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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore sees record year in 2020 during pandemic

More than 1.2 million people visited Pictured Rocks in 2020. Visitation broke the previous park record of 858,715 set in 2019.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore as seen by boat on Lake Superior.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore as seen by boat on Lake Superior.(WLUC/Alissa Pietila)
Published: Feb. 26, 2021 at 4:51 PM EST
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MUNISING, Mich. (WLUC) - More than 1.2 million people visited Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (PRNL) in 2020. Visitation broke the previous park record of 858,715 set in 2019.

Across the country, more than 237 million people visited national parks last year. Visitation at most parks decreased when compared to 2019 figures. But fourteen National Park Service (NPS) sites in addition to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, experienced record crowds and welcomed new visitors in 2020 including two others in Michigan: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and River Raisin National Battlefield Park.

The 41% increase in PRNL visitors over 2019 was likely due to COVID-19 and travelers’ desires to find some open spaces. Spring 2020 numbers were down compared to the previous year, likely because of restrictions first implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but July through October were all were record breaking months at the park:

  • July 2020 up 48% over 2019
  • August 2020 up 55% over 2019
  • September 2020 up 55% over 2019
  • October 2020 up 122% over 2019

Pictured Rocks says trails, beaches, overlooks and open spaces provided safe ways for visitors to recreate, get some fresh air and stay active.

“This past year has reminded us how important national parks and public lands are to overall wellbeing,” said NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge. “Throughout the country, national parks provided close-to-home opportunities for people to spend much needed time outdoors for their physical and psychological health.”

The top three most visited NPS sites were: Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina (14.1 million), Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California (12.4 million), and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee (12.1 million).

In 2019, national park visitor spending contributed more than $41.7 billion to the U.S. economy. At Pictured Rocks NL, park visitors spent an estimated $38.1 million in 2019 in local gateway communities. These expenditures supported 477 jobs and $11.7 million in labor income according to last year’s National Park Service Visitor Spending Effects report. The 2020 report on the economic benefits from visitor spending is expected later this year.

At Pictured Rocks NL, visitation has been on the rise since 2015.

At Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, visitation has been on the rise since 2015.
At Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, visitation has been on the rise since 2015.(WLUC/PRNL)

For an in-depth look at 2020 and past years visitation statistics for Pictured Rocks NL and other national park sites, go to the National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics website.

The NPS Social Science Program is responsible for coordinating visitation statistics reporting for units administered by the NPS. To learn more, please visit the National Park Service Social Science website.

For more information about Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, click here.

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 423 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

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