3.3 million Glacier visitors sets a new record

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A hiker looks down at Isabel Lake from Two Medicine Passin this file photo from summer 2017.

Glacier National Park welcomed a record 3.3 million visitors in 2017, according to new data.

The numbers mark a 10 percent increase over the approximately 3 million visitors who came to the park in 2016 — and an 825 percent rise over the 4,000 intrepid recreational visitors who came in 1911, Glacier’s first year of operation. 2017 marked the sixth consecutive year visitation has increased at the park.

Glacier’s latest record year came despite wildfires closing portions of Going-to-the-Sun Road in August and September.

One explanation for the rise holds that, with all of Canada’s national parks free for the Dominion’s 150th anniversary last year, Waterton Lakes National Park saw a surge in visitors, and many of those tourists came south to visit Glacier as well.

July was the busiest month at Glacier with 1,009,665 visitors, while August saw 908,479 people enter the park.

December was the slowest month with 13,268 visitors.

The annual increase comes at a time when the National Park Service faces a $12 billion maintenance backlog, and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has proposed increasing the cost of a week-long vehicle pass from $50 to $70. The proposal was blasted by members of Montana’s congressional delegation as harmful to local businesses and residents.

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