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Arizona State Parks attendance: An interactive tour of the ups and downs

Arizona’s state parks have seen years of budget cuts resulting in temporary and seasonal closures, as well as reduced hours. Ellen Bilbrey, spokeswoman for Arizona State Parks, says visitation is the key to parks’ long-term survival. And while overall park visitation was down in 2010 compared to 2005, not all parks have seen declines. Explore the state’s 10-most-visited parks, along with Bilbrey’s perspectives, by rolling over each bar in this Cronkite News interactive graphic.

(Photos courtesy of Arizona State Parks)
  • Lake Havasu +5.64%

    Located in Lake Havasu City, this state park is consistently the most visted. A haven for boaters, the park brings in roughly 300,000 visitors annually. While visitation dropped 9 percent in 2010, park visitation is up compared to five years ago.

  • Lost Dutchman +10.53%

    Visitation to this Superstition Mountains park known for its hiking trails was down slightly in 2009 due to closures of big sections of the park, Bilbrey said. However, visitation is up compared to 2005, a trend she contributes to ongoing park improvements.

  • Catalina +34.28%

    Home to about 5,000 saguaro cactuses, this park north of Tucson has seen big gains due to increased overnight camping, Bilbrey said. “The community of Tucson has really rallied around this park,” she said. “They know that you have to keep parks busy to keep them open.”

  • Dead Horse Ranch +56.35%

    While visitation to this Verde Valley park was down 16 percent in 2010, compared to 2005 it has nearly doubled. Bilbrey attributed the increase to park improvement projects.

  • Patagonia Lake -6.44%

    This park in southeastern Arizona saw a 20 percent drop in attendance in 2010 and a slight drop from 2005. Renovations to 105 campsites are expected to increase park attendance, Bilbrey said.

  • Slide Rock -13.3%

    The park with the second-highest annual visitation, Slide Rock had a nearly 20 percent drop in attendance in 2010. Bilbrey said that could be attributed to increased park fees.

  • Cattail Cove -14.73%

    Nestled against Lake Havasu, the park’s 68 campsites keep it well visited, Bilbrey said. Although Cattail Cove State Park had an overall drop in attendance from 2005 to 2010, the park had a less than 1 percent annual drop in 2010.

  • Picacho Peak -21.65%

    While this park’s 2010 numbers were down compared to 2005, attendance was up 25 percent after its reopening following a summer 2009 closure. Bilbrey said a park closure can have a long-term effect on attendance because people may believe a reopened park is still closed.

  • Tonto Natural Bridge -21.65%

    Home to what is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world, this park had a 60 percent attendance increase in 2010 after winter damage to the park was repaired. While attendance was down overall compared to 2005, Bilbrey expects it to recover.

  • Kartchner Caverns -30.78%

    While attendance at this southeastern Arizona park featuring a largely pristine limestoneis consistenly in the top five statewide, with the exception of 2007 visitation has steadily declined since 2004.

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