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Wednesday, 14 September 2011 17:09

Waterton tourism heated up as summer progressed

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By Jamie Woodford
A yucky, wet spring resulted in a lower than normal amount of visitors to Waterton Lakes National Park, but Mother Nature’s rain reprieve and subsequent sun resurgence made up for it.

The month of May saw a 12 per cent decrease in visitors, while June dipped by five per cent compared the combined average of 2010 and 2009.

“But we’re up by about eight per cent for July,” beamed Smith, Waterton communications officer.

“August was also quite a nice month.We don’t have those stats yet, but we’d be anticipating that we’re probably doing well.”

Based on the 54,531 vehicles that came through

the park gates, park officials estimate there were nearly106,000 visitors in July. Comparably, more than 104,000 people who visited the park in July 2010.

This year, there were just over 51,000 visitors in June, whereas last year saw close to 55,000 in the same month.

About 25,500 people visited the park in May, a decrease from last year’s 27,000 visitors.

Most visitors came from southwest Alberta and

B.C., and a “good chunk” from the U.S., with a few Europeans thrown in the mix.

“That segment (European) is growing, but it’s not anywhere near, for example, like you’d have with  Banff,” she said

Overall, it’s been a good summer for Waterton.

“Our campgrounds are always full. The townsite campgrounds are on reservation, and it’s booked up pretty solid,” she said, noting the non-reservation site, Crandall campground is also quite full.

With autumn just around the corner, Smith said she expects the park to continue to buzz with activity.

“A lot of people come, especially this time of year, to see wildlife. That’s a really big draw,” she said, noting Waterton’s Wildlife Weekend is coming up on Sept. 24 and 25.

“Coming into the fall is really the best time because that’s when all the elk and the deer are getting their big antlers and looking really good, and the sheep are looking really good,” she said, adding many visitors have already heard elk bugling in the evening and early morning.

The park has seen an unusual high number of bears this year, likely due to the late-lying snow in the mountains, said Smith.

“It really delayed any berries up high, so the bears are quite concentrated low.”

She added visitors behaved well when it came to spotting bears on the roadside by staying in or near their vehicles to watch.

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