BOISE, Idaho — Idaho State Parks had a record-breaking year with 7,6571,582 people visiting the parks in 2020. The previous record was set in 2019 with 6,468,159 visitors, after several years of steady growth.
“It’s a mind-boggling number,” said Brian Beckley, chairman of the Idaho Parks and Recreation Board, which oversees the department. “Never before have we had so many people come out to our parks. But with the pandemic keeping people indoors and isolated, outdoor recreation became one of the few things people could do responsibly to beat COVID cabin fever.”
The visitation figure accounts for day users and campers, according to a news release. Beckley said it is great to see so many people experiencing some of Idaho’s most special places, but it also meant more strain and wear on park facilities and staff.
“No doubt, it’s been tough keeping up with the demand,” he said. “But our people did their best under some trying circumstances to give the public recreational opportunities.”
Parks saw the most use for day visits (7 million) but also host a large number of campers (647,743). The release says the camping figure is below the 2019 number, but the slight dip was offset by the rush of day visitors.
Campgrounds were closed for two months in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic started.
No park experienced more visitation than Lucky Peak State Park, which hosted one million visitors for the first time.
“We have an amazing staff that got us through it,” said Gary Shelley, manager of Lucky Peak and Eagle Island state parks. “I’m also proud of our visitors and our community for being so generally understanding and cooperative with the need for COVID-19 precautions. It could have gone badly, but they came out, stayed safe and had a good time.”