National Parks - additional information
The U.S. National Parks Service was founded in 1916 with the aim of preserving sites of natural and cultural importance. As of 2016, there were over 400 national park sites in the U.S., which include parks, memorials, historical sites and rivers. The total number of visitors to national park sites reached approximately 331 million people in 2016, although this was forecasted to drop to 311.49 million the following year.
Of all the national park sites, Blue Ridge Parkway which runs through North Carolina and Virginia received the most visits in 2015, accumulating over 15 million. In the same year, the Great Smokey Mountains which straddle the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, ranked as the third most visited national park site. The park received around 10.7 million visits, almost twice as many as the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Visitors to national parks are a valuable asset to the United States. In 2016, visitors to national parks spent around 18.38 billion U.S. dollars. In 2016, the highest share of national park visitor spending was on hotels, motels and B&B’s, which accounted for 31.2 percent. Spending at restaurants and bars was the next largest share at 20.3 percent, with the smallest proportion of spending attributed to camping fees at only 2.5 percent.