Centennial Year Brings Record Numbers to Parks

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During the National Park Service’s centennial year in 2016, visitors logged a record-breaking 331 million visits and spent more than 1.4 billion hours enjoying NPS sites nationwide, according to official numbers announced by the National Park Service last week.

Rio Grand river, Big Bend National Park

Rio Grand river, Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park’s visitation was 388,290 in 2016, a 2% increase from last year. The park saw the biggest increase in visitors coming to visitor centers, from 146,685 in 2015 to 219,839 in 2016, which is a 50% increase. This might indicate that many of the visitors during the centennial year were new to the park, seeking out information and orientation provided at these contact stations. During the centennial year, Big Bend NP provided increased opportunities for visitors to connect to the park in new ways. Events included an astronomy weekend, Junior Ranger events, BioBlitz activities, Instameets, and a Centennial Showcase with booths that included learning about the park and park jobs, from trail work to search and rescue operations.

Fort Davis National Historic Site’s visitation saw an increase over the past year as well. Approximately 53,000 people explored the park in 2016, an increase of about 8% over recent years. Special activities for the centennial year included a “Cannon Ball” 5K Run, Junior Ranger events, a ceremony to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the “Buffalo Soldiers,” a visit by the Texas Camel Corps, and a Naturalization Ceremony, where 10 people became U.S. citizens. Visitors to Fort Davis generate about $4 million dollars income to the local area.

“Over our centennial year it was exciting to see new and returning park visitors engaging with the park and appreciating what is protected and preserved here,” says Big Bend NP Acting Superintendent Vidal Davila. “We look forward to fostering connections with these places for the generations to come.” Fort Davis NHS Superintendent Barney Riley agrees.
Part of the success of the centennial year comes from promotions done by the Find Your Park/Encuentra Tu Parque campaign and the National Park Foundation. For more information on visitation trends, see the National Park Service social