Decline in US national park visitation

In tight times, bears and bayous aren’t enough of a deal.

Would you like to visit one of America’s magnificent national parks? Yosemite in California, perhaps, with its scenic cliffs and cascading waterfalls?

Or something warmer as fall turns into winter here in the northern hemisphere, such as Florida’s Everglades swamp or a southern battlefield site from the U. S. Civil War?

You’ll certainly be welcome, because so far this year, visitation to the nation’s 395 national parks and historic sites is down about five percent from last year, following a 7.5 percent fall from the year before.

National Park Service officials are somewhat perplexed by this, since park visitation often rises in difficult economic times. It is cheaper than many other vacation destinations.

But the prolonged length of the economic downturn and continued high gasoline prices have made their mark. Don’t forget, a lot of tourists who stay in park campgrounds show up in large campers and recreational vehicles, which are notorious gas guzzlers.

One of the most appealing national park views, seen by fewer visitors this year. is of the Teton Range from the flat valley in Grand Teton National Park.

It has also been two years since the acclaimed documentary about their history and beauty, by Ken Burns, piqued interest in the national parks.

And while it is impossible to get an actual count, anecdotally park rangers are reporting a significant fall in what is generally one of the strongest segments of park tourism: visitors from Europe, where the growth of the euro versus the dollar had made trips to the United States a bargain.

But the euro’s value has fallen in comparison to the dollar, which combined with the instability of several national economies on the continent, it’s thought that lots of European families that might have checked out the misty hollows of the Great Smoky Mountains or the shimmering sunsets over the Grand Canyon stayed closer to home this year.

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