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A bighorn sheep watches the action on Going-to-the-Sun Road on Friday.

TOM BAUER/Missoulian

WEST GLACIER – Every person who enters Glacier National Park from now through New Year’s Eve will be setting a record.

The park has already broken its 31-year-old mark for most visitations in a single year.

Jeffrey Olson, acting chief spokesman for the National Park Service, said Friday that through Sept. 30, Glacier had welcomed 2,238,761 people in 2014.

That’s almost 35,000 more than visited in the record-setting year of 1983, when 2,203,847 visitors were counted.

And there’s still three months left.

Glacier is almost 100,000 visitors ahead of last year at this time, when the park appeared to be flirting with the record. The federal government shutdown, which closed national parks for just over two weeks in October, kept visitation for 2013 at just under 2.2 million.

Yellowstone National Park is also well ahead of its 2013 numbers through Sept. 30 – up 176,880 visitors, to 3,288,803 – but still is a ways from its record of more than 3.6 million, set in 2010.

In Glacier, however, the park record is now being broken daily – albeit in smaller chunks as the weather changes. Visitation could hit 2.3 million for the first time ever.

The previous record year, 1983, marked the first time Glacier broke the 2 million visitor barrier. Indeed, eight years passed before the park crossed 2 million people again, and it’s been below 2 million more often that not since.

But this is the third straight year Glacier has exceeded 2 million, and fifth in the last sixth.

Glacier was visited by 4,000 people during its first year, in 1911. It exceeded 1 million visitors for the first time in 1969.

During Glacier’s centennial year of 2010, the park missed breaking its 1983 record by just 3,799 visitors. It had 2,200,048 that year.

Reporter Vince Devlin can be reached at 1-800-366-7186 or by email at vdevlin@missoulian.com.

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