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More Chinese tourists visiting Yellowstone National Park area

Merchants, hoteliers say this past tourist season saw an increase in the number of Chinese tourists traveling to the Yellowstone National Park region

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JACKSON — Merchants in downtown Jackson say they noticed an increase in the number of Chinese tourists who are making the Yellowstone National Park region a destination.

Throughout the peak of this year’s tourist season, Chinese groups booked five to 10 rooms for one to three nights “several times a week,” said Heather Falk, director of sales and marketing at the Lexington Hotel and Suites.

“They’re getting very savvy,” Falk said. “A lot came through Expedia and Booking.com.”

While there were some challenges with cultural and language barriers, Falk said, nearly every group had at least one English-speaker and the Lexington had a part-time employee who had experience with Chinese people and customs.

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Guests “were very excited, very grateful,” and they were spending money in downtown shops and restaurants, Falk told the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

Andy Nichols at Alaska Fur Gallery said he enjoyed brisk business from Chinese travelers, especially in the early and late parts of the summer season. He went so far as to guess that Chinese tourists accounted for up to a quarter of his summer sales this year.

“That translates to quite a large amount of revenue,” he said.

Brian Riley, who runs a business that markets the Yellowstone National Park region in China, said Asian visitors are paying more to spend a whole day and night in nice lodges in Jackson like the Lexington or the Rustic Inn on North Cache.

The next step will be to promote Jackson Hole’s winter activities in China, Riley said

Anna Cole, communications manager at Jackson Hole Ski Resort, said she has seen a few Chinese skiers on the snow, but at this point China is still an “exploratory market.”

“We’re trying to learn more about it,” she said. “ . This winter there could be potentially more, knowing some of the contacts we made last year. We’re kind of learning and see where it comes from. It is a market where things are happening.”

Riley is less reserved, saying it is going through the “roof.”

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Yellowstone season 1 episode 7 review: a monster is among us.

chinese tourist yellowstone

Nothing on Yellowstone is ever random. At first, the Chinese tourists' altercation with John seemed pointless.

But by the end of Yellowstone Season 1 Episode 7 , two of them were dead, thanks mainly to their own stupidity -- leading to a more serious problem when the ranch is already under extra scrutiny, and John is out of commission, at least for now.

[Note: This review is based on the unedited version of the episode available on streaming services. If you watched on CBS, there might be minor differences.]

A Dangerous Situation - Yellowstone

I'm not sure why a bunch of tourists were interested in John's land or why they didn't seem to have any sense. Outsiders on Yellowstone often seem clueless about how life works on the ranch.

But now we've got two dead bodies and a bear who it may have been illegal to shoot, and Rip can't get ahold of anyone to help. Combined with Jenkins's plan to weaponize the legal system against John, this development pushes us swiftly toward the season-ending cliffhanger.

Rip Finds Trouble - Yellowstone Season 1 Episode 7

Meanwhile, things escalated quickly for John. He went from his oncologist being concerned enough to order an endoscopy to doubling over in pain and spitting up blood in the blink of an eye.

Ah, it hurts. You gotta help me here, cause I'm not ready for this. God damn it, I got too much to do. John Permalink: Ah, it hurts. You gotta help me here, cause I'm not ready for this. God damn it, I got too...

John's come face to face with his mortality more than once over the last several episodes, but this incident was the most visceral reminder that his days are numbered, not that he'll go gently into the good night.

John's battle with cancer throughout the series is one of its more powerful arcs, though with Kevin Costner deciding to call it quits after five seasons, it's anyone's guess how his story will eventually end.

The return of his cancer came at the worst possible time. Monica is in the hospital and appears to be suffering from short-term memory loss, and Kayce is depending on him to watch Tate. Jenkins just sued him. That bear's caused another situation.

Looking Dapper - Yellowstone Season 1 Episode 7

John can't power through this, but he needs to more than ever. When he told God that he had too much to do, he wasn't exaggerating!

The fight between the cowboys and the bear was the least compelling part of the hour, at least until Rip encountered it and those tourists.

Rip, Walker, and Jimmy were all incompetent. The classic comedy trope of everyone thinking someone else had a gun fell flat; since when is Rip like that?

Jimmy's fall off the horse and into danger was predictable and annoying. Walker already had enough of him, and I don't blame him. He's a constantly aggravating part of the series, and it doesn't get much better later.

Cooking Up a Plan - Yellowstone Season 1 Episode 7

Elsewhere, Beth had a moment before she returned to her usual snarkiness. The flashback of Evelyn and Beth's subsequent attempt to ride a horse was fascinating on multiple levels.

For the first time, it seemed that Evelyn did have some love for her daughter. Her explanation that she had to be hard on Beth so she wouldn't forget she was as strong as any man was heartbreaking.

Yellowstone Season 5b - Everything We Know

That likely led to the accident that killed her, traumatizing Beth and making her believe her mother hated her. Evelyn probably went too far and broke Beth.

Yet Beth has absorbed that lesson incredibly well. She's grown into the ultimate badass woman no one can control or even reason with. She's hard as nails on the outside and doesn't care who she hurts to get what she wants, and she keeps her softer side carefully hidden.

Remembering Evelyn - Yellowstone Season 1 Episode 7

That's Evelyn's legacy.

Perhaps when she sent Beth to get help after she fell, she wasn't punishing her as much as toughening her for the last time. Evelyn knew she was dying, and pushing Beth to "fix" the situation would give her the "gift" of being forged by fire.

It certainly puts the flashback of Evelyn's death on Yellowstone Season 1 Episode 3 in a different light.

Although Beth seemed upset as she remembered her mother's words, she may have finally processed some things. Her attempt to ride the horse, her allowing Walker to help her, and her genuine happiness when Rip came into the bunkhouse suggested that Beth had changed a tiny bit.

Younger John Has a Rough Time - Yellowstone Season 1 Episode 7

Evelyn's responsible for Beth's attitude, but what was with the doctors at the hospital?

Dr. Unger: You need to take a break. Kayce: I'm staying with my wife. Dr. Unger: You can come back when there's someone who can watch him. Kayce: He's a kid. He didn't do anything wrong. Dr. Unger: Right and wrong aren't my job. Keeping people safe is. Permalink: Right and wrong aren't my job. Keeping people safe is.

I understand they needed a safe, peaceful environment at the hospital, but nobody had any empathy.

The nurse didn't have any idea why a young child might have a tantrum about not being allowed to visit his mom in the ICU, and the staff member who confronted Felix wasn't much better.

Even Dr. Stafford hated cowboys -- and probably indigenous people, too.

Felix held his own, though. I loved when he pointed out to Dr. Stafford that his sage worked!

The Yellowstone Ranch Season 1 Episode 7

Brain injuries are tough to deal with, especially when memory is impacted.

The person is, for all practical purposes, not themselves, and Monica's short-term memory loss is the least of her problems. 

