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Crowd control at national parks and campsites

January 17, 2012 | Categories: Crowd Control, Signage & Wayfinding

The national park system in the United States contains some of the most visited sites in America every year. Whether international tourists or a local family on vacation, people flock to these natural wonders to experience the sounds and sights of North American wildlife. As the spring tourism season approaches, park officials would do well to prepare effective crowd management procedures, as record attendance in 2011 promises even larger numbers in 2012.

Yosemite National Park in California is one such park to enjoy these record numbers. Last year, the park received a total of well over four million visitors, the most in a single year since 1996. In addition, July and August broke monthly records and topped out at 720,000 people combined.

According to, park ranger Kari Cobb said "Who knows, we may break our record in 2012. The weather continues to be good, and we're entering the year with very good visitation stats."

Increasing attendance is also being seen at parks that are located in more out-of-the-way locations. Yellowstone National Park is located across the wilderness of three states (Wyoming, Montana and Idaho), and the nearest airport is tiny Jackson Hole. For the fifth year in a row, the park received over 3 million visitors. Almost a million of these patrons came during the month of July - by comparison, the permanent population of Jackson, Wyoming, is less than 9,000 people.

This influx of tourists over a short period of time is what creates crowd management challenges for park officials. Many national parks are quite large (Yosemite, for example, is almost 1,200 square miles), so one would think that crowd control would not be an issue. However, most visitors congregate around the entrance area and seek critical information on trails, infrastructure and wayfinding. Emergency information should be clearly posted through the use of sign stands, especially for people returning from inside the park. The last thing a hiker would want is to be coming off a trail seeking treatment for an injury, only to be forced to wait in queue at the guest information booth.

Especially during the summer months from June to August, national park rangers and officials need to have effective public guidance policies in place to ensure the safety of their visitors, and the slower winter months are the perfect time to improve existing methods.

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