Shutdown Caused National Park Visits to Drop

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The Grand Canyon (Image credit:

Thanks to the government shutdown and Hurricane Sandy, America's national parks saw a three percent drop in visitors last year compared to 2012, the National Park Service announced today (March 10).

According to the statement, more than 5 million people were turned away from parks and monuments within the National Park System in October, when a budget impasse froze the federal government for 16 days. "These closures had a real impact on local businesses and communities that rely on the national parks as important drivers for their local economies," Jonathan Jarvis, NPS director, said in a statement.

Communities near the national parks lost about $414 million dollars, according to a different report released last week by the NPS. Five states — California, Arizona, North Carolina, Wyoming and Virginia — each lost at least $20 million because of park closures, the park service said. The shutdown forced closures during the peak fall foliage season in the East and prime fall weather in the West.

The NPS reported 273.6 million visits at 401 parks, down 9.1 million visits from 2012, in today's announcement. Another change in 2013: Golden Gate National Recreation Area won the top spot as the nation's most visited park, beating out the Blue Ridge Parkway. The NPS said visitation to the Blue Ridge Parkway fell by 2.5 million people in 2013 due to Hurricane Sandy-related closures and cold winter weather. Damage from Hurricane Sandy also forced the closures of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Castle Clinton in New York for part of 2013.

Here are the top 10 most visited places in the National Park System in 2013:

  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area: 14,289,121 visitors
  • Blue Ridge Parkway: 12,877,368
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 9,354,695
  • George Washington Memorial Parkway: 7,360,392
  • Lincoln Memorial: 6,546,518
  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area: 6,344,714
  • Gateway National Recreation Area: 6,191,246
  • Natchez Trace Parkway: 6,012,740
  • Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park: 4,941,367
  • Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area: 4,843,350

Here are the top 10 most visited sites with the "national park" designation in 2013:

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 9,354,695 visitors
  • Grand Canyon National Park: 4,564,840
  • Yosemite National Park: 3,691,191
  • Yellowstone National Park: 3,188,030
  • Olympic National Park: 3,085,340
  • Rocky Mountain National Park: 2,991,141
  • Zion National Park: 2,807,387
  • Grand Teton National Park: 2,688,794
  • Acadia National Park: 2,254,922
  • Glacier National Park: 2,190,374

Email Becky Oskin or follow her @beckyoskin. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Becky Oskin
Contributing Writer
Becky Oskin covers Earth science, climate change and space, as well as general science topics. Becky was a science reporter at Live Science and The Pasadena Star-News; she has freelanced for New Scientist and the American Institute of Physics. She earned a master's degree in geology from Caltech, a bachelor's degree from Washington State University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz.