A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. New River Gorge National River in West Virginia encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River, is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.
Big Southern Butte is one of two domes rising from a sea of basalt near the center of the eastern Snake River Plain in Idaho. The butte is one of the largest volcanic domes in the world, but at 300,000 years old it is also one of the youngest. Hikers who trek to the 7,550-foot high summit are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views. Photo by Devin Englestead, BLM Upper Snake Wildlife Biologist.
First light at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Established in November 22, 1939, the refuge has provided a critical stopover and wintering spot for thousands of sandhill cranes, geese and other waterfowl for 75 years. Bosque del Apache's sandhill crane population has multiplied from 18 birds in the 1840s to more than 20,000 birds today. Photo by Kim Hang Dessoliers (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Despite Economic Downturn, Americans and Foreign Visitors Flocked to Our National Parks in 2009
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ten million more Americans and foreign tourists visited the nation's national parks last year than in 2008, a 3.9 percent increase that marked the fifth busiest year ever for the National Park System, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today.
“People both here and abroad know that our national parks are America's best idea, even during an economic downturn,” Salazar said. “Our national parks are treasures that tell the story of our country and celebrate its beauty and culture, and they provide vacation bargains for families living on a tight budget. They offer priceless opportunities to inspire adults and children alike with our wonderful natural, cultural and historic heritage.”
“In an increasingly sedentary society, our parks give parents a place to connect their children with nature and learn to appreciate the good feelings that come from healthy green exercise,” he said.
More than 285 million people visited national parks and other units of the National Park System during 2009, up from just under 275 million in 2008. This fell just short of the all-time visitation record of 287.2 million in 1987.
Possible reasons for the increase in visitation include three weekends last summer when the Park Service waived entrance fees, the visits by President Obama and his family to Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, the publicity generated by Ken Burns' documentary on the history of the national parks, a decline in gasoline prices, and the continued strong exchange rate the Euro enjoys against the dollar.
Salazar highlighted the benefits national parks provide to our economy. A study released today revealed that the National Park System supports more than 223,000 jobs and nearly $14 billion in economic activity across the country.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park continued its reign as the most-visited national park in 2009, attracting 9.4 million visitors, while the Blue Ridge Parkway was the most visited unit of the system with nearly 16 million visitors.
The top 10 most visited national parks were:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 9,491,437 visitors