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Montana State Parks see record visitation for 2020

Montana State Parks recorded more than 3.4 million visitors in 2020, a 29.5 percent increase over 2019.

Visitation increased every month in 2020 over 2019, despite temporary closures at a small handful of parks and the absence or sharp decline in school field trips, events and other group activities.

“These record-setting visitation numbers should not come as a surprise to anyone who visited any of our parks in 2020,” said Beth Shumate, Parks Division Administrator at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. “The increased amount of people outdoors was evident, and our staff went above and beyond the call of duty to keep our parks safe and accessible. “Montana State Parks provided immediate physical and mental health relief throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Park visitation was up all around the state as people flocked to the outdoors in 2020. Here are some key visitation numbers.

The top five most visited state parks in 2020 were:
1- Flathead Lake State Park (all units), Flathead Lake – 471,690 visits (up 32.9%)
2- Giant Springs State Park, Great Falls – 384,309 visits (up .1%)
3- Cooney Reservoir State Park, Roberts – 359,607 visits (up 104.5%)
4- Lake Elmo State Park, Billings – 231,388 visits (up 27.1%)
5- Spring Meadow Lake State Park, Helena – 178,156 visits (up 32%)

State Park Visitation Snapshot for 2020: Below is a list of the most highly visited state parks around the state:

Northwest Montana: Flathead Lake State Park (all units) had the highest visitation in the region with an estimated 471,690 visits, an increase of 32.9% over the same time period last year.

Western Montana: Placid Lake State Park had the highest visitation in the region with an estimated 90,179 visits, an increase of 33.2% over the same time period last year.

Southwest Montana: Missouri Headwaters State Park had the highest visitation in the region with an estimated 70,917 visits, an increase of 36.6% over the same time period last year.

Central Montana: Giant Springs State Park had the highest visitation in the region, with an estimated 384,309 visits, an increase of 0.1% over the same time period last year.

South central Montana: Cooney Reservoir State Park had the highest visitation in the region with an estimated 359,607 visits, an increase of 104.5% over the same time period last year.

Eastern Montana: Makoshika State Park had the highest visitation in the region with an estimated 128,288 visits, an increase of 50.4% over the same time period last year.

Though the increased visitation in 2020 was remarkable and unique, it does continue a trend over the past decade. State park visitation has increased 83 percent over the last 10 years.

“While we don’t know what 2021 has in store for us, we will continue to manage Montana’s state park system with public safety and the safety of our staff as our highest priority,” said FWP director Hank Worsech. “We know how much people value all the amenities we offer and we look forward to another year of welcoming visitors to enjoy Montana’s outdoor opportunities.”

To view the complete report visit: https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/about-state-parks and click on ‘Parks Planning & Reports.’