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Estimating visitor use in the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park




Bates, Matthew L., author
Vaske, Jerry, advisor
Wallace, George, committee member
Coleman, Robert, committee member

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This study estimated the number of visitors to the backcountry areas of Rocky Mountain National Park (ROMO), using an active infrared monitoring system. Techniques for conducting this type of visitor use estimation in not only a national park, but also in rugged wilderness areas are presented and include; proper placement of field equipment and the calibration to correct monitor error. Conducted during the summer and fall seasons of 2002, 2003 and 2004 the use estimation study utilized active infrared monitors placed at 59 locations along the major trails leading into the backcountry and other locations of interest to park staff. Monitors operated continuously during data collection. The highest visitor numbers were recorded in the Bear Lake area totaling 287,125 with most of this use occurring at the Alberta Falls area (140,083). Other areas of interest include the Longs Peak area where use at the trailhead was estimated at approximately 42,000 visitors while use at the summit via the Keyhole Route was approximately 11,600. Visitor numbers on the western side of ROMO were considerably lower only accounting for roughly 13% of total visitors recreating in the parks' backcountry. Results from this study provided park staff with actual backcountry visitor numbers allowing them to make informed decisions regarding the Park's trail systems. Further, this study provided a model for ROMO to replicate for future use estimation. Results from the three year use estimation study conducted at ROMO are discussed with implications for the park and other protected areas.


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natural resources
visitor estimation
use estimation
parks management


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