
Otter Creek 49,395
Willard Bay 234,882
Pioneer Trail Park 404,821
Newspaper Rock 78,202
Most-visited state parks:
Wasatch State Park 772,400
Pioneer Trail 404,821
Great Salt Lake Saltair 344,797
Territorial State House 14,732
Minersville State Park 16,796
Edge of Cedars 20,884
1988 visitors to national parks:
Yellowstone 2.2 million
Zion 2.17 million
Natural Bridges 99,359