NEWS BRIEFS for Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020

Grand Teton sees near-record visitation

JACKSON (WNE) — Despite a lack of in-park lodging due to COVID-19, Grand Teton National Park reported the second highest number of recreational visits — an estimated 710,198 — on record for August.

Although recreational visits grew by just 1.2% compared to the previous August, that number still marks the second highest recreational visitation on record — eclipsed only by August 2017 when an actual solar eclipse drew lots of visitors.

Below are August trends for recreational visits over the last several years:

  • 2020: 710,198
  • 2019: 702,022
  • 2018: 692,074
  • 2017: 716,690 (Total Solar Eclipse)
  • 2016: 633,657 (Berry Fire)
  • 2015: 651,245

This summer, most hiking trails in the park had increased daily traffic and all campgrounds in the park were filling earlier each day when compared to previous summers, park officials said in a news release. In general, hiking use in the park has increased approximately 26% and camping in concession-operated campgrounds increased 13% with backcountry camping down 10% in August 2020 compared to August 2019.

The News&Guide has reported on how all the park visitation has spilled onto the nearby national forest. 

Describing the bustling scene in a once-quiet corner of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, the forest's Linda Merigliano, told the News&Guide: “It’s the eclipse every day."


Gas prices expected to drop

GILLETTE (WNE) — Gasoline prices in Wyoming have gone up almost 6 cents in a month, but they are expected to trend downward as winter approaches.

Prices in Wyoming average $2.20 a gallon —  0.5 cents a gallon higher than a week ago, according to GasBuddy's daily survey of 494 stations. It was $2.045 in Gillette, which was third lowest in the state behind Albany ($1.946) and Laramie and Natrona (both at $2.007)

The national average price of gasoline has fallen 3.2 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $2.17 a gallon today.

"Seasonal factors, as expected, are pushing gas prices down in most areas across the country," said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. "In addition, oil prices have hit a rough patch on renewed concerns about the economy and falling demand, leaving motorists the beneficiaries for the next few weeks.

"No one should be in a rush to fill up as prices will likely continue to trend lower," he said.

The summer gasoline requirement ends on Tuesday, ushering in cheaper-to-produce winter gasoline and a return to less fragmentation in supply since winter gasoline is common nearly coast-to-coast, he said.

In Wyoming, gas prices are 40.6 cents per gallon lower than a year ago.

The cheapest station in Wyoming is priced at $1.79 a gallon while the most expensive is $3.09.


Buffalo Bill Reservoir studied for contamination

CODY (WNE) — After at least one report of sickness and the death of a dog that was swimming in the area, Buffalo Bill Reservoir is under investigation for cyanobacterial contamination near the boat club off Bartlett Lane.

Buffalo Bill State Park announced preliminary investigations do not indicate any contamination. However, the park advised visitors should use discretion in that area.

In the past, bodies of water in the area have become contaminated with cyanobacteria, also referred to as blue-green algae. These are microscopic organisms that live primarily in fresh water and salt water, at the surface and below, according to the Centers of Disease Control. They usually multiply and bloom when the water is warm, stagnant and rich in nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) from sources such as fertilizer runoff or septic tank overflows.

Cyanobacterial blooms are usually blue-green in color, but algal blooms can vary in color, ranging all the way to red or brown.

An algal overgrowth is referred to as an “algal bloom.” When a bloom occurs, scum (a layer of foul extraneous matter) might float on the water surface, resulting in a rotten plant-like odor. Blooms typically occur during late summer or early fall, but can occur anytime during the year.

Not all algal blooms are harmful.

The CDC said many factors determine whether exposure to cHABs will cause adverse health effects. These include toxin type, concentration, duration and route of exposure, and any comorbid conditions of the patient. Cyanotoxins can cause gastrointestinal, neural, hepatic or dermal toxicity.