HELENA — New numbers from Montana State Parks managers confirm what park users have been noticing this pandemic year, namely that parks have been much busier than usual.
Once some of the lockdowns started to end back at the start of summer, people rushed to get outside and Montana parks saw a steady stream of visitors all season long.
New numbers from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), show visitation up by 25% compared with the same January through June period last year. And that doesn't even reflect the bulk of the summer traffic.
Giant Springs State Park in Great Falls was the most visited park during that stretch but the units of Flathead Lake State Park were the second busiest overall, with a 29% jump in traffic to more than 159,000 visits.
Parks Administrator Beth Shumate praised parks staff and volunteers for going "above and beyond" to keep the parks open during what she calls a "time of uncertainty."
The biggest increase in visits during the first half of the year was at Makoshika State Park in Eastern Montana, where visits increased more than 59% over last year.