For the third straight year, attendance at North Carolina’s state parks and state recreation areas hovered at a record level with 14.2 million visits in 2013. Among 40 state parks and state recreation areas, 19 reported increases in attendance in 2013. Fort Macon State Park in Carteret County reported the highest attendance at 1.19 million visits, followed closely by Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Dare County with 1.18 million visits.
“Throughout fluctuations in the economy and the tourism industry, visitation at state parks has remained steady and robust, and that reflects the value North Carolinians place on outdoor experiences and the state’s rich natural resources,” said Carol Tingley, acting state parks director. “Also, visitation at this level reveals the strong contribution that our state parks make to North Carolina’s tourism economy as well as the economies of the local communities in which they’re located.”
A recent economic study revealed that travelers spend an average $23.56 a day to enjoy the state parks. The analysis by North Carolina State University’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management estimated the state parks system’s total annual economic impact at more than $400 million.
Over the past 25 years, the state parks system has seen a dramatic 80 percent increase in visitation. In 1988, 7.89 million people visited state parks and state recreation areas.
Weather over the course of a year can have a significant impact on state park attendance. Heavy rains in late spring and early summer dampened visitation at many parks, but otherwise the system was not affected by winter storms or tropical storms or hurricanes during 2013. Several relatively new state parks reported strong attendance, especially Carvers Creek State Park in Cumberland County with 38.740 visitors since it opened in September. Mayo River State Park in Rockingham County experienced a 69 percent jump in visitation, while Dismal Swamp State Park in Camden County reported visitation up 40 percent.
Here are the complete year-end totals for each state park.