I often get asked ‘how many parks are there in the National Park Service?’ and I almost always hedge my answer because there are 417 sites (at the time of writing) but what most people are referring to when they ask the question are the 59 ‘park’ units (think headliner National Parks - if it does not have ‘National Park’ in the name it is a different kind of unit). Other types of sites or units in the NPS are parkways (Blue Ridge Parkway), recreation areas (Lake Mead National Recreation Area), seashores (Cape Cod National Seashore), battlefields (Gettysburg National Battlefield), and more.

Sunset over the Grand

Sunset over the Grand, Source: S. Prestridge

CNN Report on Visitor Statistics and Deferred Maintenance (DM)

In a recent CNN report on visitation statistics and deferred maintenance (DM) there was some confusion about the park and unit / site distinction. In the list for popular park sites, two National Parks are included - Great Smoky and Grand Canyon. Below are the two lists from the CNN article. Visitation numbers and DM estimates are included. Deferred Maintenance (DM) is maintenance and repairs of assets that was not performed when it should have been and is delayed to a future period. Across the entire NPS the DM total has reached $11.6 billion. Examining the magnitude of the DM below, it is obvious that “America’s best idea” is loved to death. Chronic underfunding, the inability to collect fees at many destinations (only 118 sites charge admission), and aging infrastructure, as well as increased visitation, all contribute to the problem.

Most Popular NPS sites (417 total)

  1. Blue Ridge Parkway (NC/VA): 16,093,765 visits ($186,619,608 deferred maintenance)

  2. Golden Gate National Recreation Area (CA): 14,981,897 visits ($325,814,011 deferred maintenance)

  3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (NC/TN): 11,388,893 visits ($64,049,392 deferred maintenance)

  4. Gateway National Recreation Area (NY/NJ): 9,190,610 visits ($788,419,471 deferred maintenance)

  5. Lincoln Memorial (DC): 7,956,117 visits ($33,868,238 deferred maintenance)

  6. Lake Mead National Recreation Area (AZ/NV): 7,882,339 visits ($205,540,564 deferred maintenance)

  7. George Washington Memorial Parkway (DC/MD/VA): 7,562,793 visits ($233,441,316 deferred maintenance)

  8. Natchez Trace Parkway (AL/MS/TN): 6,326,062 visits ($10,656,651 deferred maintenance)

  9. Grand Canyon National Park (AZ): 6,254,238 visits ($329,437,056 deferred maintenance)

  10. Vietnam Veterans Memorial (DC): 5,072,589 visits ($625,250 deferred maintenance)

Most popular National Parks (59 total)

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (NC/TN): 11,388,893 visits ($64,049,392 deferred maintenance)

  2. Grand Canyon National Park (AZ): 6,254,238 visits ($329,437,056 deferred maintenance)

  3. Zion National Park (UT): 4,504,812 visits ($65,291,893 deferred maintenance)

  4. Rocky Mountain National Park (CO): 4,437,215 visits ($84,234,245 deferred maintenance)

  5. Yosemite National Park (CA): 4,336,890 visits ($582,670,827 deferred maintenance)

  6. Yellowstone National Park (ID/MT/WY): 4,116,524 visits ($515,808,008 deferred maintenance)

  7. Acadia National Park (ME): 3,509,271 visits ($59,858,099 deferred maintenance)

  8. Olympic National Park (WA): 3,401,996 visits ($120,719,515 deferred maintenance)

  9. Grand Teton National Park (WY): 3,317,000 visits ($178,630,525 deferred maintenance)

  10. Glacier National Park (MT): 3,305,512 visits ($153,838,276 deferred maintenance)

#FindYourPark series

A few years ago the NPS had a marketing campaign around #FindYourPark and I wrote several posts in my own series.

  1. Acadia National Park

  2. Cape Cod National Seashore

  3. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

  4. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park

  5. Joshua Tree National Park

  6. Morristown National Historical Park

  7. Jefferson National Expansion Monument

  8. Monocacy National Battlefield

  9. Prince William Forest Park

  10. You can run America’s Parks

  11. Gateway National Recreation Area