Did you make the four-and-a-half-hour drive up to Death Valley last year? Then you were one in a million.
For the first time in a decade, Death Valley National Park reported that visitation surpassed the one million mark, with the entry gates registering 1.1 million visitors. (Documented, that is. Who's to say what mysterious hitchhikers, from this world or beyond, passed through the desert without signing in?) This surpassed the 2013 tally, which only had 950,000 people enter the park. December, in particular, showed a huge improvement in numbers from 2013, with 71% more people visiting the park in 2014's last month. If those numbers carry over, 2015 may push its way into the record books.
As far as why there was an improvement in attendance? The park offers a few possible answers:
Cheap gas, plus the renovation of the Furnace Creek Visitor Center with up-to-date exhibits and informational stations to aid park visitors contributed to the increase.
Surely, the new exhibits and informational stations are top notch. No doubt about that. We're not here to speak ill of the NPS. But, for our money, that first reason, and the increased traveling that comes with lower gas prices, has to figure in the most prominently. Which is to say: Plan a trip now while gas prices are still low.