Visitor Use

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Visitors walk on path to a sequoia tree
Social scientists measure the experience (perceptions of quality of services, crowding, importance of activities offered, for example) of visitors to the park.

“…which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” –The Organic Act of 1916, which established the National Park Service

Providing high-quality visitor experiences has always been a core principle of the national parks. However, with increasing visitation across the NPS in recent years, visitor use can also endanger the natural and cultural resources that parks exist to conserve and protect—not just trees and waterfalls, but also less tangible resources such as a sense of solitude or the experience of wilderness. Given the complexity of visitation in a park like Yosemite, social science methods provide us with tools to understand how visitor behavior and characteristics affect park resources, and help manage visitor use to avoid excessive impact levels.

Studies of visitor use using social science methods may include:

  • Documenting and modeling pedestrians;
  • Modeling transportation modes and systems;
  • Understanding visitor demographics, trip and visit characteristics;
  • Evaluating visitor services and facilities, expenditures, and opinions about selected issues via surveys; quantifying resource impacts under a variety of use levels;
  • Understanding visitor perceptions of crowding, wait times and various levels of service.

As part of this effort, the Visitor Use & Impact Monitoring Program conducts research on those topics, among others, to inform visitor use management and planning. In addition, a number of visitor-use studies and reports (listed below) provide Yosemite with crucial data to ensure high-quality visitor experiences while mitigating impacts on the park itself.

 
infrared trail counter affixed to tree
An infrared trail counter helps scientists track the use of various park areas.

Visitor Use Studies

Annual visitor surveys on visitor satisfaction are conducted as part of the Government Performance and Results Act. Examine reports from other years by searching in the NPS Data Store.

In the winter of 2008 and the summer of 2009, a more in-depth visitor study was conducted at Yosemite by researchers from the University of Idaho. Check out more documents relating to these studies, as well as a 2005 summer visitor study.

In 2012, the report "Boats, Beaches, and River Banks: Visitor Evaluations of Recreation on the Merced River in Yosemite Valley" [6 MB PDF], was released as part of Merced River Plan research.

 

Other Statistics

 

References

Last updated: August 2, 2021

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