National park visitation during 2007 showed a boost of roughly 3 million visitors over 2006 totals, to a total of 275.6 million, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park again led all the "national parks" in visits, with 9.4 million.
Should these numbers be applauded?
“Despite rising gas prices and the lure of electronic entertainment, this is great news,” says National Park Service Director Mary A. Bomar. “With all the recreation choices available, national parks still draw more visits than Major League Baseball, the National Football League, professional basketball, soccer and NASCAR combined.”
Now, if the parks could only find a way to match their revenues.
After a near-record 287.1 million visits in 1999, and a one-year bump to 276.9 million attributed to the 2004 opening of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., the number of visits has been in decline. “Hopefully the 2007 figures are a permanent rebound from 2006 when the park system had 272.6 million visits,” Director Bomar said.
At 17.35 million, the Blue Ridge Parkway recorded the highest number of visits in the national park system last year. Golden Gate National Recreation Area was second with 14.4 million visits. Gateway National Recreation Area was third at 8.8 million visits followed by Lake Mead National Recreation Area at 7.6 million visits, and Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area at 4.8 million visits.
The 58 national parks were the most popular park category in 2007 with 62.3 million visits. And 19 national parks recorded one million or more visits in 2007.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park recorded 9.37 million visits in 2007, the highest number of the national parks. Grand Canyon National Park was second with 4.4 million visits while Yosemite National Park was third in visits with 3.5 million. Yellowstone National Park was fourth in visits with 3.15 million. Olympic National Park was fifth in visits with 2.99 million.
Rounding out the top 10 of national park visits are Rocky Mountain National Park, 2.89 million, Zion National Park, 2.66 million, Grand Teton National Park, 2.59 million, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, 2.49 million, and Acadia National Park, 2.2 million.