Banner Year for Montana’s State Parks

By Beacon Staff

From Lake Elmo in Billings to Wayfarers in Bigfork, visitors swarmed Montana’s state parks more than ever last year.

More than 2.11 million people visited the 54 state park sites in 2013, a five percent increase over 2012 and 28 percent more than the 10-year average, according to Montana officials.

The North Central region near Great Falls enjoyed the highest overall visitation last year, with 602,276. Giant Springs State Park drew the most people for one site, with more than 307,000 visits. The Kalispell region, spanning the northwest corner of the state, had the third highest visitation with 471,121. The Billings region was second with 475,289.

Overall visitation was up despite Bannack State Park, a popular attraction, being closed for seven weeks last summer due to a flash flood.

“These numbers are incredibly strong and exciting,” said Chas Van Genderen, administrator for Montana State Parks.

“Montana families and out-of-state visitors know that our state parks are affordable places to explore and experience some of the best camping, hiking, fishing, floating and outdoor recreation in the state.”

Wayfarers State Park had the highest visitation in the northwest region, with nearly 125,000 visits, which was 11 percent more than 2012. Lone Pine State Park had the largest increase in local visitation at 16 percent, and attracted 77,591 visitors. Whitefish Lake State Park had 62,003 visits, down 3 percent from 2012.

By comparison, Glacier National Park visitation was up 2 percent in 2013 with 2.19 million visitors. Yellowstone National Park visitation was down 8 percent and had 3.18 million visitors.

“We thank the public for their continued support, and look forward to continuing this exciting upward trend in visitation this year in celebration of our 75th a`nniversary,” Van Genderen said.