Chief Rainwater also displayed a different side when he confronted the kid who shoved Monica onto the sidewalk and then admitted that he wasn't sure he was making a difference.

This was a far cry from the guy who is busy trying to buy all the land in Bozeman to force John out -- and a more likable side of his character.

chinese tourist yellowstone

Your turn, Yellowstone fanatics.

After you watch Yellowstone online , hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know your thoughts.

Yellowstone Season 5 is halfway finished, but CBS is broadcasting an encore presentation of Yellowstone Season 1 on Sundays after 60 Minutes.

A Monster Is Among Us Review

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah , is available on Amazon. Follow him on X .

Yellowstone Season 1 Episode 7 Quotes

John: What's that? What's he saying? Woman: He says it's wrong for one man to own all this. He says you should share the land. [John shoots into the air, scaring everyone off] John: This is America. We don't share land here. Permalink: This is America. We don't share land here. Added: October 14, 2023
John: Get back before that thing eats somebody. Woman: It seems friendly. Permalink: It seems friendly. Added: October 14, 2023

Yellowstone Season 1 Episode 7 Photos

chinese tourist yellowstone

10/15/23 Yellowstone Season 1 Episode 7 A Monster Is Among Us

A Dangerous Situation - Yellowstone

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chinese tourist yellowstone

As China seeks to launch its own national park system, Chinese tourists are flooding into U.S. national parks in unprecedented numbers. Yellowstone and its gateway towns aim to adapt.

BY CLAIRE CELLA

T he U.S. lays claim to the world’s first national park: Yellowstone. This symbol of conservation and history was established in 1872 when President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law. The park blankets more than 2.2 million acres across parts of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, and contains one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. And the planet—particularly China—is fascinated.

In 2015 alone, the U.S. welcomed 2.6 million Chinese tourists and the U.S. Travel Association expects a 97 percent increase within three years. The sheer numbers alone are staggering, but these waves of Chinese visitors, who often travel in tour groups of 50 or more, are affecting America in unlikely and sometimes underprepared places: regions in more rural landscapes such as the Greater Yellowstone.

Brian Riley, owner of Old Hand Holdings, a Jackson, Wyoming-based marketing firm, says a trip to Yellowstone allows Chinese visitors to breathe in the wide-open American West.

“Yellowstone is an icon. It’s famous,” says Riley, whose company works closely with Chinese tour groups and American businesses. “It’s also the antithesis of what they experience every day in large Chinese cities that are plagued with pollution and swelling populations. This is a chance to experience wide-open space, stunning scenery and diverse wildlife.”

A CRESCIVE AND CURIOUS CHINA

T he People’s Republic of China is the most populous country on Earth, its 1.4 billion citizens accounting for over 14 percent of the world’s total population. This rising global powerhouse also boasts the second largest economy, behind only the U.S., and has seen the fastest expansion in GDP by a major economy in history, according to the World Bank. China’s economic success and rapid advancement, however, may be threatening a more precious form of the country’s capital: nature.

While China has 225 “national parks,” they don’t resemble a coordinated system with central management and funding like the U.S. National Park Service, but rather a patchwork of forests and reserves. The Chinese government is in the process of building its own national park system and by 2020 hopes to launch a pilot park that will help pave the way for dozens of others down the road. The new system aims to develop a link between what currently exists, while also establishing new parks that take into consideration environmental protections, national regulations and development. Designed as a preserve for the Siberian tiger and Amur leopard among other wildlife, the park will straddle the Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces near the Russian border, encompassing 60 percent more land than Yellowstone National Park. As usual, China is ready to compete.

But until the park gates open, Chinese citizens will continue to travel internationally, visiting ecologically rich natural areas that have the proper infrastructure to accommodate tourists. Three years ago it became easier for the Chinese to visit what is universally regarded as the world’s best model for a national park system: America’s.

In late 2014, despite more than 20 years of a complex and often contentious relationship, the U.S. and China shook hands in a rare pact, vowing to curb greenhouse gas emissions over the next two decades. It was significant news, but because of its prominence a series of other deals between the two countries largely went unnoticed.

One agreement in particular outlined that both countries extend the validity of short-term business and tourist visas from one year to 10. In the past, for instance, Chinese citizens could only stay in the U.S. for a year on B-1 and B-2 visitor visas before having to exit the country. Under new visa regulations, they are allowed multiple entries of up to six months over a 10-year period—making it more reasonable to take not only longer trips to the States, but to return more frequently as well.

Within a year of the accord, Chinese visa applications to the U.S. spiked over 58 percent, according to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. Currently, China trails only Mexico and Canada in terms of visitor numbers, but it may not be in third place for long. By 2021, the U.S. Travel Association expects China to take the lead in international travel to the States.

While popular metropolitan areas like New York City and Los Angeles can easily absorb these influxes, it’s a different situation for Yellowstone and the humble gateway communities that border this impressive stretch of wild land. And even though the region is no stranger to tour buses and summer crowds, there’s now an additional and accelerated pressure to adapt to a new cultural diversity, one that’s forcing area stakeholders to rethink their approach to tourism and communication.

*According to the U.S. Travel Association

A crowded boardwalk in the lower geyser basin. nps photo by neal herbert.

YELLOWSTONE’S STEWARDS AND SAFEGUARDS

M any Chinese are introduced to Yellowstone through textbook pictures as schoolchildren, and grow up dreaming of crossing this natural wonder off their bucket lists. Over the past few years, they’re doing just that, and joining a growing list of tourists seeking Yellowstone’s splendor every year.

In 2016, the park reported 4.2 million visits, a 4 percent increase over 2015 and 21 percent higher than 2014. While its personnel expected larger-than-usual crowds due to the Park Service’s 100th anniversary in 2016, they also noticed a dramatic surge in the number of commercial tour buses that pulled through the park. Last year, 12,778 buses entered Yellowstone, a nearly 50 percent increase over 2014. And while these buses do not solely serve Asian clientele and the NPS does not record visitors’ country of origin, park employees speak anecdotally to the noticeable rise in Asian visitation via these bus companies.

As overall yearly visitation continues to climb, Yellowstone staff is aware of how this trend is testing the park’s infrastructure and management—from transportation to safety to lodging to conservation. In an effort to prevent any diminishing visitor experiences and to better understand guest needs, Yellowstone launched a social science study in August of 2016, gathering information about visitor demographics, experiences, opinions and preferences, with results to be released later this year.

The management also became proactive, publishing a Mandarin translation of their Old Faithful Area Guide and unveiling “The Yellowstone Pledge,” or a standard of conduct that outlines ways in which visitors should act in the park to maintain safety and protect natural resources. It was created in hopes of preventing behaviors that have caused incidents in the past, such as approaching wildlife, leaving boardwalks in thermal areas and being unprepared in bear country.

