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National parks draw 273.6 million visitors in 2013

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More than 273.6 million total visits to America’s national parks were recorded during 2013, according to a report released today by National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.

The figures represent visits to the 401 parks, historic sites and recreation areas that make up the National Park System.

“From families creating once-in-a-lifetime vacation memories to school children exploring a national park in their own backyard, the National Park Service welcomed more than a quarter of a billion visitors last year,” said Jarvis. “The national parks are the perfect place to be inspired by America’s majestic beauty, retrace the steps of those who founded and formed our nation’s history, or just relax and recharge with family and friends.”

The 2013 visitation figure is down 9.1 million visits from 2012. The 3 percent decrease was due in large part to the federal government shutdown, which shuttered national parks for the first 16 days of October.

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

Despite the shutdown, some parks reported increases in visitation in 2013, including Gettysburg National Military Park and Vicksburg National Military Park, 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 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.

The official number of recreational visits to national parks in 2013 was 273,630,895, 9.1 million less than 2012 total visitation, which was 282,765,682.

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

Great Smoky Mountains National Park retained its top spot among the 59 sites formally designated as “national park,” with 9.35 million visits in 2013, with Grand Canyon National Park coming in second. Yellowstone National Park and Yosemite National Park took the number three and four spots in the top 10. Glacier National Park in Montana moved into the number 10 spot.

Here are the top 10 most visited places in the National Park System:

Golden Gate National Recreation Area 14,289,121
Blue Ridge Parkway 12,877,368
Great Smoky Mountains National Park 9,354,695
George Washington Memorial Parkway 7,360,392
Lincoln Memorial 6,546,518
Lake Mead National Recreation Area 6,344,714
Gateway National Recreation Area 6,191,246
Natchez Trace Parkway 6,012,740
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park 4,941,367
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area 4,843,350

Here are the top 10 most visited sites with the “national park” designation:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park 9,354,695
Grand Canyon National Park 4,564,840
Yosemite National Park 3,691,191
Yellowstone National Park 3,188,030
Olympic National Park 3,085,340
Rocky Mountain National Park 2,991,141
Zion National Park 2,807,387
Grand Teton NP 2,688,794
Acadia National Park 2,254,922
Glacier National Park 2,190,374

The complete list of park visitation and other visitor-related statistics is available on the National Park Service’s web site.

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