InsiderAdvantage: National Parks a Big Business in Georgia

Baker Owens

Thursday, July 7th, 2022

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When most people think about national parks, they might imagine the Grand Canyon or Yosemite, or perhaps the Smoky Mountains a little closer to home. But there are National Park Service (NPS) units right outside our back door in Georgia. From the Martin Luther King National Historic Park to Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park to Cumberland Island National Seashore, the state is home to a wide range of park service lands, both of the scenic and historic variety.

A new report shows that 6.3 million people visited Georgia NPS sites in 2021. And all those visitors spent an estimated $362 million while visiting these locations, supporting approximately 5,200 jobs, $182 million in income and a total economic output of $542 million for the Georgia economy.

In Atlanta, 3,256,151 visited the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area, spending more than $160 million in the metro communities around the park, supporting more than 2,000 jobs and a benefit of $235 million to the economy.

“National parks are a vital part of our nation’s economy. Every dollar invested in national parks by American taxpayers is returned tenfold to the American economy” said Superintendent Ann Honious. “Here at Chattahoochee River NRA, I am pleased to see the positive economic impact that recreation in our park has on the local Atlanta-area community. Whether you’re looking to float the river or hike on our more than 65 miles of trail, our rangers are excited to share the natural and cultural history of the Chattahoochee River corridor and all the recreational opportunities it provides.”

The Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park was one of the other most visited National Park properties in the state, nearly 130,000 visited last year and spending more than $8 million. Located just outside of Macon, the area might be one of the next to receive full national park status. The area on the Ocmulgee River is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the country, with evidence of human habitation going back 17,000 years. The park is home to the Ocmulgee Mounds, a series of ceremonial and burial mounds built about 1,000 years ago. The park is more than 3,300 acres on the east bank of the Ocmulgee outside Macon. It was home to the Muscogee Creek tribe before the forced removal and Trail of Tears.

Total spending last year likely still somewhat suffered from the pandemic. The record spending year was $439 million in 2019, 2021 saw only $362 million, just shy of the 2014 total of $378 million. The report breaks that spending down into categories as well, with lodging perhaps expectedly coming in at the highest total of $107 million. Restaurants were the next highest with $81 million.

The report also includes an interactive tool that enables users to explore visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage: