More than 275 million visits were recorded in America’s national park system in 2007, an increase of 3 million visits or about 1% from the previous year.
“Despite rising gas prices and the lure of electronic entertainment, this is great news,” National Park Service Director Mary A. Bomar said in a news release. “With all the recreation choices available, national parks still draw more visits than Major League Baseball, the National Football League, professional basketball, soccer and NASCAR combined.”
Bomar credited growing interest in the National Park Service Centennial as a big reason for the upswing in the number of visits to America’s national parks and monuments, national recreation areas and battlefields, national wild and scenic rivers and national seashores – 20 different park categories in all.
Bomar said, “Although our centennial is not until 2016, the president, late in 2006, charged us with a ‘Centennial Initiative’ – to make the jewels in America’s crown sparkle for another century.
“We started hearing from park lovers immediately after the announcement of the National Parks Centennial Initiative,” Bomar said, “And people said unequivocally that they love their parks. We heard more of the same support for parks across the United States during a series of more than 40 listening sessions that wrapped up a year ago this spring.”
After a record 287 million visits in 1999, and a one-year bump attributed to the 2004 opening of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., the number of visits has been in decline. “Hopefully the 2007 figures are a permanent rebound from 2006 when had 272.6 million visits,” Bomar said.
Visits to 391 Areas Tracked
The National Park Service tracks visitation to units of the National Park System – the 391 areas set aside by Congress that include more than 100 national historical parks and historic sites, 74 national monuments, 58 national parks, 28 national memorials, two dozen national battlefields and military parks, as well as national seashores, parkways, recreation areas, and national preserves.
At 17.35 million, Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway recorded the highest number of visits in the National Park System last year. Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California was second with 14.4 million visits. Gateway National Recreation Area in New York was third at 8.8 million visits followed by Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Arizona at 7.6 million visits, and Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area straddling Pennsylvania and New Jersey at 4.8 million visits.
While the number of visits across the National Park System varies widely, 70 units recorded 1 million or more visits in 2007.
The 58 national parks were the most popular park category in 2007 with 62.3 million visits. And 19 national parks recorded 1 million or more visits in 2007.
Top 10 Visited National Parks
1. Great Smoky Mountains, 9.37 million visits
2. Grand Canyon, 4.4 million
3. Yosemite National, 3.5 million
4. Yellowstone, 3.15 million
5. Olympic, 2.99 million
6. Rocky Mountain, 2.89 million
7. Zion, 2.66 million
8. Grand Teton, 2.59 million
9. Cuyahoga Valley, 2.49 million
10. Acadia, 2.2 million