Ferries and Water-Based Transportation

Water-based transportation systems are integral to the experience of visiting many national parks. In fact, in 2016 and 2017, three out of the ten highest use alternative transportation systems in the National Park Service (NPS) were water-based systems, including Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island, Alcatraz Island, and USS Arizona Memorial. These three systems accounted for nearly 15.7 million passenger boardings.

Many national park units are located on islands which are primarily accessed by ferries. These ferries provide a vital transportation link for staff and visitors to get to the parks and they allow for the delivery of food and other essential cargo. In fact, out of 33 water-based systems in 25 parks, 13 systems provide this critical access.

Interpretive tours provide visitors an opportunity to get out on the water and see a park from a different perspective while learning something about the history of the park and its resources. Thirteen systems solely provide interpretive tours while many of the other water-based systems enrich the transportation service with some kind of an educational component.

Water-based systems account for 33% of all national park transit systems. In addition to the vessels, these systems include piers, marinas, constructed waterways and other waterfront features.
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    Last updated: February 4, 2019