The numbers are in for the first part of 2022, and it looks like visits to Montana state parks are down almost 9 percent from last year. The reason - weather. Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) officials point to the long-lasting cold weather of winter that has stretched through in the spring.

Still, the number of people who visited the state parks that are open during the early part of the year is still higher than pre-pandemic figures in 2019. The total was 358.230 visitors from January through April. That's down from last year, but still about 9 percent above the total of 2020 and a whopping 62 percent above 2019, before COVID-19 worked its evil ways.

There were familiar parks in the top five again:

  • 1. Giant Springs State Park at Great Falls.
  • 2. Spring Meadow Lake State Park near Helena.
  • 3. Flathead Lake State Parks (all units).
  • 4. Cooney Reservoir State Park, Roberts.
  • 5. Lake Elmo State Park, Billings.
  • The number-crunchers at FWP reported the highest number of visitors were in the North-central Region of the state (region 4) with over 137,000 people, which was the lowest regional division decrease - only 1.1 percent.

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    Hope Stockwell, Parks and Outdoor Recreation Division administrator, said the lower visitor numbers, along with cooler temperatures and some moisture. actually benefited the habitat and resources at the public sites. She also said in a news release, "We appreciate our users continuing to recreate responsibly and practicing 'Leave No Trace' principles during their visits."

    The numbers come from 41 state parks in Montana. Some state parks were not open during the first quarter, such as Fort Owen State Park near Stevensville. And, once the cold weather decides to lessen its hold, FWP expects visitation to skyrocket again.

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