At Wind Cave in South Dakota, even though the weather was cool and blustery the park recorded the highest Memorial Day Weekend visitation ever, according to park officials. The parking lot was overflowing as rangers lead 62 tours through the cave to 2,260 visitors.
“When we have bad weather, our visitation goes up,” said park Superintendent Vidal Davila. “Whatever the weather, rain or shine, we have something to offer. On the surface, we have over 28,000 acres to explore, and with all this rain the park looks great. Below the surface, you can tour the sixth-longest cave in the world regardless of the weather.”
At Bryce Canyon in Utah, though the park has the smallest land area of the state’s five national parks, it consistently ranks second among these parks in annual visitation (Zion National Park leads the way).
During the long Memorial Day Weekend, the park counted more than 4,000 visitors per day. That level of visitation has been achieved previously only on the day before and day of the annual solar eclipse last May. This influx of visitors forced Bryce Canyon staff to periodically close viewpoint parking areas to all but shuttle buses for extended periods of time, as space to park private vehicles became unavailable.
On Sunday afternoon, the congestion became so heavy that the decision was made to close the park entrance to private cars for approximately one hour. Visitors were still able to enter the park using the shuttle transportation system, which recorded 6,500 boardings compared to an average summer day of 4,000 boardings.
The staff of Bryce Canyon National Park, in conjunction with area partners and communities, is working on a transportation plan to address future traffic and parking concerns as the park’s popularity continues to grow. Since 2008, the park has seen an increase in recreational visits of more than 32 percent.
Back at Wind Cave, officials suggest that you should arrive early in the day to ensure getting a chance to view the cave system. Beginning June 9 through August 10, rangers will be offering 28 tours a day, with the first tour entering at 9:20 a.m. and the last one at 5:30 p.m. Tours leave the visitor center approximately every 20 minutes.
The busiest days of the week are Tuesday and Wednesday and any day it rains. The visitor center will be open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. throughout the summer.