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Montana state parks drew more than 3 million visitors in 2021

Kayla Desroches
Yellowstone Public Radio
A view from Makoshika State Park in Glendive taken in August 2020.

Montana state parks saw their second highest visitation rate last year following 2020’s record-setting numbers.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks says state parks recorded 3.4 million visitors in 2021, down about one percent from 2020.

FWP lists the following five state parks as the most popular last year:

  • Giant Springs (Great Falls) 414,889
  • Flathead Lake-all units (Kalispell) 339,631
  • Cooney Reservoir (Roberts) 263,691
  • Spring Meadow Lake (Helena) 254,141
  • Lake Elmo (Billings) 212,916

Cooney drew nearly 27% fewer visitors in 2021 compared to 2020.

FWP notes that last year’s drought and smoke could have affected visitation. Last summer, the Robertson Draw fire burned nearly 30,000 acres south of the Cooney Reservoir in the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

In eastern Montana, Makoshika State Park ranked in the state’s top ten most visited parks and attracted more than 150,000 sightseers.

FWP says that while COVID-19 likely factored into the numbers, data show park visitation has trended upwards in recent years alongside interest in outdoor recreation.