Published September 15, 2010, 11:54 PM

Tourist season not over

Theodore Roosevelt National Park welcoming visitors
The streets of Medora generally clear out after Labor Day, but visitation numbers are still high at neighboring Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The streets of Medora generally clear out after Labor Day, but visitation numbers are still high at neighboring Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

“As Medora gets quieter, it does not in the park for quite some time,” said Valerie Naylor, Theodore Roosevelt National Park superintendent.

While the numbers decline somewhat after the holiday weekend, September visits are still on par with May’s numbers.

“It’s still quite busy visitor wise,” Naylor said.

Nearly 60,000 people visited the national park in May, with 61,000 coming through in September 2009.

As the crowds thin and some of the staff departs, the clock starts ticking on getting projects completed before winter arrives.

The South Unit Visitors Center is open year round, while the North Unit and the Painted Canyon visitors centers are open from April through Nov. 11.

With the end of summer, the number of attractions available at the park decreases. There are four daily tours of the Maltese Cross cabin, which last until Sept. 30. The Junior Ranger Program is only held during the summer.

Emergency construction is also taking place along the scenic drive in the park’s North Unit.

A slumping of the road led the National Park Service to close it for a few weeks at the Caprock Coulee parking area 7 miles west of the North Unit Visitors Center.

Two wildlife projects will keep staff hopping with a bison roundup planned for the end of October in North Unit.

Starting in November, 240 volunteers will scour the park to shoot elk as part of an elk-reduction program. The program will run for 12 weeks.

“It’s a major departure from our normal operations,” Naylor said.

Besides repairs and cleanup work, September is a mad rush to get paperwork done as the federal fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

“Reporting is due,” Naylor said. “We have to close out the fiscal year. That is always a busy time for all of our staff.”

During the peak season, construction on U.S. Highway 85 affected visits somewhat, especially on wet days when detour roads were too muddy.

“It certainly has affected it,” Naylor said. “But it’s pretty good in the North Unit despite it.”

The South Unit was full for about 40 nights this summer, she said.

She said the campgrounds in the North Unit stayed busy.

“It was close to full many nights, and that’s unusual,” Naylor said.

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