Gosh, who the heck saw this coming? Besides everybody. They were trending upwards in visits already, but 2020 really ramped up the average.

Our good friends at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wanted us to share the figures. Montana State Parks recorded more than 3.4 million visitors in 2020, a 29.5 percent increase over 2019. Visitation increased every month in 2020 over 2019, despite temporary closures at a small handful of parks and the absence or sharp decline in school field trips, events and other group activities.

The record-setting visitation numbers come as no surprise to any of you who visited  parks in 2020. Beth Shumate, Parks Division Administrator at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks noted, “The increased amount of people outdoors was evident, and our staff went above and beyond the call of duty to keep our parks safe and accessible.  Montana State Parks provided immediate physical and mental health relief throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Check out some of the biggies.

The top five most visited state parks in 2020 were:

1- Flathead Lake State Park (all units), Flathead Lake – 471,690 visits (up 32.9%)

2- Giant Springs State Park, Great Falls – 384,309 visits (up .1%)

3- Cooney Reservoir State Park, Roberts – 359,607 visits (up 104.5%)

4- Lake Elmo State Park, Billings – 231,388 visits (up 27.1%) (Unfortunately being drained for a period of time this year to fight Aquatic Invasive Species)

5- Spring Meadow Lake State Park, Helena – 178,156 visits (up 32%)

Obviously, Flathead Lake was the grand champion for the entire state, and therefore northwest Montana as well. Here are some other leaders by region:

Western Montana: Placid Lake State Park had the highest visitation in the region with an estimated 90,179 visits, an increase of 33.2% over the same time period last year.

Southwest Montana: Missouri Headwaters State Park had the highest visitation in the region with an estimated 70,917 visits, an increase of 36.6% over the same time period last year.

Central Montana: Giant Springs State Park had the highest visitation in the region, with an estimated 384,309 visits, an increase of 0.1% over the same time period last year.

South central Montana: Cooney Reservoir State Park had the highest visitation in the region with an estimated 359,607 visits, an increase of 104.5% over the same time period last year.

Eastern Montana: Makoshika State Park had the highest visitation in the region with an estimated 128,288 visits, an increase of 50.4% over the same time period last year.

Montana FWP also wanted to point out that while the increased visitation in 2020 was remarkable and unique, it does continue a trend over the past decade. State park visitation has increased 83 percent over the last 10 years.

 

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