glacier visits up 22 percent

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The Daily Inter Lake

Glacier National Park's visitation for 2004 increased by 22 percent over the previous year, according to year-end statistics recently released by the National Park Service.

While 22 percent may seem substantial, it comes with an important footnote: the 2003 visitor season saw drastic declines in visitation due to wildfires that closed most of Glacier's west side for several weeks during peak summer months.

The fires, which burned more than 145,000 acres inside the park and forced two separate evacuations at Apgar Village, played an obvious part in a 13 percent visitor decline compared to 2002 numbers.

The National Park Service estimates that just over 2 million people visited Glacier in 2004, compared to 1.67 million in 2003.

Roughly 1 million of last year's visitors were counted at the park's entrance at West Glacier. Entrances at St. Mary, Many Glacier and Two Medicine accounted for 703,000 visitors.

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