CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Monday’s total solar eclipse turned out to be a record-breaking event for Grand Teton National Park as people from around the world jammed into the northwest Wyoming park to get a glimpse of the eclipse against a backdrop of scenic mountain peaks.
The weekend before the eclipse and the day of the eclipse resulted in the “busiest weekend in the history of the park,” park spokeswoman Denise Germann said Friday.
Park traffic data indicates that there was about a 40 percent increase in park visits, or about 10,000 extra people, in the park on Monday.
For the first time in park history, all backcountry permits were issued for three days straight. Neighboring Bridger-Teton National Forest accommodated campers who couldn’t stay in Grand Teton.
“People came in over a couple of days and stayed those couple of days and then stayed through the eclipse,” Germann said. “It definitely was a record event for visitation.”
Despite the crowd, Germann said there were no major incidents reported and the park was able to handle the influx, although traffic was slow getting out of the park, which sits just south of the more popular and better known Yellowstone National Park.
Wyoming was one of the states in the path of the total eclipse. Thousands of astronomers and people from around the world poured into the state for the view, causing massive traffic jams that are normally seen in major metropolitan areas.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation reported imprecise traffic counts that showed an increase of more than 550,000 vehicles compared to a five-year average for Aug. 21.
“It impacted the entire state of Wyoming,” state tourism director Diane Shober said. “It wasn’t just one location. We rely heavily on our national parks as our destination drivers, and people as a rule travel by automobile in and out of the state of Wyoming. But this was something where people came and stayed in local communities — Lusk, Torrington, Douglas, Glenrock, Casper, all throughout Wind River country and then in places outside the path of totality.”
However, the number of people who traveled to Wyoming to view the eclipse isn’t known right now, Shober said.
The Wyoming Office of Tourism is conducting an economic impact study that will come up with estimates on the number of visitors and how much they spent.
Still, Shober said the event was highly successful and benefited Wyoming in many ways, such as the international media exposure.
“I believe that what’s really powerful is that we had a way to introduce Wyoming to the world, to the rest of the United States in a way that we’ve never been able to do before,” she said.
Shober said the hope is that people who spent a little time in Wyoming might make the state a future vacation destination.
“And so our office will continue to leverage this event while we’re on the crest of this wave and continue to utilize it and leverage it as an economic impact opportunity, not only for the summer of 2017 but going forward as well,” she said.