Early tourist visitation in Yellowstone National Park is running well ahead of last year's pre-fire pace even though most sections of the park opened later this year, officials say.

"It's looking very good," said park spokeswoman Sandra Robinson. "All indications are that visitation is definitely up."Compared to the same period last year - when weather conditions were roughly the same - the number of visitors has increased 12 percent, she said.

During April, visitors through all gates totaled 26,515, up 2,769 visitors compared to 1988. This year's figures are still less than those of 1987, however, which had 33,344 visitors by this time.

This sping's figures are especially encouraging because most gates opened about a week later than last year, Robinson said.

"For us, this indicates a good trend," she said.

The total advanced reservations for groups and individuals with TW Services, the lodging concessionaire at Yellowstone, is slightly down compared to last year, Robinson said. However, reservations are even with those of 1987 and ahead of 1986, she added.