Visitation at America’s national parks broke all-time records in 2014, as the National Park Service prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2016 with a major push to encourage more visitors to experience their national parks in 2016. In 2014, there were 292.8 million visits to national parks, breaking the previous record set in 1987 when parks saw just over 287.2 million visits.
“As the National Park Service strives to share a more inclusive and well-rounded version of the American story through the places we care for, it is gratifying to see more people than ever coming to their national parks to enjoy nature, learn about history, and spend time with their families,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis in a press release. “As we look ahead to our centennial in 2016, I am looking forward to announcing a new record-breaking number of visitors coming to experience national parks next year and beyond.”
The official number of recreational visits to national parks in 2014 was 292,800,082 – an increase of 19 million, or 7%, from 2013 visitation of 273,630,895. Visitation in 2014 rebounded from a 2013 decline that included a 16-day government shutdown and many park closures for repairs after Superstorm Sandy hit the northeast in late 2012.
“Visitor spending in the communities near national parks supports hundreds of thousands of mostly local jobs in America year after year,” Jarvis said. “With this record visitation we should see something on the order of $15 billion in visitor spending, 250,000 or more jobs and a $28 billion effect on the U.S. economy when our annual economics of national parks report comes out in April.”
Several national parks saw record-breaking visitation in 2014, including Joshua Tree, Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton and Glacier national parks. The re-opening of the Washington Monument, some 21 months after it was rocked by an earthquake and repaired, also added to 2014 visitation numbers.
Of the 405 parks in the national park system, 369 of them track visitors, and the top 28 most visited parks accounted for half of 2014 visitation and half of the increase in visits between 2013 and 2014.
Grand Canyon National Park bumped Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area out of the top 10 most visited areas in the national park system. The list of top ten national parks remains unchanged, although Rocky Mountain and Olympic National Parks switched places.