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Matt Volz  /  AP
Kenie Massi and Adeline Dupuy, both 23 and from southwestern France, set up their tent at Tower Fall campground in Yellowstone National Park last month.
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updated 9/9/2010 9:11:31 AM ET 2010-09-09T13:11:31

This species in Yellowstone National Park is appearing in greater numbers than ever before — people.

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More than 2.5 million of them visited the world's first national park over the June, July and August summer season. That's up by more than 200,000 compared with summer 2009, putting Yellowstone on track to set another attendance record. Nearly 3.3 million people visited during all of 2009, topping the previous record set in 2007 by nearly 5 percent.

Marketing by the state tourism offices in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho probably is boosting Yellowstone tourism, park spokesman Al Nash said.

Slideshow: America's national parks (on this page)

The weak economy might also be helping by encouraging cheap vacations.

"Visiting your national parks is a good value," Nash said Wednesday. "And you can sort of adjust the length and the type of your trip to fit your schedule and your wallet more than you can other visitor destinations."

On the other hand, more people can mean longer lines at park entrance stations, restaurants and gift shop cash registers, Nash said, along with more traffic jams where people stop to gawk at roadside wildlife.

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"If you came to the park and weren't in a wildlife jam at some point, your trip probably was unusual," Nash said. "And if you were in a wildlife jam, it probably lasted longer than you might have experienced in previous years."

Business has been brisk at the nine hotels and other restaurants and gift shops operated by Yellowstone's largest concessionaire, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, company sales and marketing director Rick Hoeninghausen said.

"It has been a very strong summer. I would say that this year our volumes, our business levels, have mirrored the strong visitation that we've experienced," Hoeninghausen said.

The most people in Yellowstone on any given summer day — 25,000 to 30,000 — far exceeds population estimates for the park's other large mammals.

Video: Park rangers to tourists: Put gadgets away (on this page)

Yellowstone is home to about that many elk during the summer. About 15,000 to 22,000 elk stick around the park during the winter.

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Yellowstone has approximately 3,000 bison, no more than 1,000 moose and close to 100 wolves, according to park figures.

July and August are Yellowstone's busiest months for tourism.

The park had almost 958,000 visitors in July, up 6.5 percent from July 2009, and nearly 855,000 in August, a more than 13 percent increase from a year earlier.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: America's national parks

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  1. Acadia

    Acadia National Park in Maine boasts the highest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic Coast and was the first national park east of the Mississippi River. Visitors beware: temperatures can vary 40 degrees -- from 45 degrees to 85 degrees in the summer and from 30 degrees to 70 degrees in the spring and fall. (Gareth Mccormack / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Rocky Mountain

    Bear Lake, with mountainside aspens changing colors in mid-autumn, is one of the popular attractions in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. (Universal Images Group via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Badlands

    The climate in South Dakota's Badlands National Park is extreme. Temperatures range from minus 40 degrees in the dead of winter to 116 degrees in the height of summer. Visitors are drawn to the park's rugged beauty as well as the area's rich fossil beds. (Mark Newman / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Yosemite

    One of the nation's first wilderness parks, Yosemite is known for its waterfalls, scenic valleys, meadows and giant sequoias. (Robert Galbraith / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. North Cascades National Park

    The North Cascades National Park complex offers something for everyone: Monstrous peaks, deep valleys, hundreds of glaciers and phenominal waterfalls. The complex includes the park, Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas. (David Mcnew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Zion

    This spectacular corner of southern Utah is a masterpiece of towering cliffs, deep red canyons, mesas, buttes and massive monoliths. (Mark Ralston / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Redwood

    Created in 1968, Redwood National Park is located in Northern California. Today, visitors to the national park can enjoy the massive trees as well as an array of wildlife. (David Gotisha / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Joshua Tree

    Joshua Tree National Park is located in southeast California. The area was made a national monument in 1936 and a national park in 1994. Outdoor enthusiasts can go hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Great Smoky Mountains

    Straddling the Tennessee-North Carolina border, Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses more than 800 square miles in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Visitors can expect mild winters and hot, humid summers, though temperatures can differ drastically as the park's elevation ranges from 800 feet to more than 6,600 feet. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Arches

    More than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, many of them recognizable worldwide, are preserved in Utah's Arches National Park. Temperatures can reach triple digits in the summer and can drop to below freezing in the winter. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Grand Teton

    The Snake River flows through Grand Teton National Park, and the jagged Teton Range rises above the sage-covered valley floor. Daytime temperatures during summer months are frequently in the 70s and 80s, and afternoon thunderstorms are common. (Anthony P. Bolante / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Haleakala

    Visitors watch the sun rise at 10,000 feet in Haleakala National Park in Maui, Hawaii. If weather permits, visitors at the top of the mountain can see three other Hawaiian islands. (The Washington Post via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Grand Canyon

    Grand Canyon National Park is perhaps the most recognizable national park. Nearly 5 million visitors view the mile-deep gorge every year, formed in part by erosion from the Colorado River. The North and South rims are separated by a 10-mile-wide canyon. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Yellowstone

    Yellowstone National Park, America's first national park, was established in 1872. The park spans parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Grizzly bears, wolves, bison and elk live in the park. It is well known for Old Faithful and other geothermal features. (Mark Ralston / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Mount Rainier

    Glaciers. Rainforests. Hiking trails. Mount Rainier National Park, located in Washington state, offers incredible scenery and a diverse ecology. The park aims to be carbon neutral by 2016. (National Park Service) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Hawaii Volcanoes

