Temperate weather with some cold spells in the first quarter of 2022 contributed to a slight decrease in total visitation numbers to state parks in Montana.
The state park system only recorded 358,230 visitors during the first quarter, an 8.6% decrease year-to-year from 2021. However, the number is still a 9.6% increase over the same period in 2020 and a 62% increase from 2019.
“We’re grateful for the cooler temperatures and some moisture along with the benefit that has for the habitat and resources at our sites,” said Hope Stockwell, administrator of the Parks and Outdoor Recreation Division at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
“While that may have contributed to a decrease in visitation this quarter, our numbers remain high compared to historic levels. We appreciate our users continuing to recreate responsibly and practicing ‘Leave No Trace’ principles during their visits.”
During the first quarter of 2020, the five most visited state parks were Giant Springs State Park with 79,355 visitors, Spring Meadow Lake State Park with 39,000, Flathead Lake State Park with 28,612 visitors, Cooney Reservoir State Park with 25,935 visitors, and Lake Elmo State Park with 18,081 visitors.
The visitation snapshot of first-quarter 2020 showed Northwest Montana experiencing an estimated 71,980 visitors across its eight parks. It reported visitation figures during the first quarter of this year with an estimated 13.5% decrease in visitation compared with last year.
In West Montana, the region saw an estimated 42,836 visitors across its nine parks, reporting visitation figures of an estimated 25.3% decrease in visitation compared with last year.
Southwest Montana had an estimated 21,755 visitors across its six parks, an estimated 11.3% decrease in visitation compared with last year. While North-central Montana saw an estimated 137,367 visitors across its eight parks, with visitation figures of a slight 1.1% decrease in visitation compared with last year.
Meanwhile, South-central Montana saw an estimated 51,942 visitors across its four parks, reporting visitation figures of an 11.1% decrease in visitation compared with last year.
Eastern Montana experienced an estimated 32,350 visitors across their six parks, a 9.8 percent increase in visitation compared with last year.
A complete list of state parks and their estimated visitation levels can be found in the 2022 report.
This article originally appeared on Hi-Line Today.