Rainy June likely to blame for Glacier visitation dip

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A hiker crosses the Bowman Creek bridge at Bowman Lake Sunday.

Visitation to Glacier National Park in June was down considerably from the same month in 2017, even though Going-to-the-Sun Road opened five days earlier than it did a year ago.

Park statistics showed 558,870 visitors this June, down 10.41 percent from the 622,487 that visited in June 2017. For the year, there have been 828,718 visitors, about 58,000 fewer than a year ago.

Nevertheless, the park is still on track to see more than 3 milion visitors. Visitation in June 2018 is up over 2016 levels, and is the second highest June visitation the park has ever seen.

The vast majority of visitors — 224,096 in June — entered the park at the West Entrance. St. Mary on the park’s east side had the second most with 115,856 visitors and Many Glacier had 65,992 in June.

Despite widespread wild fires in 2017, Glacier set a park record last year with 3.3 million visitors, surpassing 2016’s 2.9 million. Park attendance has increased every year since 2012, when it jumped from 1.8 million in 2011 to 2.1 million. In 2017, between the beginning of June and the end of September, 2.9 million visitors entered the park. July 2017 saw more than 1 million people enter the park.

A wet and chilly month likely accounted for the drop in visitors last month, said Park Public Affairs Officer Lauren Alley. She listed many factors that influence visitation. “Weather can always be a factor in visitation, as can gas prices, fires, etc., particularly in the earlier season. We do know that visitation always has peaks and valleys, so some years and months will be up, and others down.

“It seems probable that the park could set another annual record, or at least approach it, with the tourist-heavy summer season on the horizon.”

Reporter Scott Shindledecker can be reached at (406) 758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com.

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