Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Environment and Society


Christopher A. Monz


Jennifer Peeples


Mark W. Brunson


Visitors to parks and protected areas (PPAs) engage in a variety of activities and choose different modes of travel, especially when the location itself has few limitations, such as open-water settings with relatively few backcountry visitors. Managers must understand why visitors are recreating in a particular place and the quality of their experiences in order to offer appropriate and meaningful opportunities. This study seeks to better understand visitor motivations (the “why”), to develop and measure effective indicators for evaluating the quality of visitor experiences, and to contextualize these findings with a unique investigation of historical Glacier Bay National Park data. This study contributes to current literature by exploring visitor dimensions in a coastal Alaskan park. Visitor intercept surveys were conducted for six different visitor groups. Several statistical analyses were completed, resulting in eight visitor motivations, a three-group clustering of visitors based on their motivations, and an overall report of high-quality experiences. Historical comparisons confirm that decades later visitors continue to be motivated by opportunities to experience glaciers, solitude, and natural connection and renewal; litter, cruise ships and propeller-driven aircrafts continue to be the main social factors detracting from the visitor’s overall experience; and visitors are shifting to older, highly educated, wealthy travelers.