    Two of the world's most active volcanoes can be found within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. In 1980, the national park was designated an International Biosphere Reserve; in 1987, it was added as a World Heritage Site. (David Jordan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Everglades

    Everglades National Park covers the nation's largest subtropical wilderness. It is also a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve and a Wetland of International Importance. Visitors to the park can camp, boat, hike and find many other ways to enjoy the outdoors. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Glacier

    A view from atop the Grinnell Glacier Overlook trail in Glacier National Park. With more than 700 miles of trails the park is known for its glaciers, forests, alpine meadows and beautiful lakes. (Matt McKnight / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Bryce Canyon

    Located in southwestern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its distinctive geological structures called "hoodoos." (Mark Ralston / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Crater Lake

    The brilliant blue Crater Lake, located in southern Oregon, was formed when Mount Mazama, standing at 12,000 feet, collapsed 7,700 years ago after a massive eruption. Crater Lake is one of the world's deepest lakes at 1,943 feet. (David Gotisha / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Olympic

    Washington state's Olympic National Park offers visitors beaches on the Pacific Ocean, glacier-capped mountain peaks and everything in between. Keep the weather in mind when visiting, though, as roads and facilities can be affected by wind, rain and snow any time of year. (National Park Service) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Sequoia and Kings Canyon

    A woman stands among a grove of a Giant Sequoia trees in Sequoia National Park in Central California. The trees, which are native to California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, are the world's largest by volume, reaching heights of 275 feet and a ground level girth of 109 feet. The oldest known Giant Sequoia based on its ring count is 3,500 years old. (Mark Ralston / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Denali

    Alaska's Denali National Park spans 6 million acres and includes the 20,320-foot Mount McKinley, North America's tallest peak. Many park visitors try to catch a glimpse of the "big five" -- moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves and grizzly bear. (National Park Service) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Kenai Fjords National Park

    The National Park Service considers the 8.2-mile round-trip on Harding Icefield Trail in Alaska's Kenai Fjords National Park to be strenuous, saying hikers gain about 1,000 feet of elevation with each mile. (National Park Service via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Death Valley

    California's Death Valley encompasses more than 3.3 million acres of desert wilderness. In 1849, a group of gold rush pioneers entered the Valley, thinking it was a shortcut to California. After barely surviving the trek across the area, they named the spot "Death Valley." In the 1880s, native peoples were pushed out by mining companies who sought the riches of gold, silver, and borax. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Wind Cave

    Bison graze in Wind Cave National Park in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota. Millions of bison were slaughtered by white hunters who pushed them to near-extinction by the late 1800s. Recovery programs have brought the bison numbers up to nearly 250,000. (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Canyonlands

    The Lower Basins Zone is outlined by the white rim edge as seen from the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah. (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Shenandoah

    Fall colors blanket the Shenandoah National Park, drawing tourists to Skyline Drive to view the scenery. (Karen Bleier / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Gareth Mccormack / Lonely Planet Images
    Above: Slideshow (28) America's national parks
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    Stephen Saks / Lonely Planet Images
    Slideshow (18) America’s lesser-known national parks

Video: Park rangers to tourists: Put gadgets away

  1. Transcript of: Park rangers to tourists: Put gadgets away

    MATT LAUER, co-host: If you're headed to a national park before the end of summer , you're going to have a lot of company. Yellowstone , for example, is playing host to record crowds.

    ANN CURRY, co-host: And those visitors are toting more technology than ever, digital cameras , smart phones , GPS locators. But as NBC 's George Lewis found out, all those gizmos can sometimes lead to trouble.

    Mr. KEN PHILLIPS: Did you see a deer?

    GEORGE LEWIS reporting: Park ranger Ken Phillips runs emergency services at the Grand Canyon . His mission is to keep park visitors safe, and there are plenty of those.

    Ms. SHANNAN MARCAK (Grand Canyon National Park Spokesperson): On average, we've been doing about four and a half million visitors each year.

    LEWIS: And these days, those visitors come laden with technology. The young woman from France with her iPhone , the guy from Japan balancing video and still cameras, and plenty of Americans eager to share their pictures with folks back home. Here's the old point of view shot over the canyon rim as we come close to the edge . But while people are carrying smart phones , they're not always doing smart things. I can use GPS to find out where I am at all times, and if I get so absorbed in this gadget that I forget the basics of safety, I can get in a lot of trouble. Just ask Kathy Hayes , whose brother-in-law Donald spotted a bison in Yellowstone . Kathy , sensing the perfect YouTube moment, followed, camera rolling.

    Ms. KATHY HAYES: We'll get a shot of Donald getting gored by the buffalo.

    LEWIS: But when the bison got angry and charged, it was Kathy , not Donald , he went after.

    Ms. HAYES: No! It was a traumatic experience. So yeah, just don't do what I did. Be smart, people.

    LEWIS: Ken Phillips says while rescue numbers remain constant, one of his technical pet peeves is a spike in false alarms sent by people with emergency beacons like the kind skiers use in avalanches. Here, most of the last dozen alerts have been for trivial problems like bad-tasting water.

    Mr. PHILLIPS: There were only two where people really sustained an injury that required an emergency response.

    LEWIS: So the message from the rangers: Enjoy the parks, take home lots of digital memories, but just remember the safety rules.

    Unidentified Man: He may not be playing.

    LEWIS: For TODAY , George Lewis , NBC News , the Grand Canyon .

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