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Study: Park service units bring $316 million to state

The four National Park Service units in or partly in Nevada generate $316 million for the state’s economy, according to a report by Outdoorsy.

Great Basin National Park, Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, Death Valley National Park (shared with California) and Lake Mead National Recreation Area (shared with Arizona) combine for almost 5.8 million visits annually.

Lake Mead NRA is the sixth-most visited unit of the National Park Service, with almost 7.5 million visitors. Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California, Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains National Park — the nation’s most visited national park — in Tennessee and North Carolina, Gateway National Recreation Area in New Jersey and New York and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. are the only units that draw more visitors than Lake Mead.

Overall, the NPS oversees 422 units, including parks, monuments, memorials, battlefields and historic sites. In fact, less than one-third of the annual visits to NPS units are to the 62 national parks.

In a typical year, there are 330 million visitors to NPS units, netting $40 billion in economic activity and supporting more than 340,000 jobs. Gateway towns near parks throughout the country are supported by tourists at hotels, restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations, and in many places, national parks provide a safe vacation experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, 2020 saw nearly a 25% decline in visits to NPS units, dealing serious blows to businesses in many of those gateway towns.

Death Valley visitation

In Death Valley National Park, the park received 1,740,945 recreational visitors in 2019. This made it the 16th most visited NPS national park and the 51st most visited NPS park overall, according to data from Outdoorsy.

Pahrump is a gateway town to Death Valley and sits at what’s known as the Ryan entrance.

“State Route 160, Las Vegas to Pahrump, is the most scenic route to Death Valley National Park,” said Arlette Ledbetter, tourism director at the town of Pahrump. “Visitation by way of Pahrump, at the Ryan entrance, accounts for over 50% of the travel to the park. It’s really a nice road trip to visit Death Valley for a day of hiking and exploring. Begin or finish the trip with a stay in Pahrump and enjoy a relaxing evening by having dinner and wine tasting at one of our wineries. Death Valley enjoyed over 1.7 million visitors in 2019. Pahrump is one of several entryway communities to Death Valley National Park. All of the communities enjoy increased visitation and visitor spending as a result of park enthusiasts.”

Outdoorsy ranked California as the best state for national park trips. The Golden State’s NPS units draw more than 39 million visitors generating nearly $4.3 billion during visits to 28 sites. The District of Columbia ranks second, followed by New York, Alaska and Virginia. The states at the bottom of the ranking are mostly smaller ones: Delaware is 51st, with New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont and Rhode Island just above it.

Nevada is ranked 39th, between Kansas and Maine.

Outdoorsy’s methodology used data from NPS’ “National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics” to find the states that offer the best access to the National Park System. The researchers ranked states based on the number of NPS-managed parks partially or fully contained within a state, annual visits to NPS parks in each state, the economic benefit from NPS tourism and details from the most-visited park in each state.

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