TUPELO – The government shutdown didn’t stop people from flocking to the Natchez Trace Parkway in 2013.
More than 6.01 million people used and visited the Natchez Trace last year, up from the 5.56 million visitors in 2012.
This made the Natchez Trace Parkway the eighth most visited National Park Service site. When the non-recreational user numbers, such as commuters in the Tupelo and Ridgeland areas, are added to the equations, more than 14.7 million people used the Parkway in 2013.
“Since we started keeping statistics for recreational users on the Parkway in 1953, more than 425.6 million visitors have used the Parkway,” said Superintendent Mary Risser. “That doesn’t include those individuals who use the Parkway as part of their daily commute. The Natchez Trace Parkway has numerous recreational activities to match any interest or experience level. Whether camping, motorcycling, hiking, biking, boating, fishing or horseback riding, there are countless opportunities to experience the history, culture, and natural resources of the area.
The Parkway’s 87 miles of trails contain 52 short nature trails and four segments of the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, which is available for longer hikes. The Parkway Visitor Center in Tupelo also hosts monthly programs, including Dulcimer Days and Junior Ranger activities.
Besides recreational users, the Parkway is also used as an educational resource by students and teachers. In 2013, almost 4,000 children visited the Parkway on school field trips.
A relatively new type of Parkway patron is the virtual visitor, who visits on the Internet. The official Natchez Trace Parkway website has about 50,000 visitors per month, and the Natchez Trace Parkway Facebook page has more than 2,000 followers, reaching 300 to 400 people per day.