In visitor centers and wayside exhibits, new signs have been added and older ones updated, based on the park’s constant evaluation, says Yellowstone public affairs specialist Morgan Warthin. The new signs incorporate foreign language translations—Mandarin included—to explain safety, regulatory and educational messages and alleviate cultural misunderstandings.

“We are constantly evaluating signs based on visitation,” Warthin says. “We certainly saw an increase in Asian tourists and wanted to be able to share information with them.”

One example of new signage involves the pit toilets in both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, which instruct visitors on how to use them. They were installed after park officials, according to the Jackson Hole News & Guide, noticed the toilets were continually breaking as a result of Asian visitors squatting with their feet on the seats as they are used to doing in their own countries.

To the south, Grand Teton National Park has also taken steps to welcome the ever-growing and ever-diverse crowds the two parks share. The Grand Teton Association, a nonprofit that helps support the park, worked closely with Old Hand Holdings’ Riley to develop Mandarin materials for the park’s bookstores, while hosting webinars with other park nonprofits about marketing to and serving Chinese visitors.

Riley developed his company in the early 2010s specifically to help local businesses surrounding Yellowstone market their services to the Chinese, like the GTA. In the years since, his presence has grown—physically and virtually. He has VIP tour businesses based in L.A. and Las Vegas, and in 2015 launched Escape, Jackson’s first and only magazine printed entirely in Mandarin. In 2016 the GTA published its book, The Best of Grand Teton National Park, in Mandarin and hopes to provide it to Chinese travelers before they even arrive in the U.S., says Jan Lynch, GTA’s executive director. Lynch sees the experience as a way to understand other cultures as well as to reflect on our own.

“There are different ideas about respect and politeness and traffic and lines and even bathroom etiquette,” she says. “The little things we don’t think about until someone is from a different place. In certain situations, they don’t understand and neither do we.”

NPS Photo by Neal Herbert

“Everyone has their own way of thinking and looking at things. We don’t change when we visit their country, so it’s not right to expect them to change for us here.”

W hile there have been incidents, people behaving badly is universal. Among other offenses within the park in 2016, a Chinese tourist was fined $1,000 for walking off a boardwalk to collect thermal water, and three Canadians were sentenced to jail time and issued heavy fines for walking onto the Grand Prismatic Spring.

More often than not, episodes involving international visitors are a result of curious naïveté or cultural difference, especially if the visitor comes from a country where the customs and landscape vary dramatically. For many Chinese, it’s their first time traveling outside China, let alone seeing a herd of bison or vibrant neon rings of steaming water. Eric Schluessel, assistant professor of history and political science and the director of East Asian studies at the University of Montana, explains that it’s a geographical difference in interpretations of nature, too, as many Chinese grow up in the countryside where nature is inherently touchable.

“In the U.S. we have this sense of the outdoors can be foreign, hostile and sacred in the sense that you aren’t allowed to touch it,” Schlussel says. “But in China, that’s often not the case.”

Yellowstone’s public education component becomes critical, then, as park officials are tasked with explaining etiquette to those being exposed to something for the first time, who hold divergent worldviews or who may not speak English. Last year, Yellowstone hired three Mandarin-speaking staff to manage visitor centers and conduct ranger programs, and Warthin expects the park to hire three or four again to work the 2017 season. The park also developed wildlife-warning flyers and safety cards, specifically about bison, and wraps their newspapers in safety information—all of which are translated in Mandarin and other languages.

But, even though park rangers and documents warn visitors to remain at least 25 yards from bison, visitors often don’t listen or don’t understand the dangers due to gaps in culture, in language, or both. In 2015 alone, bison gored five visitors who wandered too close—a particularly high number since the average is usually one incident per year. It serves as an example for the importance of clear communication.

Which is what Jennifer Thomsen, from the University of Montana’s Department of Society and Conservation, found after she conducted a study in West Yellowstone in August 2016 in collaboration with the town’s chamber of commerce and Yellowstone. The study involved interviews with 13 local business owners and workers in West Yellowstone, seven tour operators and 33 Chinese tourists.

Her results illuminated the critical importance of communication between the park, gateway communities and visitors. Responses from tour bus operators and visitors, in particular, indicated that park messaging is often miscommunicated or not communicated at all. Thomsen will present these findings at the end of this summer, and says they will help inform Yellowstone’s gateway communities and the Park Service how they can better reach, communicate with, and ensure the safety and satisfaction of this group of clientele.

“This research will serve as a stepping stone to develop further resources and to open a forum for dialogue,” she says. “We’ll be able to analyze how useful our interpretive materials are … and how we can be more successful at linking the needs and cultural differences we’re seeing with these groups to the communication and resources we’re providing.”

BEYOND BOUNDARIES: GATEWAY COMMUNITIES

O nce visitors leave one of the five gates of Yellowstone, they often stay in the communities that lie at these boundaries—Cody and Jackson in Wyoming, and West Yellowstone, Gardiner and Cooke City in Montana.

Because of its proximity to Old Faithful and interstate highways, and the fact that it’s the first gate open and the last to close each season, nearly 40 percent of the park’s traffic comes in and out of West Yellowstone. As a result, West, as the 1,500 year-round residents colloquially refer to it, has seen the most impact from the pronounced increase in Chinese tourism, according to Wendy Swenson, marketing director for the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce. The increases began about three years ago, she says, right around the time they heard the visa rules were changing.

In response, Swenson and the Montana Office of Tourism began hosting workshops and seminars for local businesses in West and other tourist centers across the state, and Wyoming has done similar work, according to Ken Elliott, director of global sales at the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce. This year’s Wyoming Governor’s Hospitality and Tourism Conference included a panel called “China Ready” to provide an overview of Chinese tourism trends and recommendations for how to better attract, serve and communicate with Chinese tourists.

During these workshops, local business owners gain specific insights into Chinese culture, including, for example, what amenities to have on hand: Chinese prefer tea over coffee; they’re known to heat up instant noodle cups with hot water to take on the go; and access to fresh fruits and vegetables is important. With this information, businesses in West have, for the most part, adjusted to accommodate: translating road signs into Mandarin, including more pictures and less text on their menus, and putting hot-water kettles in their lobbies. Many businesses are hiring Mandarin-speaking employees for the summer season and in 2015, the public library in West started holding Mandarin classes.

Bullwinkle’s Saloon & Eatery, a family-owned restaurant in operation for over 20 years in West, has always offered short ribs, bison burgers and elk ravioli, but now also serves tuna sashimi and Szechuan green beans. At Yellowstone Lodge, the management tweaked breakfast offerings to avoid confusion (hard-boiled eggs were being microwaved so now they only offer the scrambled variety) and they make hot water available in the lobby 24/7.

