One of America’s most popular national parks had its busiest September on record

Posted at 3:55 PM, Oct 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-08 17:55:58-04

This article was originally published by Maddie Capron in the Idaho Statesman.

One of America’s most popular national parks had its busiest September on record during a pandemic.

Yellowstone National Park said Thursday that nearly 837,500 tourists visited the park during September.

“This is a 21% increase from September 2019, making it the busiest September on record,” the park said in an Oct. 8 news release.

Yellowstone was the sixth most visited national park in 2019, according to data from the National Park Service. Nearly 4 million people visited during the year.

In 2020, however, the park closed its gates to all visitors late in March to curb the spread of the coronavirus until Wyoming gates reopened May 18. All gates in Montana reopened June 1.

The overall visitation for 2020 was impacted by the park’s closure, and it is still down 11% from the same period last year, the National Park Service said.

Since the park’s reopening, however, thousands of visitors have traveled to Yellowstone. August 2020 was the second busiest August on record when 881,543 people visited the park, the National Park Service said.

The high visitation since the park’s reopening has brought unintended consequences. In July, the park said face masks were flying off tourists’ faces and landing in geysers.

“On a single visit last week we came across 8 masks, 5 hats, 3 water bottles, and a pair of sunglasses,” the park said in a July 20 post on Facebook.

At least 20 Yellowstone employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since the park’s reopening. In September , 16 of the park’s employees tested positive for the coronavirus. From May 18 to Aug. 30, the park had four employees test positive, according to the National Park Service.

“In partnership with the states of Montana and Wyoming, the park has substantially increased employee surveillance testing and has conducted more than 1,100 tests since the first week of September,” the park said. “More than 3,000 tests have been conducted since the park reopened in May.”