Chip Jenkins, superintendent of the North Cascades National Park Complex, believes visitation was up in 2010, but determining just how much is difficult because of a change in counting methods.
Overall in 2010, there were 746,644 recreational visits to the complex that includes North Cascades National Park, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area and Ross Lake National Recreation Area. That is up from the official count of 349,984 visits in 2009.
The issue, Jenkins said, is park staffers are now including a count of visitors who travel along state Route 20. The change resulted in a 136.7 percent visitation increase in the Ross Lake area compared with 2009.
“Previously it was just people who used a park facility, like a visitor center or campground,” Jenkins said of those who were counted.
While acknowledging that the difference was caused by the change in counting, Jenkins said anecdotal evidence indicates actual visitation also was up last year.
“Our staff that runs the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount said they had their busiest year since they started counting in 1997,” he said.
“We had a pretty cool and wet start to the summer, but generally the campgrounds were fuller.”
“I think visitation, whether it is up, down or sidewise, I don’t think there is ever just one thing that contributes to it. Weather is definitely one major factor,” Jenkins. “But in the past several years, North Cascades National Park has been very deliberate in providing info to people and encouraging them to visit and I think we’re seeing some of the results of that.”