This mostly quiet Montana town still finds the new demands challenging, though. Jeremy Medeiros, assistant general manager and sales manager of Yellowstone Lodge, says language barriers can be frustrating for business owners and their employees. “When these customers make up the bulk of your business and you cannot communicate with them, it’s hard,” he says. “You end up speaking a sort of sign language with them just to find out that they need an extra pillow.”

Swenson also notes that while larger, national chains have the ability and the finances to make quick and sometimes extensive updates, other family-owned businesses that have been operating in the community for decades, express difficulty in trying to keep up with escalating crowds, divergent cultural values and the extended summer travel period.

“The season starts the day the park opens and it just doesn’t stop, for seven months out of the year,” said Jacob Dibble, the head chef of Bullwinkle’s, which has a separate catering hall that can fit up to 70 people. Elliott, of Jackson’s Chamber of Commerce, also noticed that summer is markedly busier and longer. For the past three years, tourist buses have pulled up to storefronts in Jackson as early as May, capitalizing on more room availability and lower prices.

Swenson reminds local owners and managers to be patient with cultural differences, too; that often the behavior of international visitors is not meant to be rude. “It’s a part of their culture and their country,” she said. “Everyone has their own way of thinking and looking at things. We don’t change when we visit their country, so it’s not right to expect them to change for us here.”

An example of this is the variance in acceptable amounts of personal space. Americans tend to value elbow room and don’t enjoy when this space is infringed upon. However, when the Chinese face crowds—which they encounter much more frequently at home—there tends to be more pushing and jostling, as the Chinese don’t shirk from being in close contact, Swenson says.

Schluessel, the East Asian Studies director from UM, explains that Chinese tourists are not familiar with the politics of the Western queue. “That’s the experience of the last 100 years of Chinese history: there’s an entire generation of Chinese who experienced collective and centralized food distribution,” he says. “If you’re the last person in line, you won’t get anything, so you strategically find the best place to stand. There’s a sense that lining up is arbitrary and a tool of power. It has nothing to do … with respect for the people around you.”

Schluessel also pointed out that large numbers of Chinese live in dense urban centers where there’s a forced need to use space differently. “Many of the tourists you encounter in these parks have had to share a room with three other people. It’s not a thing of culture, but of historical experience.”

While the easing of visa restrictions remains a primary reason Chinese tourists can more readily travel to the U.S., there’s another plotline, too. In recent years, the growth of China’s middle class, and their increasing affluence, has also made travel abroad more accessible. And research shows they’re spending more money when they visit—on average, more than any other country. In 2015, that was about $7,201 per trip to the States, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

These high numbers make this particular market something U.S. businesses are picking up on. In West, shops started advertising “Made in USA” products, noticing that Chinese travelers seek authentic Western culture and enjoy buying related items (cowboy hats, boots, leather, belt buckles).

At the end of the day, Swenson says, “tourism is what we do,” and the extra visitation has been an economic boon for the small town of West and the other gateway communities.

Old Faithful guide in Mandarin. Courtesy of NPS

INFORMING CHINA’S NATIONAL PARKS

A s it becomes easier for the Chinese to travel for less and for longer, doors will open for a richer experience with what Dwight Pitcaithley calls a “world-class collection of science, history and archaeology” in the U.S. national parks. Pitcaithley worked for 30 years with the Park Service, 10 of that as its chief historian. His biggest concern, too, is not the number of people flooding into the parks, but how much of the Park Service’s educational mission is being communicated and understood; how much cultural and historical knowledge is being exchanged.

“Have we created every opportunity to slow them down and understand this historical or natural park?” Pitcaithley wonders. “You can take the bus tour through Zion [National Park in Utah] and be flabbergasted by the scenery without knowing about the geology. But to really grasp what [national parks are] about, you have to slow down and see the film and look at the exhibits.”

This may not be a simple fix, however. “The Park Service doesn’t have a lot of money,” Pitcaithley adds. Based on current reports, it’s not getting more anytime soon, either. In mid-March, President Donald Trump released his “America First” budget blueprint for 2018, which outlines proposals for downsizing government spending. Included was a budget slashing of nearly 12 percent (or $1.5 billion) from the Department of the Interior, which supervises the NPS. While ultimately Congress will determine the final plan, these initial cuts are worrisome, and the NPS is already struggling to reduce its $12.5 billion backlog in maintenance and operations.

The through-line? This leaves little money, if any, to help the Park Service cater to its growing number of visitors’ increasingly diverse and specific needs. “The worst of the squeaky wheels gets the grease,” says Pitcaithley, and most of the budget is devoted to salaries and benefits before covering operating costs to keep current facilities running: installing new roofs, updating sewage systems, fixing elevators, mowing lawns.

In the end, Pitcaithley remains optimistic. “It could be worse,” he says with a small chuckle. “You could’ve opened the doors and nobody came.”

For the Park Service, the question over the next few years will become one of cost-benefit analysis: How can it creatively maximize funding to ensure visitors get through the park safely, enjoy themselves and feel good about their experience? If it can be successful in this endeavor, challenging as it is, Yellowstone visitors—in this case, the Chinese—can bring home this experience to their country. They can inform their fledgling national park system with similar values of conservation, stewardship, wildlife protections, an appreciation for vast green spaces and clean, clear air, a love of nature—and the importance of sufficiently funding this critical system.

Claire Cella grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains before moving to Austin, Texas, to pursue degrees in English, journalism and information science. In 2010-2011, she lived in Thailand and developed a lingering fascination for the breadth of culture she found traveling across the Asian continent. She now lives and works in Lander, Wyoming.

chinese tourist yellowstone

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An initiative of the East-West Center and Asia Matters for America partners and stakeholders

Yellowstone and Grand Tetons to Promote Chinese Cultural Understanding

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Yellowstone and Grand Tetons national parks will be hosting a workshop this February, focused on training national park workers to accommodate the rapid increase in Chinese tourists to the region over the last few years. The workshop will focus on building an understanding of Chinese cultural expectations with regards to nature, national parks, and tourism more generally.

Chinese tourists have become by far the largest group of international visitors to Yellowstone National Park. In 2017, it was estimated 3.5 million Chinese tourists visited America – an enormous increase compared to the 270, 000 that visited in 2005. Of these Chinese tourists, Yellowstone National Park predicts around 240,000 visited the park in what was the second busiest year in the park’s history.

The session will be a chance for members of the community to network and informally share experiences, strategies, and resources for improving service to Chinese tourists. It will also feature national and regional speakers, presenting on topics related to communication, marketing, Chinese culture and tourism trends for tourism in parks and gateway communities.

As the number of visitors has increased, both from China and elsewhere, Yellowstone has attempted to keep up with the changes. In the past two years, for example, Yellowstone has hired 7 Mandarin speaking rangers, and in the summer of 2016 Yellowstone conducted two separate research studies — the Transportation and Vehicle Mobility Study and the Visitor Use Study focused on visitor enjoyment — in an attempt to understand and accommodate for these recent changes.

