Yellowstone National Park is off to a strong start to the 2013 visitor year. Visitation to the world’s first national park begins to pick up in May as weather improves and interior roads and visitor facilities begin to open to the public. There were 293,250 recreational visitors to Yellowstone in May and a total of 392,222 for the first five months of 2013. A 5.99% increase over the same time period in 2012.

Spokesman Al Nash says however, comparing recreational visitor figures from 2013 with those from 2012 will not provide an accurate picture of year-to-year changes in park visitation. Visitation statistics are calculated by taking the actual number of wheeled vehicles entering the park gates, and using a person-per-vehicle multiplier to calculate the number of monthly recreational visitors.

Last summer, Yellowstone conducted surveys to gauge the accuracy of the multipliers which have been in use for nearly 20 years. Based on the survey results, Yellowstone began using new, monthly lower person-per-vehicle multipliers as of January 2013. For instance, during the summer months the park previously used a multiplier of 2.91 persons-per-vehicle. This year and into the future, we’ll use the lower multiplier of 2.58 persons-per-vehicle.

Nash says A better year-to-year comparison of park visitation may be to look at the number of autos and RVs entering the park for recreational purposes.  Nash says the total number of automobiles and RV’s entering Yellowstone for recreational purposes during the first five months of 2013 was up 8.36% compared to the same period in 2012.  He says all park entrances saw an increase in these vehicle numbers in May 2013 compared to the same month the previous year, with the park’s East and South entrances posting the largest gains.