GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Books accompanying travelers to the Park since 2002

All posts tagged fees

Does Yellowstone Need to Raise Entrance Fees?

Categories: News
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Since 2006 a family’s private passenger car has been able to enter Yellowstone and the Tetons combined for a $25.00 entrance fee. If you return several times in a year, you are better off to buy the $50.00 annual pass for both parks. Seniors (62 and older) are able to purchase a $10.00 pass good for their lifetimes, a bargain for sure, what with the increasing lifespans of today’s seniors.

Now the National Park Service is proposing the following fee schedule:
1- to 3-day pass to Yellowstone only for $30.00
1- to 7-day pass to both Yellowstone and the Tetons for $50.00
Separate annual passes for each park for $60.00.

Eighty percent of the money derived from entrance fees goes to the park where it is collected, while twenty percent goes to the general NPS fund, mostly used for parks where fees are not collected. There is also an annual national park appropriation from Congress, which for many years has been inadequate to cover even routine expenses, such as park personnel salaries, utility bills, and the like.

Looking at what the “extra” money from entrance fees goes for in Yellowstone, most of it is desperately needed for maintenance of buildings and roads, now used by over three million visitors each year. More money for Yellowstone can also mean that the park can continue and expand the fight against the lake trout, those huge fish that have been decimating the native cutthroat population so many park animals depend upon.

NPS is accepting comments on their website (not by e-mail or fax). You can read the entire fee change document there. Use this link to comment on it. You have through Saturday, December 20th, to comment. Click on Entrance Fee Proposal and then in the Comment Now box.

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Free days for Yellowstone and all national parks

Categories: Geysers, Trip planning
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The National Park Service tells us there are five more days in 2013 when entrance into all 59 of the national parks will be free “as a way to encourage people to get outdoors and enjoy the remarkable landscapes and historical and cultural sites national parks have to offer.”

If you live close enough to take advantage of this or can schedule a trip to Yellowstone for one of these days, you can save the $25 per carload fee on the following weekend dates:

  • August 25 for the National Park Service birthday
  • September 28 for National Public Lands Day
  • November 9 to 11 for Veterans Day holiday weekend.

If only I could join you on the benches at Great Fountain Geyser or get to see one of this summer’s amazing dual eruptions of Fountain and Morning Geysers!

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Free entrance to national parks

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Here is an early heads-up for the days in 2012 when entrance to Yellowstone and all other National Parks will be free. The usual $25.00 fee per carload good for one week will be waived on these dates:

  • January 14 to 16 (Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend). A great time for seeing wildlife and the beautiful ice-crusted trees around the geyser basins.
  • April 21-29 (National Park Week). Not everything is open yet, but bison are giving birth to their little orange calves and crowds are nonexistent.
  • June 9 (Get Outdoors Day). The full Yellowstone season is gradually getting underway.
  • September 29 (National Public Lands Day). A good time for avoiding crowds and hearing the bugling of elk.
  • November 10 to 12 (Veterans Day Weekend). Most facilities are closed by now, but you can still travel the Gardiner to Cooke City northern road to visit Mammoth Hot Springs and the wildlife-rich Lamar Valley.
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My ideas for a Yellowstone shuttle system

Categories: Transportation
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Yellowstone Park needs a shuttle system!

Although I know that the National Park Service has in the past considered inaugurating shuttle service in Yellowstone to alleviate road congestion and cut down on carbon emissions, perhaps the following plan has not yet been broached. I suggest that only the west side of this vast park could be well served by such a system. Here is my plan for a way we could accomplish this.

I believe that providing a convenient shuttle service would greatly relieve summer congestion and would be used willingly by many visitors. Shuttle usage would be voluntary, and private vehicles and tour buses would continue to be allowed on the roads along with the shuttles. If the shuttle service were to be modeled after those at Yosemite, Bryce, and particularly Zion National Parks, it would be free. Having recently visited Zion and Bryce, I enquired how the system is paid for and was told that the equipment is owned by the National Park Service but operated by a concessionaire (at Bryce it is McDonald Transit Associates). Park entrance fees cover the expenses of running the shuttles.

Shuttle particulars proposed for Yellowstone

Shuttles could serve visitors along the roads between Mammoth in the north of the park and Old Faithful in the south central part. On this route are the majority of interesting hydrothermal features, as well as many other features of interest and hiking trailheads. All visitors who come in private cars, if they stay more than a day or two, usually want to visit much if not all of this region.

