Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Smokies Sees Highest Number of Visitors in 12 Years

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park saw its highest number of visitors since 2000. This past year the park recorded 9,685,828 visitors, which represents a 7.5% increase over 2011. Visitation for the 2012 year was also the seventh highest in park history. 1999 still ranks as the busiest season in Smokies history, when 10,283,598 visited the park.

The number of tent campers increased by 4.8% versus 2011, however, the number of backpackers dropped 13.6%. I wonder if this was a result of the contentious debate with regards to backcountry camping fees, which were approved back in March. Is there an informal boycott going on within the backpacking community? 

Here's a look at annual visitation trends since the Great Smoky Mountains became a national park in 1931:



Anonymous said...

I'd say you were on to something. Backpackers tell me daily they are going to the national forests to avoid the Smokies police state. It makes sense but I refuse on principle. They want meddling backpackers out of there, it is evident by their fee that targets our population. I refuse to give in that easily. The backcountry has many, many places to be explored and utilized. This will be the unfortunate result of Ditmanson's illegal fee.

Anonymous said...

Well, that is their purpose. To control the park and keep us creastures out.

Anonymous said...

I must say, these fee opponents do make for good laughs.

As a frequent visitor to the park and a backcountry camper, I would rather not pay a fee but this is not the armageddon that some would portray.

Tom said...

No it's not an Armageddon. It's just the lies that have been told as backup for their fee plan that have many upset. And why target the smallest group who puts far fewer strains on park resources than any other users?

Implement a $25 fee to reserve a slot to drive the Cade's cove loop and then you'll have Armageddon.

Anonymous said...

That's a valid argument. If they can't charge a fee to get into the park, then maybe they could charge a fee to use the Cades Cove Loop. It would cut down on the ridiculous congestion there, but would raise plenty of money. I'm sure many I know would be happy to pay $20 to get in there.