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State Parks Attract More Than 2 Million Visitors
State park sites in Montana attracted the second highest visitation on record in 2012
State park sites in Montana attracted the second highest visitation on record in 2012.

Annual visitation was up 7 percent over 2011 with more than 2 million visitors, according to Montana State Parks. The visitation was 10 percent higher than the five-year trend and up 25 percent over the 10-year trend.

“2012 was a great year for our state parks,” said Chas Van Genderen, administrator for Montana State Parks. “These visitation numbers are good news for Montana’s families, communities and local economies. Our families and out-of-state visitors understand the great value of our state parks as places to camp, hike, fish, and learn about Montana’s heritage, while being affordable and fun.”

Giant Springs State Park in Great Falls had the highest visitation of all state parks with nearly 293,000 visitors, followed by Lake Elmo State Park (215,041 visitors) and Cooney State Park at (134,556 visitors), both near Billings.

Billings-area state parks saw the highest combined visitation with more than 456,000 visitors, followed by Kalispell-area state parks with more than 442,000 combined visitors.

According to state data, 77 percent of visitors in 2012 were residents while 23 percent were non-residents. Resident visitors have increased 12 percent over the past five years, while out-of-state visitors have increased 34 percent over the past five years.

In the Flathead Valley, Wayfarers State Park had the highest visitation at 112,000 visitors, up 8 percent over 2011. From 2011 to 2012, Les Mason State Park had the largest increase in visitation at 22 percent with more than 11,000 visitors, followed by Lake Mary Ronan State Park at 20 percent, 27,000 visitors. Lone Pine State Park increased 1 percent for the calendar year with more than 66,000 visitors. Visitation to Wild Horse Island State Park was down by 10 percent.

In the Missoula area, Salmon Lake and Placid Lake state parks had the highest visitation with over 45,000 visitors at each park. Salmon Lake State Park had the largest increase from 2011 to 2012 at 32 percent. Travelers’ Rest State Park saw more than 24,000 visitors, an increase in 14 percent over 2011. Visitation to Lost Creek State Park was down by 19 percent.
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