The sudden increase in Chinese tourists to the region can be attributed to a 2014 agreement between the United States and China to adopt a 10-year reciprocal visa program for tourists and business people, reached at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Beijing.

Chinese tourists contributed over $30 million to the US economy in 2015. That year, Mainland Chinese tourists contributed the largest group of tourists from the Asia Pacific region, 18% of all travelers from that region – with the number of Chinese tourists to the United States forecast to grow to a total of 7.3 million by the year 2021 . In 2011, visitors from Asia contributed a total of over $277 million to the economies of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, and Montana shares a sister state with Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in China.

James Holloway is an intern at the East-West Center in Washington D.C. and a student at the University of Sydney in Australia.

This business near Yellowstone caters to Chinese tourists — and their desire to shoot big guns

  • By Danielle Thomsen

At Big Gun Fun in West Yellowstone, MT, you can shoot everything from a small pistol to a gatling gun from the old west. But it'll cost you. Prices range from $45 to $340.

At Big Gun Fun in West Yellowstone, MT, you can shoot everything from a small pistol to a gatling gun from the old west. But it'll cost you. Prices range from $45 to $340.

A tour bus pulls up outside the Red Lotus restaurant, one of three Chinese restaurants in a town of about 1,500. Thirty Chinese tourists unload. They immediately start to photograph a nearby sign in Chinese.

“So this sign is saying: 'soldier, brothers and shooting range' … you can do it yourself, now, here," explains my Chinese-English translator, Xuying Wang.

Eric and Beverly Yarger own the indoor range, known in English as Yellowstone Big Gun Fun. They hired someone from China to help them with the Chinese name. And they hire Chinese staff every summer to handle the tourists.

In fact, they set up shop here specifically to cater to vacationing Chinese.

“We were very much aware of the fact that the Chinese come to America to see Yellowstone Park," Beverly Yarger says. "That’s the number one thing for them to do, and to go to Vegas. And so, we came up here, observed how many tour buses were coming in and how many were Chinese.”

The Big Gun Fun shooting range in West Yellowstone, Montana. Owners Eric and Beverly Yarger were among the first to cash in the influx of Chinese tourists.

“During the summer, probably 80 percent are Chinese," he says. "They all like to shoot the AK-47 and the M-4.  If its shiny, they’ll shoot it.”

As we talk, another large group of Chinese tourists comes in after a day in Yellowstone. They’re pretty serious about deciding which guns to shoot. The menu — in Chinese — explains their choices: $25 to shoot a rifle or handgun, $50 for a machine gun and up to $349 for a bit of everything. Their tour guide Kevin Zhang says this is a big deal for his clients.

“In China, they seldom have chance to shoot a real gun," Zhang says. "So I talk with them, [tell] that it's legal to shoot a gun in the United States. So they have a strong curiosity to come here. Most of them their first time to touch a real gun.”

Choosing a gun was easy for a young man who calls himself “Louis” — he shot the AK-47. Louis says when he plays computer games he uses the AK-47.

Louis says he'll tell his friends who come here that they should pick a smaller gun, because the AK-47 is very powerful.

But it's clear that Louis really enjoyed shooting that very powerful gun. He can’t stop smiling. And it's because of happy clients like this that the Yargers don’t really need to reach out to tour companies in China anymore. Business comes from word of mouth on social media.

Yun Jie from Inner Mongolia was nervous about her first time shooting a gun, so she picked the gentler gun that was recommended. As we speak, she types on her smartphone, telling her friends that she is going to shoot a gun in America. She says she is getting a lot of likes.

And that’s something all business people in the town of West Yellowstone, Montana, like to hear.

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Coronavirus will likely reduce Chinese travel to Yellowstone National Park

BILLINGS — The coronavirus outbreak will reduce Chinese travel to Yellowstone National Park, according to tourism officials, but the impact will be small compared to the national effect.

“Yes, we would anticipate it having some effect, but they are not our only customers,” Marysue Costello, executive director of the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce, told The Billings Gazette.

Chinese tour groups are “100% suspended right now,” said Norma Nickerson, director of the Institute for Tourism & Recreation Research at the University of Montana.

“We can be pretty sure we’ll see fewer visitors in the Yellowstone area from China this summer,” she added.

"Most Chinese are avoiding any type of travel. Period," said Kenneth Zheng, a University of Wyoming professor who has acted as a Chinese tour liaison in the past. "Even domestic airfares in China are at historically low levels."

A drop in Chinese tourism has less of an impact on Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana, Nickerson said, which never drew as many Chinese travelers as Yellowstone. However, Banff National Park in Canada could see a downturn, Nickerson added, because it has been more popular with Chinese travelers.

First detected in China, the coronavirus has been named a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization. So far the disease has killed about 2,600 people and infected more than 79,000.

West Yellowstone abuts the West Entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the park’s busiest entryway. Chinese tourism to the United States and Yellowstone began climbing after a 2014 agreement between the U.S. and China made it easier for residents to get a visa.

“Yellowstone is THE park” for Chinese tourists, Nickerson said, partly because it was the nation’s first park, but also because of its many geysers and hot pools.

Even before the disease outbreak in China, however, Costello said West Yellowstone saw a decline in Chinese tourists last year.

“It was not as full a year as the prior two,” she said.

Initially, Chinese tourists came by the busload on chartered trips, which is documented in Yellowstone’s statistics. The number of buses visiting the park jumped from about 6,800 in 2013 to 12,800 by 2016. Each bus is capable of carrying about 50 passengers.

Kathy Pope, of the Salt Lake Express tour bus company, said none of her business’ usual Chinese touring customers have verified lease deals, although it typically doesn’t pick up until around mid-May.

“They’re just not confirming,” she said. “We are a little worried, but only just a little.”

When business was good, tours for Chinese travelers accounted for about 60% of the company’s business, Pope added.

On a positive note, she said more local tour operators are filling in the void with trips to Idaho, Yellowstone and Jackson, Wyoming. She said Canadians and Europeans were booking trips, as well.

Tourism Economics, whose economists track the travel business, has predicted the United States will lose 1.6 million mainland China visitors due to the coronavirus. Those visitors on average spend about $6,000 each, not counting airfare. All told, the hit to the U.S. economy is predicted at $10.3 billion.

“The effect is probably going to depend on how much each individual company relies on that market,” Costello said.

“I imagine the largest impacts will be on businesses that cater more to the Chinese market such as hotels that have placed more resources into advertising to the Asia-Pacific market and tour companies that operate out of the U.S.,” said Jake Jorgenson, an RRC Associates research analyst who co-authored a study of Yellowstone visitation published last year.

Nonresident visitors to Montana in 2019 spent most of their money on gasoline, according to an Institute for Tourism & Recreation Research annual review. The next two largest beneficiaries were restaurants and bars, followed by hotels and motels. Those three categories accounted for just over half of all nonresident spending in the state.

