Regardless of the price of gas, visitation at the two biggest NPS units on Highway 89 was at record levels in June.
The USA Today reported that Yellowstone had 612,000 tourist visits in June, while the Arizona Sun Daily said that at the Grand Canyon, “early-summer visitation is up a whopping 15 percent over the same period during each of the previous two years.”
It’s not clear whether the numbers are due to the low value of the dollar, which is putting many Europeans’ dream vacation within their reach. Another factor could be that Americans are choosing the parks instead of more expensive vacations. Either scenario is welcome news for me, since the seven national parks on US 89 are key themes of my book. (The other national parks on Highway 89 are, from south to north: Saguaro, Zion, Bryce, Grand Teton and Glacier.) More visitors means more potential buyers, and that is happy news to report to potential publishers.
Here’s a useful tidbit if you are planning a park visit. The National Park Service websites are chock full of information, and you can go directly to a park-specific website by typing www.nps.gov/[park code]. The trick is the code, which follows a popular birders’ scheme, and the NPS usage is pretty consistent. If the unit name is one word (Glacier) the code is the first four letters (glac). If two words (Bryce Canyon), it’s the first two letters of each word (brca). After two words, it gets a bit dodgy: Sunset Crater Volcanic is “sucr” rather than “sucv,” but there aren’t so many of those parks and monument. Why not use Google or another search engine? Because so much junk on the internet has been posted about the parks to game the search engines. These commercial webpages outscore the official sites, and I get tired of wading through hotel adverts to find the information I need.
I’m heading to Glacier next week. Even though I spent a month in Montana last summer, almost all of it was under smoky, non-photographable conditions. Daily, I’m checking another great government website, the Inciweb coordinated agency fire report, and so far so good. Going-to-the-Sun Road wasn’t completely plowed until July 2, an extraordinarily late opening, because of the snow pack, so hopefully the fires will be few and far away from Glacier this season. The vagaries of nature out of my control. All I can do is get out there, look for the light, and see what I can do with it. So far as I know, there isn’t a website updating on light conditions, but I wouldn’t put it past the social media start-ups to try. What fun would that be?