Mesa Verde National Park this year hit a 17-year high for visitation.
The park had about 593,000 visitors through November and could see 600,000 this year, said Cristy Brown, a park spokeswoman.
Promotion around the National Park Service’s centennial anniversary, low gas prices, bicycle tours and cool weather likely helped bring people to the park, Brown said. The park also benefited from Every Kid in a Park Program, which offers free park passes to fourth-graders and their families through the 2016-17 school year.
During the summer, the park saw the bulk of its visitors, with 448,121 people visiting from May through September.
The park achieved the increase even though Spruce Tree House, one of the park’s most popular attractions, is closed indefinitely because the natural sandstone arch above the site is eroding.
The Park Service has asked geotechnical engineering companies for bids to work on the site, but a contractor has not been selected, Brown said.
“It’s a very specialized project,” she said.
An increase in visitations likely helped economies in Cortez, Mancos and Durango this summer.
In 2015, the 547,325 Mesa Verde visitors spent an estimated $55.4 million in nearby towns, and they supported 814 jobs, according to National Park Service data. Economic data for 2016 was not available.
Through the 1990s, the park regularly had more than 600,000 visitors, according to park data. But the park saw much lower visitation after several wildfires in the early 2000s.
Brown expects the uptick in visitation to continue next year after the national campaign around the national park system’s centennial.
“The public is more aware of the parks and their resources now,” she said.
She also expects the Every Kid in a Park Program to continue through the 2017-18 school year.
During the winter months, the park offers cross country skiing and snowshoeing, but so far the park has not received enough snow for those activities.