The fire season has affected visitor numbers for Glacier National Park in August.
With year-to-date totals running about 500,000 people behind, it looks like Glacier might not set any records this season.
While visitation to the park has been steady this summer, the pace has been off compared to the past few years when Glacier set new records every year.
The summer was off to a slow start with visits already running nearly 60,000 people behind 2017 due to a cold and wet June.
Weather improved in July, although park attendance was still $100,000 off last July’s record pace when more than one million people came through the gates.
The Howe Ridge Fire then broke out forcing the closure of the popular Going-to-the-Sun Road on the west side of the park, and filling the internet with images of flames. While the rest of the park is open and the Going-to-the-Sun Road now has shuttles, the closure has an impact.
Latest numbers from the park show visitation dropping to just over 667,000 people, which is 241,000 fewer than last August. Last August’s numbers were already down because of the Sprague Fire closures at the end of last summer.
Glacier’s total visits for this year are now at 2.3 million people, which is far behind last year’s record pace of 2.8 million by the end of August.
That’s a 30 percent drop in traffic through the West Gate, but just as telling is the 40-percent drop in August traffic at St. Mary’s, obviously because of the Going-to-the-Sun Road closure.
Even Polebridge, which hasn’t been impacted by the fire closures, was down more than 36 percent.
-Reporting by Dennis Bragg