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Visitor Survey: Acadia National Park


With its wave-pounded shorelines and picturesque carriage paths, Acadia National Park is popular with families. Top photo NPS, bottom photo by QT Luong,, used with permission.

Acadia National Park, with its rocky coastlines, thickly forested and mountainous interior, and great hiking trails and cycling paths, appears to be popular with young families, according to a survey.

The study conducted in August 2009 by the Park Studies Unit at the University of Idaho reports that nearly a quarter of the visitors to Acadia that month were 15 years old or younger. Just 8 percent were 66 years or older. The overall demographic snapshot of Acadia's visitors showed a slightly younger crowd than that at Grand Teton National Park, where a 2008 survey showed that 11 percent of visitors were above 65, and just 19 percent were 15 or younger.

The Acadia survey shows that Mount Desert Island with its national park, granite mountains, and wave-pounded shores is popular with Massachusetts residents despite their own state's Cape Cod: Fifteen percent of those surveyed were from the Bay State, the highest percentage of any one state during the survey period. Maine residents accounted for 14 percent of the visitors.

There is no in-park lodging at Acadia. As a result, most visitors either camp in one of the park's two campgrounds or stay in one of the towns surrounding the park. Thirty percent of the respondents said they chose to stay in a hotel or motel, while 18 percent opted for a private campground outside the park, with another 18 percent staying in one of Acadia's campgrounds.

Just 13 percent rented a cabin or house for their vacation.

The vacations were relatively short, though, with 40 percent reporting that they visited the park for four to seven hours, and 42 percent saying they stayed two to three days. The average length of stay in the park was 70 hours (2.9 days) and average length of stay on Mount Desert Island was 100.1 hours (4.2 days), according to the survey.

The survey seemed to indicate many visitors had a familiarity with Acadia. While exactly half of the 854 respondents said they were visiting the park for the first time, 31 percent had visited four times or more. Sixty-one percent of the respondents said they were returning to Acadia after a five-year hiatus, while 21 percent said they had visited two or three times in the past five years, with 18 percent stating they had visited four or more times during that time-frame.

The survey also indicated that "the most common sites visited by visitor groups were Cadillac Mountain summit (75 percent) and Jordan Pond House and area (67 percent). The most common visitor activities were sightseeing/driving for pleasure (83 percent) and hiking on trails (79 percent)."

"The most commonly used visitor services and facilities were directional signs outside the park (82 percent) and restrooms (81 percent)," noted the survey. "Eighty-two percent rated the quality of the park website as “very good” or “good.”

Though just 19 percent said they had attended a ranger-led program during their stay, of all respondents 79 percent said they "were interested in interpretive/ranger-led programs on a future visit. Fifty-three percent were willing to pay a modest fee to attend a program."

In case park officials are wondering what interpretive programs they should bolster, 61 percent of those surveyed indicated an interest in learning about the park's tidal areas during a future visit, while 59 percent said they wanted to learn more about wildlife "other than birds."


This sounds like a well done survey, but I wonder what wildlife "other than birds" survey repsonders want to learn about. In my visits to Glacier NP in the last two years, people went gaga over the megafauna. In Acadia, the biggest terrestrial animal may be a beaver (although I thought I saw a bobcat). Ranger Anne told us that there aren't even any moose or bears there. I don't know if visitors want to hear about salamanders, beaver, muskrats, rabbits and the like.

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