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Montana State Parks News

Fri Jan 11 14:23:00 MST 2013

Montana State Parks News

(Helena, MT) – Montana State Parks ( announced today that annual visitation for 2012 was up 7% over 2011, with more than 2 million visitors, making it the second busiest year in state parks history.

Montana State Parks annual visitation was up 10% over the 5-year trend (2008-2012) and up 25% over the 10-year trend (from 2003-2012).

“2012 was a great year for our state parks,” said Chas Van Genderen, Administrator for Montana State Parks.  “These visitation numbers are good news for Montana’s families, communities and local economies. Our families and out-of-state visitors understand the great value of our state parks as places to camp, hike, fish, and learn about Montana’s heritage, while being affordable and fun.” 

Giant Springs State Park in Great Falls had the highest visitation for the year of all state parks, with nearly 293,000 visitors, followed by Lake Elmo State Park (215,041 visitors) and Cooney State Park at (134,556 visitors), both near Billings.

Billings-area state parks saw the highest combined visitation for 2012 with more than 456,000 visitors, followed by Kalispell-area state parks with more than 442,000 visitors combined.

Our data shows that 77% of visitors in 2012 were residents while 23% of visitors were non-residents.
Resident visitors to state parks have increased 12% over the past 5 years, while out-of-state visitors have increased 34% over the past 5 years.

Annual Visitation Statistics for Montana State Parks:

Billings-area: Lake Elmo State Park had the highest visitation in this area, at 215,000 visitors, as well as the largest increase from 2011 to 2012 at 60%. Chief Plenty Coups State Park saw a 7% increase in visitation for the year with more than 36,000 visitors. Cooney State Park’s visitation decreased 8% for the year but it still had the 3rd highest visitation of all state parks at 134,556.

Eastern Montana: Makoshika State Park had the highest visitation in this area at more than 73,000 visitors, a 9% increase over 2011. From 2011 to 2012, visitation at Brush Lake State Park more than doubled from 4,000 to 9,000 visitors. Hell Creek State Park increased by 36% with more than 32,000 visitors.  A number of state parks in this area saw decreases of more than 10% in visitation, including Tongue River Reservoir, Rosebud Battlefield, and Medicine Rocks state parks.

Great Falls area: Giant Springs State Park had the highest visitation at almost 293,000 visitors, the most in the state. Although Giant Springs had the most visitors, it still decreased in visitation by 10% from the previous year. From 2011 to 2012, Sluice Boxes State Park had the largest increases in visitation at 21%, followed by Smith River State Park at 19%. First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park saw a decrease in visitation by 11% with more than 15,000 visitors.

Helena/Bozeman/Butte area: Spring Meadow Lake State Park had the highest visitation this area at more than 102,000 visitors, as well as the largest increase from 2011 to 2012 at 31%. Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park saw a 10% increase over 2011 with more than 64,000 visitors and Bannack State Park saw a 5% increase in visitation with more nearly 33,000 visitors. Missouri Headwaters State Park also saw a jump in visitation by 15% over 2011 with more than 25,000 visitors reported.

Kalispell area: Wayfarers State Park had the highest visitation in this area at 112,000 visitors, up 8% over 2011.  From 2011 to 2012, Les Mason State Park had the largest increase in visitation at 22% with more than 11,000 visitors, followed by Lake Mary Ronan State Park at 20% with more than 27,000 visitors. Lone Pine State Park increased 1% for the calendar year with more than 66,000 visitors. Visitation to Wild Horse Island State Park was down by 10%.

Missoula area: Salmon Lake and Placid Lake state parks had the highest visitation in this area with over 45,000 visitors at each park. Salmon Lake State Park had the largest increase from 2011 to 2012 at 32%. Travelers’ Rest State Park saw more than 24,000 visitors, an increase in 14% over 2011. Visitation to Lost Creek State Park was down by 19%.

Visit Montana State Parks ( and enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, swimming, boating and more and discover some of the greatest natural and cultural treasures on earth.

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A Division of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Jennifer Lawson
Marketing and Communications Manager,
Montana State Parks
(406) 444-3818