Nearly a quarter million people visit Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in 2023

2023 by the numbers with sunset over Lake Superior

February 26, 2024

Visitation to our national parks grew by 13 million or 4% over 2022. The long-term trend line for the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is also up.  However, a new report from the National Park Service says visits to the national lakeshore in 2023 fell slightly to 247,167 from 254,952 visits in 2022.

Some of the decrease may be related to the summer closure of park headquarters in Bayfield for construction and an issue with the counter at Meyers Beach. The park service also noted that mainland campsites 2  and 3 (along the Lakeshore trail) were opened in 2023.

Year to year recreational visits to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

The new park service visitation report says July and August continue to be the most popular months for exploring the national lakeshore. Weather during July and August tends to be warm and relatively storm-free. (Click to enlarge the graphs.)

2023 recreational visits to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore by month

The following graph shows use of “back country” island campsites which are accessible by kayak or boat. Island campers logged 10,797 overnights last year. The park service also logged 6,444 miscelaneous overnight stays.

2023 Back Countrty Overnights in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

In terms of total visits, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore ranks 180th among the 400 national park locations reporting visitors. The park continues to be an economic engine for the region. In 2022, visitors spent an estimated $45.2 million in local gateway communities. Those dollars supported a total of 623 jobs, $17.5 million in labor income, $30 million in value-added, and $56.7 million in economic output in local gateway economies. Lodging and dining accounted for nearly half of visitor spending.

2022 Visitor Spending near the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

In addition to the continued growth in national numbers, the park service says visitation is increasing in the more traditional off-seasons at many parks, with more visits in the spring and fall than seen in years past. The park service also says the recent trend in recreation visits suggests a return to more typical visitation patterns post-pandemic.

National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said in a news release, “Our national parks tell our shared American story. I’m glad visitors are finding hidden gems, exploring in the off-season and finding new ways to have a great time in our national parks.” 20 parks—many of them less well-known—broke visitation records in 2023.

The 20 parks that broke visitation records in 2023 are:

  • Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
  • Congaree National Park
  • Dry Tortugas National Park
  • Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
  • Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
  • Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument
  • John Muir National Historic Site
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Kaloko Honokōhau National Historical Park
  • Keweenaw National Historical Park
  • Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • Longfellow House Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site
  • Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park
  • Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Memorial
  • Minidoka National Historic Site
  • Mojave National Preserve
  • New River Gorge National Park & Preserve
  • Nez Perce National Historical Park
  • Ninety Six National Historic Site

You can explore the data for the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and other parks on the National Park Service website.

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