The number of recreational visits to Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks was up in 2015, while the National Park Service set a record for visits.
Overall, the National Park Service’s 409 parks saw 307.5 million recreation visits in 2015, up 5.04 percent from the 292.8 million recreation visits in 2014.
“The increasing popularity of our national parks comes as we are actively reaching out to new audiences and inviting them to explore the depth and breadth of the national park system,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a prepared statement.
The increases locally were more modest, but the annual counts were still some of the best in at least five years.
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It’s possible a new record could be set this year as the National Park Service expects an increase in visitation as it celebrates its centennial.
Difference: 1.5 percent
The annual count was the best since 2002, when the park saw more than 1.3 million recreational visits.
The statistics are somewhat skewed because the counter at the Nisqually entrance was not functioning for the first nine months of 2015. The park estimated the number of visitors coming through its busiest entrance for much of that time.
An increase of almost 40,000 visitors in the Ohanapecosh area and a 13,000 increase in the number of visitors coming through the Nisqually entrance helped offset a loss of 14,000 visitors counted at Cayuse Pass and 9,000 at White River.
Difference: 0.6 percent
This was the park’s high recreational visitor count since 2009, when there were almost 3.28 million recreational visits.
There was a large influx of visitors to the Hoh District, up almost 90,000 visitors from 2014. The Mora District, which includes Rialto Beach, saw an increase of 34,000 visitors, while the Hoodsport and Ozette districts saw a jump of 20,000 visits.
The biggest declines were in the Lake Crescent District, where visitation was off by 107,000 people, and the Elwha District, which saw a decline of about 68,000 visitors.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640