Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Environment and Society
In Rocky Mountain National Park (ROMO), visitation has increased by over 1 million visitors per year over the last 5 years (NPS Stats, 2021). Park managers are especially concerned about the impacts of crowded conditions in the Bear Lake region of the park where hiking and fishing are common activities and those participants may perceive crowding differently (Kainzinger et al., 2015). Therefore, this study focuses on describing the perceptions of crowding and potential displacement of hikers and anglers. Additionally, to aid in park-visitor communication, specifically for hikers and anglers, this study also addresses how visitors are getting information about the park.
During July 2017, researchers from Utah State University administered a post-experience survey to hikers and anglers at the Fern Lake, Glacier Gorge, and Bear Lake trailheads (Figure 2). Survey participants were asked about:
- Experience use history at the park, group size and activities
- Sources of information and associated usefulness
- Expectations of visitation levels, desirability of alternate locations, and what circumstances would make them change their activity, location or both
- Importance of select experiences, and where they would go in the park to have select experiences
One-hundred and sixty-two hikers were asked to complete the hiker survey and 141 surveys were completed, resulting in a response rate for hikers was 87%. Thirty-five anglers were asked to the complete the angler survey, and 31 surveys were completed. The response rate for anglers was 89%. A summary of the report findings is provided below.
- Neither the hikers nor anglers surveyed resemble the general population in Colorado or the U.S., both groups were younger, less racially and ethnically diverse, more educated, and wealthier on average. Anglers were predominantly male.
- Both hikers and anglers tended to be repeat visitors, travel in groups of two, and engage in multiple activities such as hiking, photography, and wildlife observation. Hikers also reported planning to participate in scenic driving.
- Both hikers and anglers most often reported gathering information from park maps and pamphlets. Other common sources were talking with park staff, and previous visits.
- Both hikers and anglers reported expecting the same amount of visitation they experienced during their trip and rated other locations in ROMO to be equally desirable. Hikers and anglers were both unlikely to change their activity or location if they experienced crowding. Anglers were more likely to leave ROMO in order to fish rather than do a different activity within ROMO.
- Both hikers and anglers indicated that connecting with nature and viewing scenic beauty were extremely important experiences for them. Anglers also indicated that having an enjoyable fishing experience was extremely important. In general, both hikers and anglers indicated that the Bear Lake Road corridor could offer a variety of experiences.
Because visitors reported that the Bear Lake Road corridor could offer many of the experiences they find important, and because visitors reported that they would be unlikely to leave the park if they felt crowded, other measures crowding or congestion like hourly visitation rate for example, may be more useful to managers than visitor perception-based measures and thresholds. In addition, onsite methods for communicating with visitors seem to be effective, and increased efforts to get information to visitors prior to their trip may benefit from focusing on the park website and other online sources.
Graham, Robin; Miller, Anna; and Monz, Christopher, "Post-Experience Survey of Backcountry Anglers and Hikers in Rocky Mountain National Park" (2021). All Graduate Plan B and other Reports. 1569.
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