YELLOWSTONE- With international travel mostly out of the question and summer vacation upon us… Americans are heading on road trips.
Right now, one place Americans are heading is their national parks.
Normally, Yellowstone National Park would see around 48,000 visitors a week but that number is down by 10,000 people.
The park has started its phased reopening. They say if you want to come, there are still ways to get your vacation in and see the wildlife, the geysers, and take a hike.
“So, actually we had to delay it a month. We would’ve come but we couldn’t. It wasn’t open,” Laura Ross, a Yellowstone National Park visitor said.
Ross is from New Jersey. She and her family made the trip to the park even though things are not all the way open, but this is a dream vacation of hers.
“Of course, there’s some disappointment, but I’m not disappointed that we came,” Ross said.
With people not being able to travel abroad, the park expected travelers would continue to come to Yellowstone.
“This year there’s more demand than availability,” Mike Keller the General Manager of the Xanterra Travel Collection said.
Xanterra is a contractor that operates campsites and lodging inside the park.
Keller says Xanterra has 1,300 campsites that are open, and the National Park Service is preparing to open another 800.
“But in years in the past when we’ve had recessions like 2007, 8, and 9 when Americans were going abroad, they were coming back to their national parks,” Keller said, “so we see travel even though the world may be ebbing and flowing economically or socially. Traveling still seems to be in high demand for areas like national parks.”
The park is undergoing a three-phase reopening process: in May, public restrooms and boardwalks reopened, and in June, some takeout restaurants, gift shops and even fishing will be allowed and open again.
But just because the park is a wide-open space doesn't mean safety isn't highly encouraged.
“Masks, they are highly recommended and then secondly, social distancing, please do social distancing, especially where it's crowded,” Morgan Warthin, the park’s Public Affairs Specialist, said.
The park says right now they are seeing an uptick in RV guests with backcountry overnighting being allowed in the park again.
Come July and August, lodges could reopen, but for Ross from New Jersey, nothing was stopping her from coming to the nation’s first national park.
“It has been an awesome, tranquil, peaceful week,” Ross said, “if everything was closed and I could do nothing but drive around, I still would’ve come. I still would’ve been here.”
The situation at the park continues to evolve into different phases of reopening. You can track what’s open and what's closed by downloading the park’s app.
To learn more about the phased reopening, you can follow this link.