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Montana State Parks Announces 2013 Annual Visitation - Highest Visitation on Record

(Helena, MT) – Montana State Parks (stateparks.mt.gov) announced today that the 2013 annual visitation numbers are the highest on record, with more than 2,112,000 visits to Montana’s 54 state parks from January – December 2013. The 2013 visitation numbers represent a 5% increase over 2012. Annual visitation is up 28% over the 10-year trend (2004-2013).

The North Central Region (Great Falls area) had the highest annual visitation overall in 2013, and Giant Springs State Park in Great Falls had the highest visitation for the year of all state parks with more than 307,000 visits. Visitation is up for the Montana State Parks system despite Bannack State Park being closed for 7 weeks last summer due to a flash flood.

“These numbers are incredibly strong and exciting,” said Chas Van Genderen, Administrator for Montana State Parks. “Montana families and out of state visitors know that our state parks are affordable places to explore and experience some of the best camping, hiking, fishing, floating and outdoor recreation in the state. We also provide tours, special events, ranger programs and education opportunities enjoyed by more than 100,000 visitors each year. Last year, more than 25,000 school students experienced state parks as outdoor classrooms. We thank the public for their continued support, and look forward to continuing this exciting upward trend in visitation this year in celebration of our 75th Anniversary.”

By comparison to national parks, Glacier National Park was up +2% in 2013 (with 2,190,374 visits) over 2012, and Yellowstone National Park visitation was down -8% for 2013 with (3,188,030 visits) over 2012.

This Montana State Parks 2013 visitation record, compares equivalent data collection dating back for the past decade.

The Top 10 Parks for Annual Visitation:
1- Giant Springs State Park in Great Falls at 307,666 visits (up 5% over 2012)
2- Lake Elmo State Park in Billings at 172,357 visits (down 20% over 2012)
3- Spring Meadow Lake State Park in Helena at 158,842 visits (up 55% over 2012)
4- Cooney State Park in Roberts at 157,198 visits (up 17% over 2012)
5- Wayfarers State Park in Kalispell at 124,949 visits (up 11% over 2012)
6- Lone Pine State Park in Kalispell at 77,591 visits (up 16% over 2012)
7- Tongue River Reservoir State Park near Decker at 76,297 visits (up 36% over 2012)
8- Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park in Whitehall at 70,617 visits (up 9% over 2012)
9- Whitefish Lake State Park in Whitefish at 62,003 visits (down 3% over 2012)
10- Pictograph Cave State Park in Billings at 60,072 (up 17% over 2012)

Annual visitation by Region:
Billings/ Eastern Montana: The Eastern Region had 475,289 total visits. Lake Elmo State Park had the highest in the Eastern Region at over 172,000 visits. From 2012 to 2013, Medicine Rocks State Park doubled in visitation from 11,473 visits to 24,711 visits. Pirogue Island State Park visitation decreased by 51%. Makoshika State Park visitation was not fully recorded due to summer construction in the area that inadvertently damaged the visitation counter. Rosebud Battlefield State Park was under an emergency closure for 10 days during August, due to a lightning-caused fire that burned approximately 150 acres in the state park, which is 5% of the total park acreage.

Bozeman/Butte: The Southwest Region had 336,540 total visits. Cooney State Park had the highest visitation in the Southwest Region at 157,198 visits. From 2012 to 2013, Madison Buffalo Jump State Park more than doubled in visitation from 4,501 visits to 11,588 visits. At the beginning of 2013, a public process to discuss the future of Madison Buffalo Jump State Park was conducted, which helped raise the awareness of the park regionally. Additionally, a car counter was installed, which helped improve the accuracy of visitation collected at the park. Bannack State Park decreased in visitation by 39%, due to the flash flood in July and subsequent park closure for 7 weeks, which included the cancellation of Bannack Days, Montana State Parks’ system largest attended special event.

Great Falls/Helena: The North Central Region had 602,276 total visits. Giant Springs State Park had the highest visitation in the North Central Region at close to 308,000 visits. From 2012 to 2013, Spring Meadow Lake State Park had the largest increase in visitation at 55%, jumping from 102,000 to close to 160,000 visits. Tower Rock State Park decreased in visitation by 24%. Smith River State Park also decreased in visitation by 3% due to a 6-day river closure in early July.

Kalispell: The Northwest Region had 471,121 total visits. Wayfarers State Park had the highest visitation in the Northwest Region at close to 125,000 visits. From 2012 to 2013, Lone Pine State Park had the largest increase in visitation at 16%.

Missoula: The West Central Region had 226,860 total visits. Salmon Lake State Park had the highest visitation in the West Central Region at 54,631 visits. From 2012 to 2013, Beavertail Hill State Park had the largest increase in visitation at 23%. Fort Owen State Park decreased in visitation by 25%. Placid State Park summer visitation was not fully recorded due to an issue with the visitation counter.

**Montana State Parks Summer “Peak” Season was also the highest on record for a peak season with an increase of 5% over 2012 from May-September.

Montana State Parks receives no hunting and fishing licensing dollars and no general fund. Montana State Parks’ largest source of funding is from the $6.00 annual, optional, resident vehicle registration fee, of which state parks receives $5.37 per registration.
 

Contact:

Jennifer Lawson

Marketing and Communications Manager,

Montana State Parks

(406) 444-3818

(406) 459-3483 c

Jlawson3@mt.gov

 

 

 

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