Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

Department name when degree awarded

Forest Resources

Committee Chair(s)

Mark W. Brunson


Mark W. Brunson


Dale J. Blahna


Michael Timmons


Visitors expect to a gain high-quality outdoor experiences at any recreation site they visit. In order to support that effort, most recreation managers utilize interpretive facilities to educate and inform visitors about the site. It is important for interpretive managers to be aware of what kind of interpretive media could best be used in a given setting for the type of visitor anticipated. To accomplish this goal, it is necessary to understand visitors' behavior and incorporate that understanding into the interpretive planning process.

This study looks at visitor use of interpretive facilities provided at Fossil Butte National Monument, Wyoming. The primary method of data-gathering for this study was observation (participant observation and behavioral mapping). Observations were made at randomly selected times over 63 hours of observation in 1995. Data were collected at three locations: Fossil Butte visitor center, Fossil Lake self-guided trail, and roadside displays. Analysis was made using descriptive statistics for quantitative data and content analysis for qualitative data.

A 13-minute audiovisual program was the most attractive interpretive facility at the visitor center. Other popular activities in the center include: examing standing displays on paleontology, asking information or directions, taking pictures, making purchases, and certain activities for children. Nature trail hiking usually was done in conjunction with use of nearby picnic facilities. More visitors in vehicles passed by the roadside display than those who stopped to read it. Based on these and other results, several recommendations are made for park managers.