Karen Tallman of Sequim looks over a collection of books about Olympic National Park and the environs of the Pacific Northwest on Friday at the park’s visitor center in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Karen Tallman of Sequim looks over a collection of books about Olympic National Park and the environs of the Pacific Northwest on Friday at the park’s visitor center in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

ONP reports more visits in 2016 than in 2015

PORT ANGELES — Olympic National Park reported growth in annual visitation for a fourth consecutive year.

Park officials reported an estimated 3,390,221 recreation visits in 2016, a 4 percent increase from the 3,263,761 million entering the park in 2015.

Visitation figures are not compiled by counting each individual visitor. Mathematical formulas and traffic counters are used to calculate the number of recreation visits in Olympic and other national parks.

For example, 20 percent of the vehicles that pass Lake Crescent on U.S. Highway 101 in the winter and early spring are counted in the visitation statistics, while 80 percent of the vehicles that pass the lake in August are considered to be entering the park for recreational use.

Each vehicle counted in the visitation statistics is multiplied by 2.6 to estimate the number of Olympic National Park guests.

The formula is more straightforward for places such as the Hoh Rain Forest and Hurricane Ridge, where each vehicle that passes the entrance gate is multiplied by 2.6.

Olympic National Park has used the same formula to count its visitors since 1994.

Last year’s visitation was the sixth most for Olympic National Park since it was designated in 1938, according to National Park Service statistics.

The only other years with higher visitation were 1997 (3.85 million), 2002 (3.69 million), 1995 (3.69 million), 1998 (3.58 million) and 2001 (3.42 million), according to park statistics.

More recently, the 922,651-acre park has seen a steady rise in reported recreation visits with 2.82 million in 2012, 3.08 million in 2013, 3.24 million in 2014 and 3.26 million in 2015.

The National Park Service reported record-breaking visitation in 2016 with 331 million recreation visits in 2016, a 7.8-percent increase from 307 million in 2015.

Of the 417 parks in the National Park Service system, 382 saw record attendance last year.

Officials attributed the reported spike in visitation to such campaigns as Find Your Park and Every Kid in a Park and the National Park Service’s centennial celebration.

“I continue to be inspired by the number of people from across the country and around the world that visit Olympic,” park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said in a Thursday news release.

“We are pleased to share the story of this special place and the experience it offers. The visitors coming to Olympic play an important role in contributing to the local economy and we are happy to have the partnership and support of our neighbors.”

Olympic National Park continued the upward trend in reported visitation despite an extended closure of Olympic Hot Springs Road at the Madison Falls trailhead.

The Elwha River washed out sections of the road in a series of storms over the past two winters, blocking vehicle access to the Elwha River valley.

Park officials noted a reported increase in backcountry campers last year. Olympic National Park had 100,347 backcountry campers in 2016, a 13.3-percent increase from 2015.

The park is divided into nine districts: Lake Cresecent, Hoh, Mora, Kalaloch, Elwha, Hoodsport, Hurricane, Ozette and Quinault.

For information on visitor statistics, click on www.tinyurl.com/PDN-parkstats.

For information on Olympic National Park, click on www.nps.gov/olym.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

ONP reports more visits in 2016 than in 2015

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