Despite the recession, or perhaps because of it, more than 285 million visitors flocked to national parks last year, falling just short of the all-time visitation record of 287.2 million set in 1987.
The National Park Service reported that 2009 visitation represented an increase of 10 million people, or 3.6%, versus the prior year.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar speculated that the increases may have be a result of families on tight budgets view parks as bargains, parks offered free visitation on three weekends, and parks attracted extra attention as a result of Ken Burns's documentary on the history of parks.
As usual, the Great Smoky Mountains ranked the highest in total visitation. Here's how the top 10 parks ranked in terms of visitation for 2009:
1) Great Smoky Mountains (9.5 million visitors)
2) Grand Canyon (4.3 million visitors)
3) Yosemite (3.7 million)
4) Yellowstone (3.3 million)
5) Olympic (3.3 million)
6) Rocky Mountain (2.8 million)
7) Zion (2.7 million)
8) Cuyahoga Valley (2.6 million)
9) Grand Tetons (2.6 million)
10) Acadia (2.2 million)
Also, the Blue Ridge Parkway was the most visited unit of the system with nearly 16 million visitors in 2009.
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