Wildfire Concepts Wildfire









Effects of Fire on Recreation in Yellowstone

Fires burn indiscriminately; they will burn tourist sightseeing areas and buildings as well as trees and grasslands.  While some tourists may choose to avoid a park altogether during a fire, other tourists may be drawn to the area just to see what is happening.  In the case of the 1988 fires in Yellowstone National Park, many tourists came to witness the fires and the ensuing damage.

Most of the damage to park facilities occurred in the Old Faithful area.  19 buildings (out of 400) were destroyed.  Other buildings suffered damage but were protected by sprinklers and foam spray which was applied to the outside  of the buildings as the fire approached.  A number of signs, posts, and guardrails had to be replaced due to damage, and several trails and camping areas needed repairs following the fires.  Most of the repairs were completed by the end of 1989 (Franke 2000). 

Due to closures throughout the park, the number of visitors dropped in 1988 as expected.  However, those that did come to the park stayed about 3.5 days, which was the average visitation period.  Some people were curious about the fires, and came specifically to see what was happening (Franke 2000).  Visitation in 1987 was approximately 2.5 million; in 1988 visitation dropped to about 2.3 million.

One year following the fires, a record 2.7 million visitors came to Yellowstone.  Visitation increased each year until 1992; since then, visitation per year hovers around 3 million (Franke 2000).

Most of the popular tourist attractions were not altered by the fires.  These big attractions, such as Old Faithful, no longer reveal much evidence of the initial damage.  Visitors who travel the backcountry trails and stay at the campgrounds can witness the rebirth of the forests, still charred from the fires (Franke 2000).