2 million visitors

MONTANA STATE PARKS

HELENA – Montana State Parks announced Friday, Jan. 11 that annual visitation for 2012 was up 7 percent from 2011, with more than 2 million visitors, making it the second busiest year in history.

MSP annual visitation was up 10 percent over the five-year trend and up 25 percent over the 10-year trend.

Over the past five years, there has been a 12 percent increase in the number of residents visiting state parks and a 34 percent increase in those visiting from outside the state. 77 percent of visitors in 2012 were residents and 23 percent were non-residents.

Of all state parks, Giant Springs State Park in Great Falls had the highest visitation for the year, with nearly 293,000 visitors, followed by Lake Elmo State Park with 215,041 visitors and Cooney State Park with 134,556 visitors, both near Billings.

Billings-area state parks saw the highest combined visitation for 2012 with more than 456,000 visitors, followed by Kalispell-area state parks with more than 442,000 visitors combined.

Spring Meadow Lake State Park, on the western edge of Helena, had the highest visitation numbers and the largest increase in visitors amongst parks in southwest Montana. The park saw a 31 percent increase in visitors, with more than 102,000 people visiting in 2012.

Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, on Highway 2 between Whitehall and Three Forks, saw a 10 percent increase in visitation over 2011 with more than 64,000 visitors, and Bannack State Park in Beaverhead County saw a 5 percent increase with nearly 33,000 visitors. Missouri Headwaters State Park in Three Forks visitation numbers increased 15 percent since 2011, with more than 25,000 visitors reported.

Montana State Parks is a division of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.