Glacier visitation won’t break a record, but still near 3 million, despite fires

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Visitation to Glacier National Park in September was up over the previous year, with 434,600 people coming to Glacier, an increase of 11.7 percent.

Park visitation for the year is 2.833 million, which is 11.2 percent lower than 2017’s record visitation.

August visitation saw a big drop as the Howe Ridge Fire closed the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road for most of the month.

August saw 667,688 visitors, which was 26.5 percent less than the previous year.

The road, however, reopened in its entirety in September. The east side to Logan Pass never closed due to the fire. Even so, visitation to St. Mary was down in August by 40 percent over last year. That’s likely due to fewer Canadian visitors. Last year, Canada had offered free admission to all its parks and they also dropped down into the states to visit Glacier.

With nice weather in September, backcountry stays were up over the previous year. About 5,165 people camped in the backcountry in September, up from 3,405 of the year before.

Overall, however, backcountry use has been down for the year about 5 percent over the previous year, with 32,056 camping in Glacier’s woods. Several campgrounds were closed due to the Howe Ridge Fire. In addition, Glacier closed backcountry campgrounds at Snyder and Lincoln Lakes to mitigate grizzly displacement due to the Sperry Chalet construction.

Even with the fire, Glacier is still on pace to have its second or third busiest year ever. Last year the park saw 3.305 million visitors and in 2016 it saw 2.946 million visitors.

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