Visitation to America’s National Parks hits record highs for 3rd consecutive year

Images courtesy of the National Park Service, St. George News

WEST GLACIER, Mont. — U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke hailed 331 million recreation visits to America’s national parks in 2016 – a third consecutive all-time attendance record for the National Park Service.

Zinke made the announcement during a stop at Glacier National Park, where he met with Park Superintendent Jeff Mow to discuss the park’s maintenance backlog and received a traditional spiritual blessing from members of the Blackfeet Nation. In 2016, Glacier broke attendance records attracting nearly 3 million visitors.

“Our national parks are our national treasures, and it’s important to recognize that they are more than just beautiful landscapes,” Zinke said. “Growing up near Glacier National Park, I understand the value these places bring to local economies and in preserving our heritage. As we enter into a second century of service and visitation numbers continue to increase, we will focus on maintenance backlogs and ensuring these special places are preserved for future generations.”

Half of all national park visitation was recorded in 26 parks, but visitation grew more than 10 percent in parks that see more modest annual visitation.

“That shows the breadth of support for parks and, I think, that the Find Your Park/Encuentra Tu Parque campaign launched with the National Park Foundation reached new audiences,” Acting Director of the National Park Service Mike Reynolds said.

The National Park Services’ centennial and Find Your Park initiative combined with other popular events, such as the “Centennial BioBlitz” and other national park anniversaries, good travel weather and programs such as “Every Kid in a Park” helped drive record visitation.

National Park System 2016 visitation highlights include:

  • 330,971,689 recreation visits in 2016 – up 7.7 percent or 23.7 million visits over 2015.
  • 1.4 billion hours spent by visitors in parks – up 7 percent or 93 million hours over 2015.
  • 15,430,454 overnight stays in parks – up 2.5% over 2015.
  • 2,543,221 national park campground RV overnights – up 12.5 percent over 2015.
  • 2,154,698 backcountry overnights – up 6.7 percent over 2015.
  • 3,858,162 national park campground tent overnights – up 4.8 percent over 2015.
  • 10 million recreation visits at four parks – Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina and George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
  • More than 5 million recreation visits at 12 parks (3 percent of reporting parks).
  • 80 parks had more than 1 million recreation visits (21 percent of reporting parks).
  • 382 of the 417 parks in the national park system count visitors and 77 of those parks set a new record for annual recreation visits. This is about 20 percent of reporting parks.
  • Four parks were added to the statistics system and reported visitation for the first time. They added about 300,000 visits to the total:

While at Glacier, Zinke was joined by members of the Blackfeet Nation including Chairman Harry Barnes, Secretary Tyson Running Wolf, Timothy Davis, Carl Kipp, Nelse St. Goddard and Robert DesRosier, who performed a traditional spiritual blessing.

“I’ve had the honor of working with the Blackfeet Nation for a number of years as a state senator, congressman, and now as secretary of the interior,” Zinke said. “The ceremony was very moving. I appreciate the blessing and know it will provide me with guidance and strength as I face the challenges ahead.”

Additional highlights:

Top 10 visitation: All parks of the National Park System

National Parks

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1 Comment

  • Not_So_Much March 14, 2017 at 7:53 am

    Yet state and local officials spend millions of tax dollars to promote tourism. Do you think this money could be better spent?

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