Government Shutdown Dragged Down National Park Visits in 2013

golden gate bridgeU.S. National Parks recorded more than 273.6 million total visits during 2013, down 9.1 million visits from 2012, according to data released by National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. The three percent decline was due to the government shutdown and Hurricane Sandy, National Parks officials said. 

“The shutdown reduced our visitation for the year by 7.88 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 National Park Service has also released a new report showing that visitors to national parks generated $26.75 billion in economic activity and supported 243,000 jobs in 2012. National parks across the country continue to contribute substantially to the nation's economy and to be important economic engines in their local communities.

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. Grand Canyon National Park and Yosemite National Park retained their number two and three 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