“We’re still quite a way out on when people pull the trigger” on scheduling a vacation, said Jan Stoddard, bureau chief of the Industry Services and Outreach team in the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development. “Generally it’s spring or early summer” before people make plans to visit Montana.

Xanterra in Yellowstone — which owns hotels, restaurants and shops — is seeing no decline in advance room reservations, said Mike Keller, general manager. Most Chinese travelers stay in communities outside the park, he added. His company is predicting that day traffic will be less in the spring, but that’s not a big concern considering that over the course of the last year the park had more than 4 million visitors, albeit that was down from 4.1 million in 2018.

Yellowstone National Park doesn’t track visitors by nationality, except in 2015 when it was estimated 500,000 Chinese travelers went to the park with 600,000 expected in 2016. During that expansion in Chinese visitation, the park made a point of hiring three Mandarin speaking rangers.

Although Montana may feel only a slight impact from the coronavirus outbreak, the disease is taking a larger toll on the U.S. economy that could last beyond this year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down more than 1,000 points last Monday as concern spread about the virus’ effect on global trade. On Thursday, the widely watched stock market measurement dropped nearly 1,200 points.

Chris Hyslop, executive director of the Montana World Affairs Council in Missoula, said the slowdown at sea ports is already hampering the supply chain for goods such as Montana’s crops, which will likely have a much longer economic effect on the state.

International travel restrictions have begun and may spread, he added, noting that coronavirus infections in Italy and Iran have heightened concerns as the disease has spread to 34 countries.

“The impact is coming and likely to continue,” Hyslop said.

An economy trending downward could reverberate into the wider travel business, according to Dax Schieffer, director of Voices of Montana Tourism.

“While coronavirus may present disruptions in travel and student workers for Montana tourism based businesses, the most concerning threat will be any downward trends in national consumer confidence based on a global economic slowdown,” he wrote in an email.

“Montana has many strengths as a desirable vacation spot domestically, but if potential visitors in the U.S. have concerns on the economy, the first thing they’ll pull back on is their family vacation budget,” he said. “This could hurt our main street businesses who rely on the visitor economy.”

Any travel restrictions from foreign countries could pose a different problem for business owners in the Greater Yellowstone Area. To fill some seasonal positions employers hire internationally through the J-1 Visa program.

Keller said Xanterra anticipates no problem finding J-1 workers, which the company recruits from Taiwan and Thailand.

How long the effects of the coronavirus outbreak may last is uncertain. Certainly its effects are far-reaching. While businesses may focus on the economic issues, the World Travel & Tourism Council is worried that any Asians who do visit the United States may face discrimination, “stigmatizing one of the world’s biggest tourist groups” which could cause long-term harm.

“Given that the U.S. administration has put a ban on foreign visitors who have been in mainland China over the past 14 days, the number of Chinese travelers to the United States will realistically decrease while these policies are maintained,” wrote Tiffany Misrahi, vice-president of policy for WTTC, in an email. “It is critical that during such challenging times the world comes together to promote a message of peace and tolerance, rather than discrimination and stigma. What’s more, evidence indicates that travel restrictions directed at individual countries are unlikely to keep the virus out of a nation’s borders while exacerbating the outbreak’s social and economic tolls.”

A Yellowstone spokesperson said that visitors from China would be “treated like any other visitors to the park.”

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Coronavirus will likely reduce Chinese travel to Yellowstone

(Matthew Brown | AP file photo) In this Aug. 3, 2015 file photo, a large bison blocks traffic as tourists take photos of the animals in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park. The coronavirus outbreak will reduce Chinese travel to Yellowstone National Park, according to tourism officials, but the impact will be small compared to the national effect.

Billings, Mont. • The coronavirus outbreak will reduce Chinese travel to Yellowstone National Park, according to tourism officials, but the impact will be small compared to the national effect.

“Yes, we would anticipate it having some effect, but they are not our only customers,” Marysue Costello, executive director of the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce, told The Billings Gazette .

Chinese tour groups are “100% suspended right now,” said Norma Nickerson, director of the Institute for Tourism & Recreation Research at the University of Montana.

“We can be pretty sure we’ll see fewer visitors in the Yellowstone area from China this summer,” she added.

"Most Chinese are avoiding any type of travel. Period," said Kenneth Zheng, a University of Wyoming professor who has acted as a Chinese tour liaison in the past. "Even domestic airfares in China are at historically low levels."

[ Read more: What Utah health officials want you to know about coronavirus ]

A drop in Chinese tourism has less of an impact on Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana, Nickerson said, which never drew as many Chinese travelers as Yellowstone. However, Banff National Park in Canada could see a downturn, Nickerson added, because it has been more popular with Chinese travelers.

First detected in China, the coronavirus has been named a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization. So far the disease has killed about 2,600 people and infected more than 79,000.

West Yellowstone abuts the West Entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the park’s busiest entryway. Chinese tourism to the United States and Yellowstone began climbing after a 2014 agreement between the U.S. and China made it easier for residents to get a visa.

“Yellowstone is THE park” for Chinese tourists, Nickerson said, partly because it was the nation’s first park, but also because of its many geysers and hot pools.

Even before the disease outbreak in China, however, Costello said West Yellowstone saw a decline in Chinese tourists last year.

“It was not as full a year as the prior two,” she said.

Initially, Chinese tourists came by the busload on chartered trips, which is documented in Yellowstone’s statistics. The number of buses visiting the park jumped from about 6,800 in 2013 to 12,800 by 2016. Each bus is capable of carrying about 50 passengers.

Kathy Pope, of the Salt Lake Express tour bus company, said none of her business’ usual Chinese touring customers have verified lease deals, although it typically doesn’t pick up until around mid-May.

“They’re just not confirming,” she said. “We are a little worried, but only just a little.”

When business was good, tours for Chinese travelers accounted for about 60% of the company’s business, Pope added.

On a positive note, she said more local tour operators are filling in the void with trips to Idaho, Yellowstone and Jackson, Wyoming. She said Canadians and Europeans were booking trips, as well.

Tourism Economics, whose economists track the travel business, has predicted the United States will lose 1.6 million mainland China visitors due to the coronavirus. Those visitors on average spend about $6,000 each, not counting airfare. All told, the hit to the U.S. economy is predicted at $10.3 billion.

“The effect is probably going to depend on how much each individual company relies on that market,” Costello said.

“I imagine the largest impacts will be on businesses that cater more to the Chinese market such as hotels that have placed more resources into advertising to the Asia-Pacific market and tour companies that operate out of the U.S.,” said Jake Jorgenson, an RRC Associates research analyst who co-authored a study of Yellowstone visitation published last year.

Nonresident visitors to Montana in 2019 spent most of their money on gasoline, according to an Institute for Tourism & Recreation Research annual review. The next two largest beneficiaries were restaurants and bars, followed by hotels and motels. Those three categories accounted for just over half of all nonresident spending in the state.

