The number of people who came inside the visitor center at the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park in 2019 represented an increase of 56 percent compared to the year before, the park manager said.
As Joni Hawley tallied numbers for the year, she learned 9,739 people came into the building last year, compared to 6,186 inside visitors in 2018.
Summer was the busiest time, Hawley said, which is usually the case. July visitation last year soared to 2,062, up from 1,272 in July 2018.
The jump from September 2018, when 502 people came inside, to the 1,187 September 2019 visitors surprised even Hawley. She said the ATV and motorcycle event staged in Challis that month likely contributed to at least part of the increase.
Visitation in August 2019 nearly doubled from the prior year, she said. Last August a total of 2,029 people visited the center, up from 1,062 visitors in August 2018. The Ride the Bayhorse event in August always brings more people into the center, Hawley said.
June was also busy at the park, with 1,353 visitors last year, a slight bump from the 1,310 people who stopped by in June 2018.
Winter months are always slower at the site, Hawley said. The tally showed 129 visitors in January 2019, up from 111 that month in 2018. February is the slowest month of the year, with 88 visitors in 2019 and 86 the prior year. Some of the January visitors are local residents who come in to buy their ATV, boat and invasive species permits, Hawley said. Those permits must be renewed every calendar year in Idaho.
March was an exception in 2019 when fewer people came to Yankee Fork than the prior year — 141 to 194. As temperatures began to increase, April saw 388 people visit last year, up 130 people from the 258 visitors in April 2018.
The numbers took a big jump in May, with 678 visitors in 2019, just one more than visited in May the prior year.
The arrival of cold temperatures and snow earlier in 2019 than some years dropped visitation to 253 in October 2019, down from 297 in October 2018. November 2019 was also less busy than that month the prior year, Hawley’s numbers show. In 2019, just 89 people visited, compared to 225 in November 2018. December was a bit slower last year too, with 172 visitors, compared to 192 in December 2018.
Every year in late summer and early fall Hawley and her staff see an influx of Europeans touring the site as they visit mining areas in the western United States. That’s the time of year for increased visitation by retirees, too, she said, with fewer families traveling because children are back in school.
Visitation at other sites associated with the state park was solid in 2019, too, Hawley said. The Yankee Fork Dredge drew 9,920 people in 2019, up 15 percent from the 8,578 visitors in 2018. The dredge is open from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend.
The ghost town of Custer hosted 12,940 visitors in the summer of 2019. Hawley said that was an increase in the total number of visitors in 2018, but records from 2018 aren’t complete, so she didn’t have an accurate count to release. Custer is also open only from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend.
Custer usually draws more visitors than the dredge, she said, because there’s a fee to visit the dredge and Custer is free to visit. The annual Custer Day celebration in July last year pulled an estimated 575 visitors in, she said. Overall July was a “really good” month at the two spots, she said with 5,061 people visiting Custer in July and 3,938 stopping at the dredge.
The other nearby ghost town — Bayhorse — is open from late May through the first week of October. An automatic counter tallied 8,005 vehicles across it in 2019. No count of people is kept at Bayhorse, Hawley said.