KALISPELL — Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) officials are reminding those visiting Montana’s favorite recreation areas to do their part in respecting the land. “It’s a big reason why people come from all over the world, to enjoy our trails and our lakes and rivers and parks," FWP spokesman Dillon Tabish told MTN News.
Montana State Parks recorded more than 3.4 million visitors in 2020, a 29% increase over 2019, and Tabish says park officials expect another busy season this summer. “Based on flights coming in from out of state, just the interest we’re hearing from our local lodging establishments it sounds like for sure we’re going to have a busy summer with a lot of people,” said Tabish.
Tabish noted that visitors can do their part to keep parks safe and clean by leaving no trace of garbage behind, respecting wildlife and keeping pets and campfires under control. “We would hate to see these summers that our just filled with smoke and you can’t really get outside and enjoy these amazing places so, making sure your campfires out, making sure you’re not contributing to any potential wildfires,” said Tabish.
Tabish said it’s up to all visitors and community members to hold each other accountable when visiting these cherished lands.
“Now more than ever we really want to be following these practices that protect the integrity of outdoor spaces, our trails, our lakes, our rivers, our parks because we would hate to see these kind of disintegrate in quality,” said Tabish.
The five most-visited state parks in 2020 were:
1- Flathead Lake State Park (all units), Flathead Lake – 471,690 visits (+32.9%)
2- Giant Springs State Park, Great Falls - 384,309 visits (+ .1%)
3- Cooney Reservoir State Park, Roberts - 359,607 visits (+104.5%)
4- Lake Elmo State Park, Billings - 231,388 visits (+27.1%)
5- Spring Meadow Lake State Park, Helena - 178,156 visits (+32%)
Here is a list of the most-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, FWP says it continues 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.”