Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Park publishes trail guide for visitors who use wheelchairs

August 12, 2011, 9:02 am

The nation's oldest national park has long offered volume-controlled public phones and sign language interpreters for its ranger programs.

Even its newspaper, Yellowstone Today, is available in a Braille edition for those who need it.

But until recently, Yellowstone National Park lacked an overall trail guide for visitors who use wheelchairs.

That all changed last year when the park published its first edition of "Accessibility in Yellowstone: A Guide for Visitors who use Wheelchairs."

Produced by the park's interpretation division, the newly improved booklet breaks the park down into eight zones that include attractions in the Mammoth, Norris, Madison and Old Faithful areas, among others.

"Accessibility in the park is a top priority in terms of visitor experience and the design of our facilities," said Dan Hottle, a park spokesman.

Yellowstone was established as a national park in 1872, and while crews work to maintain and improve the park's network of boardwalks whenever funding allows, wheelchair accessibility remains difficult in some places.

When considering an improvement project, such as that taking place at the Norris Geyser Basin, the park must look at a variety of factors that include terrain, aesthetics, natural resources and environmental and cultural factors.

"Our architects strive to alter the landscape as little as possible when making additions or relocating visitor features to best preserve the natural landscape," Hottle said. "There are going to remain areas that will simply -- yet unfortunately -- only be accessible to those who can reach them by foot."

But the park is working to improve wheelchair access to other areas within the park, including Biscuit Basin, which may be wheelchair-accessible by the end of the summer, the booklet says.