WEST GLACIER — Although Glacier National Park is continuing to stay busy as summer draws to a close, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down earlier in the season continues to blow a big hole in the park's annual visitor numbers.
In fact, unless the weather cooperates, this could out to be one of the least-visited years in the park in over a decade -- and the wet start to the season didn't help either, even after the park had reopened.
While the park has seemed packed at times, the latest report from the National Park Service shows that even July was off, with 453,000 visitors for the month, compared to 879,000 last July, marking a 48% drop.
Overall Glacier traffic, year-to-date, had barely passed 700,000 at the end of July, a 57% drop from the 1.6 million at the same point last summer.
The continued precautionary closure by the Blackfeet Tribe that's closed the east side of the park is huge factor too. Overnight stays -- without the lodges and campgrounds east of the Divide -- are down 83%.
August and September numbers always help the total. But unless there's a very long fall season with steady traffic, there's a good chance Glacier's visitor total will be the lowest since the early 2000s. Some 1.6 visited the park in 2003 as compared to last year when more than 3 million people came to the park for the first time.
The last time the park was under 2 million people was in 2011.