Jul 20, 2022 - Things to Do

National parks bring $870 million to Tennessee

Visitor spending at Tennessee National Parks in 2021, by category
Data: National Park Service; Chart: Axios Visuals

Nature lovers who visited National Parks Service land in Tennessee last year spent $870 million in the surrounding communities, according to a new federal report.

  • That money helped support more than 11,700 jobs, the federal agency says.

Driving the news: The Parks Service released a report last month tracing the economic ripple effects from national parks, monuments, recreation areas and other sites it oversees.

  • You can dive into state and park data online.

State of play: Tennessee ranked seventh in the country for park visitor spending, with more than 11 million visits to national park sites within our borders.

  • Spending has been on an upward swing in the state for several years, although it dipped slightly at the beginning of the pandemic.
  • Most of the money went toward lodging, restaurants and gas.

The intrigue: The Great Smoky Mountains drew more spending than any other location in the national system.

  • The sprawling park brought in nearly $1.3 billion in visitor spending — although the total was divided between Tennessee and our neighbors in North Carolina.

Zoom in: Natchez Trace Parkway, which starts in Nashville and weaves through Alabama and Mississippi, counted 6.4 million visitors and $178 million in spending across three states.

  • Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro drew more than 365,000 visits and $23.8 million in spending.

What they're saying: "Tennessee's 13 national parks are transformative to communities as they drive jobs, visitor spending and economic value," Tennessee Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Mark Ezell tells Axios.

Zoom out: Nationwide, nearly 300 million people spent more than $20 billion in the communities surrounding national park areas in 2021.

💭 Adam's thought bubble: I love living so close to the Natchez Trace Parkway. Every year, I pick a day to make some of the scenic drive when the autumn leaves are at their most vibrant.

  • It doesn't hurt that you can bookend your visit with a biscuit from the Loveless Cafe.
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