More than 1.2 million people visited Montana State Parks during the 2011 summer season (May through August) which is a one-percent increase over the average visitation numbers of the past 5-years.

“These numbers just reinforce the fact that state parks are a valued way to spend time with our family and friends camping, fishing, swimming, hiking and enjoying our state’s heritage,” said Chas Van Genderen, Administrator, Montana State Parks.

The new data shows that there were approximately 14,000 (or 1 percent) more visits this year, than the past five-year average. A University of Montana, Bureau of Business and Economic Research survey released last year, showed that Montana State Parks have had a 78 percent increase in use by Montana residents since 2002.

Weather is a factor in visitation trends. May and June saw fewer than average visits, with more people visiting Montana State Parks in July (400,000 visits) and August (more than 300,000 visits) than during any time since 2007.

“After such a wet spring that included flooding in some areas, we were pleasantly surprised to see our visitation numbers hold up overall for the summer season,” Van Genderen said. “Parks and outdoor recreation are important to how we define Montana. They are part of why we live here and visitors come here.”

Giant Springs State Park hosted the most visitors during the summer, with more than 146,000 visits. Regionally, the Kalispell and Billings areas saw the most summer use, with about 287,000 to 260,000 visits, respectively, in 2011.