Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Environment and Society

Committee Chair(s)

Steven W. Burr


Steven W. Burr


Dale J. Blahna


E. Helen Berry


Christopher A. Monz


This thesis presents a reanalysis of data collected between 1999 and 2006 by the Institute for Outdoor Recreation and Tourism (IORT) at Utah State University. These data concern a variety of outdoor recreation sites in Utah, Idaho, and South Dakota, and were collected via intercept, mail, and, to a very limited extent, telephone surveys. Survey instruments contained questions related to visitor perceptions of crowding, overall satisfaction, support for use limits/rationing, and estimates of use density, in addition to other conceptually related factors. Analyses consisted of multiple regression models for both perceived crowding and visitor support for use limits dependent variables for each suitable data set. These were intended to ascertain the dependent variables' relationships with various factors hypothesized to contribute to both crowding perceptions and a perceived need for use limits--notably variations in use level. This thesis also incorporated bivariate and univariate analyses intended to investigate the relationship between perceived crowding and satisfaction, reasons for respondent support for use limits, and the potential of displacing visitors to similar recreation sites via use rationing. Side-by-side comparison of results yielded several interesting findings. First, use level was the variable most consistently showing a statistically significant association with perceived crowding. However, the amount of variation explained by use level variables was small, particularly from a managerial perspective. Results suggested support for use limits may have more to do with fears about potential changes in future conditions than actual on-site crowding. Results were not suggestive of a strong or consistent relationship between perceived crowding and satisfaction. Apprehensions about crowding were the most prevalent stated reason for respondents' support of use rationing, but concerns about safety at motorized (land- and water-based) sites were also a major factor, as was recreational conflict, though to a lesser extent. Results of all analyses highlighted the uniqueness of each study area. Overall, results suggested crowding-based recreational carrying capacities may lack utility as a generalized management framework and are perhaps best reserved for sites specifically managed for low use levels or solitude experiences. Results also support calls for regional scale, rather than site-specific, recreation planning.