“We’re still quite a way out on when people pull the trigger” on scheduling a vacation, said Jan Stoddard, bureau chief of the Industry Services and Outreach team in the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development. “Generally it’s spring or early summer” before people make plans to visit Montana.

[ Read more: ‘Are you sick?’ For Asian Americans, a sneeze brings suspicion ]

Xanterra in Yellowstone — which owns hotels, restaurants and shops — is seeing no decline in advance room reservations, said Mike Keller, general manager. Most Chinese travelers stay in communities outside the park, he added. His company is predicting that day traffic will be less in the spring, but that’s not a big concern considering that over the course of the last year the park had more than 4 million visitors, albeit that was down from 4.1 million in 2018.

Yellowstone National Park doesn’t track visitors by nationality, except in 2015 when it was estimated 500,000 Chinese travelers went to the park with 600,000 expected in 2016. During that expansion in Chinese visitation, the park made a point of hiring three Mandarin speaking rangers.

Although Montana may feel only a slight impact from the coronavirus outbreak, the disease is taking a larger toll on the U.S. economy that could last beyond this year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down more than 1,000 points on Monday as concern spread about the virus’ effect on global trade. On Thursday, the widely watched stock market measurement dropped nearly 1,200 points.

Chris Hyslop, executive director of the Montana World Affairs Council in Missoula, said the slowdown at sea ports is already hampering the supply chain for goods such as Montana’s crops, which will likely have a much longer economic effect on the state.

International travel restrictions have begun and may spread, he added, noting that coronavirus infections in Italy and Iran have heightened concerns as the disease has spread to 34 countries.

“The impact is coming and likely to continue,” Hyslop said.

An economy trending downward could reverberate into the wider travel business, according to Dax Schieffer, director of Voices of Montana Tourism.

“While coronavirus may present disruptions in travel and student workers for Montana tourism based businesses, the most concerning threat will be any downward trends in national consumer confidence based on a global economic slowdown,” he wrote in an email.

“Montana has many strengths as a desirable vacation spot domestically, but if potential visitors in the U.S. have concerns on the economy, the first thing they’ll pull back on is their family vacation budget,” he said. “This could hurt our main street businesses who rely on the visitor economy.”

Any travel restrictions from foreign countries could pose a different problem for business owners in the Greater Yellowstone Area. To fill some seasonal positions employers hire internationally through the J-1 Visa program.

Keller said Xanterra anticipates no problem finding J-1 workers, which the company recruits from Taiwan and Thailand.

How long the effects of the coronavirus outbreak may last is uncertain. Certainly its effects are far-reaching. While businesses may focus on the economic issues, the World Travel & Tourism Council is worried that any Asians who do visit the United States may face discrimination, “stigmatizing one of the world’s biggest tourist groups” which could cause long-term harm.

“Given that the U.S. administration has put a ban on foreign visitors who have been in mainland China over the past 14 days, the number of Chinese travelers to the United States will realistically decrease while these policies are maintained,” wrote Tiffany Misrahi, vice-president of policy for WTTC, in an email. “It is critical that during such challenging times the world comes together to promote a message of peace and tolerance, rather than discrimination and stigma. What’s more, evidence indicates that travel restrictions directed at individual countries are unlikely to keep the virus out of a nation’s borders while exacerbating the outbreak’s social and economic tolls.”

A Yellowstone spokesperson said that visitors from China would be “treated like any other visitors to the park.”

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10 Incredible Facts About Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is the most famous national park in the United States . It is known for its vast size, and its extreme diversity makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations. However, there’s much more to Yellowstone than meets the eye. So, keep reading to discover some of the most incredible facts about Yellowstone National Park!

1. First National Park in the United States

Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, officially becoming the first national park in the United States. It is also often considered to be the very first national park in the world , although there is some debate around the fact. In the late 1770’s, Bogd Khan mountain in Mongolia was declared as a protected area by the Mongolian government. However, although the area is now officially a national park, some argue that, as it was not initially designated as such at the time, it can’t hold the title of the first national park in the world, leaving the spot open for Yellowstone.

2. It’s Bigger Than Delaware and Rhode Island Combined

Yellowstone is a vast swath of protected land, spanning some 3,472 square miles. Incredibly, this actually means that it is larger than the combined area of Delaware and Rhode Island . Yellowstone crosses three states — Wyoming , Idaho , and Montana . The vast majority of the park is in Wyoming (96%), with Montana and Idaho having 3% and 1% respectively.

3. Located on an Active Volcano

One of the most incredible things about Yellowstone National Park is that it is actually an active volcano . Within the park is a huge caldera which is 30 miles wide and 45 miles long. Known as the Yellowstone Caldera, it is actually considered to be a massive supervolcano . It’s called a supervolcano because of its extreme size, which means that it has the potential for any eruption to have catastrophic consequences for both the climate and the ecosystem.

Yellowstone has had three massive eruptions in history which caused the formation of the caldera. The earliest and most violent eruption occurred 2.1 million years ago, with a slightly smaller one occurring 1.3 million years ago. The most recent super eruption was 640,000 years ago. There’s been several smaller eruptions since, the most recent of which was 70,000 years ago. Although this may make it seem as though the volcano is extinct, the area is actually in a volcanic hotspot, and beneath Yellowstone is a massive magma chamber which is estimated to be 37 miles long.

4. There’s Thousands of Hydrothermal Features

Yellowstone features a vast number of hydrothermal features. Hydrothermal features include things such as hot springs, geysers , fumaroles, and mud pots. In total, there are more than 10,000 of these features, which can be found right across the park. Many of the hot springs and mud pots are brightly colored due to the thermophiles that they contain. Thermophiles are micro-organisms that grow in areas with extremely high temperatures. Different thermophiles live at different temperatures and produce different colors, hence the variation of vibrant colors in the hydrothermal features.

5. Contains Half of the World’s Geysers

As well as all of the other hydrothermal features that we’ve just mentioned, there are actually more than 500 geysers in Yellowstone National Park. Incredibly, this is around half of the geysers in the entire world!

6. Largest Hot Spring in the United States

Another incredible fact about Yellowstone National Park is that it also features the largest hot spring in the United States. Grand Prismatic Spring is approximately 370 feet wide and 160 feet deep, which also makes it the third-largest hot spring in the world. It is situated in the Midway Geyser Basin and was first recorded in 1839 by fur trappers. Like many of the other hydrothermal features in Yellowstone, Grand Prismatic features a stunning array of colors around the edge. However, the center is known for its striking blue appearance.

7. Thousands of Archaeological Sites

Yellowstone is one of the ultimate places when it comes to archaeology, as it features around 2,000 different archaeological sites. Amazingly, only 3% of the national park has been explored so far. Numerous artifacts have been excavated from areas across Yellowstone, including items such as arrowheads, spears, and pottery. Based on the archaeological evidence that has been found, it has been determined that humans lived in the area up to 11,500 years ago.