My plan would serve visitors who leave their vehicles overnight or for several nights at Mammoth, West Yellowstone, or Old Faithful, or in the campgrounds at Norris or Madison. New parking areas might be required in some of these areas and could charge a reasonable fee for their use, something on the order of five to ten dollars per day. This parking fee could help to cover the cost of the shuttle system. The shuttle itself would be free and useable by any visitors or staff. Thus, people could go into and out of the park on the same day or, if staying in the park, could take belongings with them on the shuttle for several days’ use while staying in park facilities.

Since no travelers who come from far away would want to carry all their belongings around while touring by shuttle, shuttle travel would have to be coordinated with the concessionaires at Mammoth and Old Faithful and with the management of private lodgings in West Yellowstone. In other words, visitors would leave most of their belongings at one of the three locations, in hotel/motel rooms if staying in the same place for several nights. Or if, for example, they wanted to stay one night in Mammoth or West Yellowstone and then stay a night or more at Old Faithful and return for their cars, baggage storage rooms could be provided at the motels and some space on the shuttles could be used for smaller baggage.

Ideally, simple lunch rooms would be built by the NPS and run by the park concessionaire at Norris and Madison, utilizing part of the already-disturbed land in the present large parking lots.

To make this plan work, I would propose that shuttles run at least every twenty minutes and for twelve hours per day between the end points, maybe from 9 am to 9 pm seven days a week. They should operate from mid June through mid September. A fleet of at least thirty electric, hybrid, or propane shuttles would be needed. There should be two round-trip routes: Mammoth campground to and from Madison Junction and West Yellowstone to and from Old Faithful Village, with correspondence at Madison. This system would require several dozen drivers. The shuttles would be large vans holding twelve to fifteen passengers. They would stop at every point along the roads that has something of general interest. Granted, this would mean a lot of stops, but the stops would mostly be very brief. Lesser-known features along the roads, such as the panoramic view at Swan Lake above Mammoth or the Chocolate Pots south of Norris Junction, should be included in the stops made by the shuttles.

Most people would want to spend an hour or two at the major geyser basins but could easily time their visits to have a minimal wait for the next van, if they were spaced twenty minutes apart. Covered shelters with some seating would be needed at shuttle stops.
Here is an example of potential pick-up/drop-off points between Mammoth and Norris:
Mammoth Campground
Mammoth Hotel
Upper Terrace Drive
Bunsen Peak and other trailheads near Rustic Falls
Swan Lake Flat panorama
Sheepeater Cliffs side road
Indian Creek Campground
Apollinaris Spring and picnic area
Obsidian Cliff
Mount Holmes trailhead
Solfatara trailhead
Grizzly Lake trailhead
Clearwater Springs
Roaring Mountain
Norris Campground
Norris Geyser Basin

A similar list of stopping points would be set up between other major places of interest or village areas with campgrounds or accommodations, where cars would be left. A total of 30 to 35 stops might be made between Mammoth and Old Faithful. In addition to the regular shuttles that make many stops, express shuttles would ferry staff and visitors to and from their vehicles at the end points three or four times a day.

This system might eliminate more than half of the cars that use the roads between Old Faithful and West Yellowstone and Mammoth, saving fuel and cutting congestion on the roads, and improving the air quality and the overall Yellowstone experience.

2011

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For your Yellowstone planning this summer

Categories: Trip planning
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In case you haven’t heard yet, the entrance fee for Yellowstone and the Tetons and probably all of the national parks will be waived on three weekends this summer [2010]. The dates are June 5-6, August 14-15, and the one day, September 25, which is National Public Lands Day. The usual combined fee for Yellowstone and the Tetons is $25.00 per vehicle, good for seven days.

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A quick reminder

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Tomorrow, April 16 [2010], the park opens to wheeled vehicles now that the roads have been (at least mostly) plowed. Better yet, if you go this weekend the $25 entrance fee is waived. Wish I could be there!

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Time to get back to Yellowstone

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Just as the park is about to open for what is optimistically called the summer season, nature has dumped what looks like about a foot of snow on the Old Faithful area. Winter was relatively dry this year [2009-2010]. Snow plows have been busy for several weeks clearing the roads of what little snow they had. Nevertheless, I’m sure many of the roads and some facilities will open on April 16th as planned (after re-plowing).

For people lucky enough to be visiting a national park this month, note that all 392 national parks will waive their entrance fees from April 17 to 25, 2010. In Yellowstone, though, you’ll need to be aware that the Gibbon Canyon road (between Madison and Norris Junctions) will be under construction—all summer—and will cause 30-minute delays during the days and be closed totally from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m,, except during the Memorial Day and 4th of July weekends. See further details about the roads on the
National Park Service road closures page, or call 307-344-2117.

I’ve been unable to blog for a month due to the stresses of moving to a new address, but now that the park is about to open, I expect to have plenty to say about my favorite place.

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