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Death Valley visitation fell to 820,000 in 2020

Updated March 3, 2021 - 2:07 am

Death Valley National Park announced visitation fell to 820,000 people 2020, about half the number of people that visited the park the previous year. Pahrump was also impacted by the drop in visitors to the area.

The year (2020) started out strong, as the park had its third-busiest January with 99,000 visits. The park nearly tied its busiest February, with 128,000 visits.

The pandemic’s impact on travel started midway through March, which is usually the park’s busiest month. But in 2020, 112,000 people visited during the month, down 37% from March 2019.

Most of the park closed April 4, limiting visitation to through traffic on two major roads. Visitation dropped by 90%, with 18,000 visitors in April and 20,000 in May.

Arlette Ledbetter, tourism director for the town of Pahrump, said “room tax revenue was significantly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Death Valley visitor contributes to the overall economy by purchasing groceries, fuel and more during their day trips and overnight stays,” Ledbetter said.

The town of Pahrump started out strong in early 2020 with a 12% increase in room tax revenue over 2019 by February 2020, but that changed in mid-March with COVID-19.

Park reopens

Most of the park reopened June 26. In a normal year, the majority of the park’s summer visitors are international travelers.

With international travel greatly reduced, the park’s summer visitation was very low, about 30,000 to 40,000 people per month in June, July, August and September. These figures were about 75% lower than the same months in 2019.

As the weather started to cool down, Americans resumed traveling to Death Valley, and 67,000 people visited in October. That was down 52% from the previous year. As temperatures cooled even more, November 2020 was a tie for the park’s busiest November with 132,000 visits.

Campgrounds and lodging in the park closed Dec. 7 in response to California’s regional stay-at-home orders. Despite the lack of overnight accommodations, 94,000 people visited in December, which was the park’s third-busiest December.

The regional stay-at-home orders were in effect until late January, yet visitation remained high, with 80,000 visits.

Campgrounds and lodging in the park are now back open, and interest is high. Reservations are fully booked for the remainder of the season at Furnace Creek, the park’s only campground with a reservation system. Other campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

To protect the health of those who work in or visit America’s national parks, face masks are required in all National Park Service buildings and facilities. Masks are also required on federally managed lands when physical distancing cannot be maintained, including narrow or busy trails, overlooks and parking lots.

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