8. One Geyser Erupts Every 90 Minutes

The most famous of Yellowstone’s geysers is undoubtedly Old Faithful , which erupts regularly with an average interval of 90 minutes. The geyser ejects boiling water to a height of between 106 and 184 feet, and each eruption lasts between 90 seconds and five minutes. Old Faithful is located in the Upper Geyser Basin and is considered to be so predictable because it is not connected to any of the other nearby hydrothermal features. Surprisingly, the geyser was once used for doing laundry. Clothes were placed on it in the interval and after they were ejected they came out completely clean! Old Faithful is now a popular tourist attraction in the park, with visitors being able to stand a safe distance away and observe the eruptions.

9. Yellowstone Gets a Lot of Earthquakes

Incredibly, Yellowstone is one of the most active areas in the country when it comes to seismic activity. The park experiences between 1,500 and 2,000 earthquakes annually, with 2023 recording 1,600 of them. The most powerful earthquake in Yellowstone had a magnitude of 6.1 and occurred close to the Norris Geyser Basin. However, the largest earthquake ever felt in Yellowstone was the 7.3-magnitude Hebgen Lake earthquake which occurred just outside the park’s border.

10. It’s Home to Thousands of Species

Considering the massive area that Yellowstone National Park spans, this last fact probably isn’t the most surprising. However, with 67 different species of mammals alone, it’s actually the biggest group of animals within the contiguous United States. But that’s not all, as the park is also home to around 300 species of birds and more than 1,300 species of plants. Many of the species within Yellowstone are considered to be endangered , including grizzly bears , grey wolves , and whooping cranes .

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Yellowstone National Park, Madison River Valley, American Bison Herd, Wyoming

Death of ‘Yellowstone’ Star’s Nephew Rocks Indian Country

Authorities said there was no evidence of foul play in the death of 27-year-old actor Cole Brings Plenty—but acknowledged that they needed to build trust with Native communities.

Tracy Connor

Tracy Connor

Cole Brings Plenty

Frazer Harrison/Getty

The death of actor Cole Brings Plenty is roiling Native American communities, prompting police to announce Wednesday that there is no evidence of foul play and promise to “increase trust.”

The 27-year-old’s body was found in the Kansas woods on April 5, nearly a week after he was last seen. No cause of death has been released. He had been declared both a missing person and a suspect in a domestic violence incident.

Authorities have released little information about the investigation while speculation about the 1923 actor—who is the nephew of Yellowstone star Mo Brings Plenty—has run rampant online.

In addition, police face criticism that they were quick to paint Brings Plenty as a criminal fugitive and not a person who might be in crisis or a victim.

Lawrence Police Chief Rich Lockhart addressed the accusation in a statement posted to Facebook on Wednesday.

“This is a tragic case for everyone involved. Your Police Department worked very hard to investigate the incidents and worked very hard to find Cole. None of us could have imagined this outcome,” he said.

“I learned through this series of events that our Police Department must work harder to increase trust with our Native American community members. Through meeting with Cole’s family members and members of our Native American community, I clearly see that we are not where we need to be in partnering with a community that is very important to Lawrence’s history and to its current culture.

“This sad series of events has been shared around the world. It’s my hope that future bridges we build and partnerships we form between our Native American community and our police department will create a relationship that will not only increase trust and understanding, but will also be a model for other communities.”

Separately, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release that law enforcement had been working “diligently” on the case and “there is no indication of foul play in the death of Cole Brings Plenty.”

The backdrop of the Brings Plenty investigation is the long history of missing and murdered indigenous people whose cases have gone unsolved and often unnoticed outside of Indian Country.

Native leaders are demanding an accounting of what happened to the young actor. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe called for “a full and thorough investigation into Cole’s disappearance and subsequent death” and said its attorney general would be contacting Kansas officials “to ensure this is accomplished.”

Before he went missing, Brings Plenty was seen at the Replay Lounge in Lawrence the night of March 31, where witnesses say his long braids got tangled a microphone cable while he was moshing. According to a since-deleted post by the band Beneather, while patrons were trying to untangle him, someone cut off his hair with scissors.

“As a native person, this is a serious violation,” the band wrote.

According to police, after leaving the bar, Brings Plenty ended up at an apartment in Lawrence early Sunday—where officers later responded “to reports of a female screaming for help.”

“The suspect fled before officers arrived,” police said in a release.

“The investigation identified Brings Plenty and traffic cameras showed him leaving the city immediately after the incident, traveling southbound on 59 Highway. This incident involves allegations of domestic violence, which limits the amount of information we can share to protect the victim.”

The woman involved in the incident was not identified by police, but some of those grieving Brings Plenty have suggested she is to blame for his death.

In an Instagram post after a warrant was issued for his nephew’s arrest but before he was found dead, Mo Brings Plenty urged the public not to jump to any conclusions.

“We don’t know—FOR A FACT—that Cole was involved in the incident that he is alleged to have been a part of,” he wrote.

“We don’t know—FOR A FACT—that Cole was behind the wheel or in his 2005 Ford Explorer when cameras caught it leaving Lawrence, KS, on U.S. 59.

“We know—FOR A FACT—that Cole would NOT go ‘on the run’ in ANY SITUATION. It is not in his character, despite what people think or say. It isn’t worth it, and he would know that.”

The family is now planning for a two-day wake and a Tuesday funeral to be held at the Cheyenne Eagle Butte High School Gymnasium. On Facebook this week his father, Joe Brings Plenty Sr., paid tribute.

“He loved to dance, sing, joke, make people laugh. He loved his heritage, his way of life, his people,” he wrote.

“Now my baby boy is gone, he doesn’t deserve this, he has only good intentions for anyone around him, no matter who they are or how they are.

“We found my son, now we have to find out what happened and hold people responsible for what happened.”

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READ THIS LIST

IMAGES

  1. Chinese Tourists enjoy Yellowstone's beauty

    chinese tourist yellowstone

  2. Chinese tourists posing with their travel professional, while touring

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  3. Chinese tourist collects thermal water in Yellowstone, fined $1,000

    chinese tourist yellowstone

  4. When Chinese visit Yellowstone, the rangers are speaking their language

    chinese tourist yellowstone

  5. Yellowstone and Grand Tetons to Promote Chinese Cultural Understanding

    chinese tourist yellowstone

  6. Yellowstone-bound Chinese tourists boost East Idaho economy

    chinese tourist yellowstone

COMMENTS

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  8. Coronavirus could impact Chinese tourism to Yellowstone

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  16. Yellowstone National Park Chinese from Salt Lake City Tours & Things to

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  18. Yellowstone National Park Chinese Local Pickup Tours & Things to Do

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