Yellowstone's beauty attracts millions of visitors every year, which is why we all should take the Yellowstone Pledge to protect the park and each other.
Despite the pandemic, 3.8 million people visited Yellowstone in 2020.
Then, in July 2021, Yellowstone experienced a record-breaking month: over one million visitors! In fact, it hosted exactly 1,080,767 visits in just that single month.
Every year, the numbers continue to rise…
But are all of these visitors exploring and crowding the park endangering the park and other visitors? Does the most popular national park need more protection?
The Yellowstone Pledge
For the answer to those questions and more, I talked to Morgan Warthin, a Public Affairs Specialist with Yellowstone National Park.
She said a huge amount of effort is going into promoting the so-called “Yellowstone Pledge,” a series of behavioral promises that will help them be a steward of the park and protect themselves and others.
Warthin said it originates with a need to have those increasing numbers of visitors ensure they leave the park with zero emergencies during their respective visits.
“The pledge has stemmed from the significant increase in visitation that we’ve seen in the park in the last couple of years,” Warthin told me.
But with that increase in visitation, have come increased incidences of emergency.
“For instance, people are just getting too close to elk,” Warthin said. “Or way too close to bison.”
Another big problem, she said, is that people are not staying on the park’s boardwalks (where applicable in thermal areas).
“We really want to reach out to all of our visitors and to have them understand that their positive behaviors, positive actions in the park contribute to preserving this exceptional place that they’re coming to see.”
Additional Ways to Stay Safe in Yellowstone
Taking the Yellowstone Pledge a step further, Warthin told me about some additional ways people can stay safe in Yellowstone.
One way, she said, is to practice what she calls “safe selfies,” or not getting too close to animals or other potential dangers.
“We know that people are so excited to be in the park, and perhaps see the first bison that they’ve seen in their life, but what we’ve learned is that people want to get closer and closer to get a photo with that animal.”
Through the Yellowstone Pledge, park officials ask that people stay a distance of at least 25 yards from bison or elk.
Stay on Boardwalks
Animals aren’t the only issues to be aware of, she said. In fact, the Yellowstone Pledge also addresses the thermal areas of Yellowstone – the areas that include several geyser basins as well as other hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles.
“What we ask is that visitors stay on the boardwalks,” Warthin said. “It’s for their own safety and for the preservation of the park.”
Warthin noted how some of the most dangerous elements of the thermal areas can also be the most unassuming.
“They’re beautiful,” she said. “They’re deceiving though because oftentimes the waters are at boiling point or even hotter. So if someone was to point their finger in that water, they would immediately burn their finger and or worse.”
Pledge Points for RVers
There are other aspects of the Yellowstone Pledge to consider, too, particularly parts that apply to RVers.
For example, always follow the speed limits and allow other vehicles to pass when appropriate.
“The roads are not as wide and speed limits are slow,” she said. “We ask people to be very aware of their actions and drive as they would in their own hometown.”
Here are some other resources that will help RVers plan their visit:
Mike and Jennifer Wendland's Yellowstone Travel Guide
At the top of every RVers bucket list, it is a place so majestic, so wild, and so big that it calls us to return, to explore, to get to know the diversity of its land and animals over and over again.
Everywhere you look are waterfalls, fast-moving rivers, geysers, sheer rock faces, towering lodgepole pines, all framed by mountains under the bright blue cloudless sky.
It’s spectacular for those who love the wilderness and getting up close and personal with it. Enjoy Yellowstone for RV travel.