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MT – Record crowds flock to state parks


It’s shaping up to be another record-breaking year for Montana’s state parks, and the six park units along the shores of Flathead Lake are no exception.

Dave Landstrom, the parks manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region One, said visitation to Flathead Lake State Park during the first half of 2016 was up about 6 percent from the same time last year, with campgrounds and parking lots filling up at an unprecedented rate.

That’s on pace to once again break the park’s all-time visitor record set by the 281,000 people who came to Flathead Lake State Park last year.

“We haven’t experienced a reduction in visitation in a quite some time,” Landstrom said. “It’s been a steady increase. … The challenge is just maintaining a quality visitor experience and keeping the facilities and campgrounds well maintained.”

Flathead Lake State Park has the second-highest level of use in the state park system, although it is managed as a collective of six separate park units: Wayfarers, West Shore, Big Arm, Yellow Bay, Finley Point and Wild Horse Island.

The trend is consistent across the state park system, which announced last week that the first six months of this year had already seen 1.3 million visitors to Montana’s 55 state parks — a 23 percent increase over 2015’s record crowds.

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