National Lakeshore delivers record-setting boost to northern Wisconsin economy

Bayfield business storefronts

October 17, 2022

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore provides unmatched natural beauty, rich cultural history and amazing adventures, but that’s not all. The park is an economic engine, generating nearly $64 million for the economies of gateway communities along the south shore of Lake Superior in 2021.

Park Headquarters

Park Headquarters – Bob Jauch photo

The National Park Service released a report in August on the economic impact of national parks on their surrounding communities.

The report says 291,000 people visited the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in 2021. They spent money on places to stay, food to eat, fuel and travel, and recreational activities to enjoy. 2022 numbers will be released sometime next year.

Trip-related spending helped a wide variety of local businesses thrive. Those businesses bought supplies and services, as did their employees. All of this economic activity multiplies the positive impact of those original visitor dollars.

Up North Store
Howl Downtown

Bayfield businesses
Bob Jauch photos

Keeper of the Light

Researchers estimated park visitor spending in eight areas:

● Lodging (includes hotels, motels, and specialty lodging)
● Camping fees
● Restaurants
● Groceries
● Gas
● Transportation (includes local transportation only)
● Recreation Industries (includes equipment rental, amusement activities, and guides and tour fees)
● Retail (includes souvenirs, sporting goods, and other retail purchases)

This pie chart shows where the money was spent in communities around the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.


Visitor spending graph - 2021 economic impact

Visitors spent $11.5 million in area restaurants, $12.3 million on lodging, $6.3 million on gas, $5.9 million on transportation and a combined 10.2 million on retail and groceries. They spent almost $3 million on recreational industries. – NPS chart

All told, the park service says spending by park visitors supported  705 jobs within a 60 mile radius of the park in northern Wisconsin.

Jobs created graph - 2021 economic impact

Visitor spending directly supported 175 restaurant jobs, 137 lodging jobs, 52 recreation jobs, 64 retail jobs, 58 transportation jobs, 28 camping jobs and 21 grocery jobs. – NPS chart

The park service says those jobs generated $19.7 million in labor income. The overall total economic output was $63.8 million. 2021 was a record setter for the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. 

Economic output graph - 2021 economic impact
Graph of Yearly Economic Output

Nationally, tbe park system received over 297 million recreation visits last year (up 25% from 2020 as pandemic protocols eased.) Visitors spent an estimated $20.5 billion in local gateway regions (up 41% from 2020.)

Greunkes Restaurant exterior
Bayfield Inn

As was the case locally, lodging and restaurant businesses saw the highest direct effects, at $7 billion and $4.2 billion respectively.

The NPS has been measuring and reporting visitor spending and economic effects for more than 30 years. Read the full report on 2021 here. (Adobe Acrobat Reader or another PDF reader is required.) Explore interactive tools to see the economic impact of other National Parks on the NPS website.

Local businesses benefit when people have great experiences in the park and come back again and again. We would like to thank those businesses who support the park through the Friends Business membership program. Learn more about how you can get your business involved by reading about the benefits here.

Friends Business Members logo

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