The core mission of the National Park Service (NPS) is to protect park resources and values and to provide for the enjoyment of parks by this and future generations. By design, parks attract a significant amount of public interest which in turn generates a stream of visitors engaging in a variety of activities at parks. Good management of parks depends on consistent, reliable, high quality information about visitor use, and monitoring that use is a fundamental responsibility of park managers. To this end, agency managers devote a significant amount of staff time and funding to manage and monitor the use of parks by visitors. Some primary concerns are how many people visit a park, what they are doing while they visit, how long they stay and characteristics of the ‘typical’ visitor.
‘Visitor Use Statistics’ refers to a formal set of statistics collected by the National Park Service that address how many people visit parks and how long they stay. The set is comprised of recreation visit counts and hours, non-recreation visit counts and hours and overnight stays by category. Recreation visits are the most used and most visible visitor use statistic for the NPS. The definition of a recreation visit is the entry of persons onto lands or waters administered by the NPS for recreation purposes. More NPS visitor use statistics definitions are available from the Visitor Use Statistics program.