August Visitation in Glacier Park Dipped As Wildfires Forced Closures

The year-to-date visitation remains slightly ahead of last year's record-breaking pace

By Beacon Staff
The Sheep Fire burns near Essex on Aug. 21, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Wildfires burning in and around Glacier National Park likely played a part in a decline in visitation last month.

An estimated 579,000 people visited Glacier in August, a 14 percent decline over last year, according to National Park Service statistics. It was the second lowest total for August in six years. Last year saw 675,119 people in August, the most on record for the month. August is typically the second busiest month in the year behind July.

The year-to-date visitation remains slightly ahead of last year’s record-breaking pace. A total of 1.91 million people have visited the national park so far, 2 percent more than a year ago.

The dip in visitation came as wildfires burned across the region, including in the park. The Sheep Fire near Essex led to the temporary shut down of U.S. Highway 2 and the evacuation of residents in the area. Fires burning in the Thompson-Divide Complex have charred nearly 19,000 acres in the park, mostly in remote backcountry sections.

There were roughly 20,000 fewer visitors at Walton/Goat Lick, a 52 percent decline for the month. Visitation at Two Medicine was down nearly 16 percent, or 6,000 people. The West Entrance saw an estimated 33,000 fewer people than last year. Saint Mary’s visitation dipped 20 percent, or 30,000 people.

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