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Environment & Science

2020 Visitation Up For State Parks, Down For Yellowstone, Glacier

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Brett Whaley (CC-By-NC-2.0)
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Mikoshika State Park, June 23, 2013.

Final numbers show 2020 was the busiest year at Montana state parks with more than 3.4 million visitors. That’s a 30 percent increase over the previous year. National parks saw fewer visitors overall but upticks at the end of the year.

Visitation at state parks increased every month in 2020 over 2019, despite temporary closures at a small handful of parks and a reduction in school field trips and events.

Cooney Reservoir State Park north of Roberts saw the biggest jump in visits, roughly doubling its 2019 numbers. Makoshika State Park had the highest visitation in eastern Montana and a 50 percent increase in visitors over the previous year.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks says the 2020 stats were remarkable but part of a trend. State park visitation has increased 83 percent over the last decade.

Yellowstone National Park also released visitation stats Thursday. More than 3.8 million people visited in 2020, a five percent drop from the year before.

The park closed for seven weeks last spring in response to COVID-19 health and safety concerns and did not open all five of its entrances until June first. Visitation for the months of September and October were the busiest on record.

Glacier National Park had 1.7 million visitors in 2020, a roughly 40 percent drop compared to the year prior. While visitation was lower in June through September, October saw a 60 percent increase over the same month in 2019. It was the busiest October on record with more than 125,000 visits. November and December also brought in more visitors than normal in recent years.

Like Yellowstone, Glacier National Park closed to visitors from late March to early June due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The east entrances to the park and Going-to-the-Sun Road were closed throughout the season due to the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council’s resolution restricting non essential travel on the reservation.