NPS attributes 3 percent decline from 2012 to shutdown, Hurricane Sandy

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – National Park Service on March 11 released the 2013 visitation figures for America’s national parks. The NPS recorded more than 273.6 million total visits to the 401 U.S. parks, historic sites and recreation areas during the year.

Although it does top a quarter billion, 2013 visitation is down a significant 9.1 million visits from 2012. The decrease was due in large part to the lapse in federal appropriations, which shuttered national parks for the first 16 days in October.

“The shutdown reduced our visitation for the year by more than 5 million visitors who were turned away during those two weeks,” NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said. “These closures had a real impact on local businesses and communities that rely on the national parks as important drivers for their local economies.”

Despite the shutdown, some parks reported increases in 2013 visitation, including Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania and Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi, both of which were buoyed by large crowds and increased interest due to Civil War sesquicentennial events.

Other parks saw reduced numbers due to extended weather-related closures, including Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway, which saw visitation fall by 2.5 million due in large part to storm damage and generally cold and wet conditions. In New York City, the lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy forced the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Castle Clinton to remain closed for part of the year.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area in Northern California replaced the Blue Ridge Parkway as the most visited site in the National Park System.

Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park retained its top spot among the 59 sites formally designated as “national parks,” with 9.35 million visits in 2013. Yellowstone National Park and California’s Yosemite National Park retained their number two and three spots, respectively. Glacier National Park in Montana moved into the number 10 spot.

The official number of recreational visits to national parks in 2013 was 273,630,895.