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Despite Downturn, Americans and Foreign Visitors Flocked to U.S. National Parks in 2009

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

Great Smoky MountainsTen million more Americans and foreign tourists visited the nation’s
national parks last year than in 2008, a 3.9 percent increase that
marked the fifth busiest year ever for the National Park System,
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today.

“People both here and abroad know that our national parks are
America’s best idea, even during an economic downturn,” Salazar said.
“Our national parks are treasures that tell the story of our country and
celebrate its beauty and culture, and they provide vacation bargains
for families living on a tight budget. They offer priceless
opportunities to inspire adults and children alike with our wonderful
natural, cultural and historic heritage.”

“In an increasingly sedentary society, our parks give parents a
place to connect their children with nature and learn to appreciate the
good feelings that come from healthy green exercise,” he said.

More than 285 million people visited national parks and other units
of the National Park System during 2009, up from just under 275 million
in 2008. This fell just short of the all-time visitation record of
287.2 million in 1987.

Possible reasons for the increase in visitation include three
weekends last summer when the Park Service waived entrance fees, the
visits by President Obama and his family to Yellowstone and the Grand
Canyon, the publicity generated by Ken Burns’ documentary on the history
of the national parks, a decline in gasoline prices, and the continued
strong exchange rate the Euro enjoys against the dollar.

Salazar highlighted the benefits national parks provide to our
economy. A study released today revealed that the National Park System
supports more than 223,000 jobs and nearly $14 billion in economic
activity across the country.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park continued its reign as the
most-visited national park in 2009, attracting 9.4 million visitors,
while the Blue Ridge Parkway was the most visited unit of the system
with nearly 16
million visitors.


The top 10 most visited national parks were:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 9,491,437

Grand Canyon National Park, 4,348,068

Yosemite National Park, 3,737,472

Yellowstone National Park, 3,295,187

Olympic National Park, 3,276,459

Rocky Mountain National Park, 2,822,325

Zion National Park, 2,735,402

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, 2,589,288

Grand Teton National Park, 2,580,081

Acadia National Park, 2,227,698

From National Park Service  

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