MUNISING, Mich. (WJMN) – Visitation at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore broke their previous record, set in 2019, of 858,715 visitors, in 2020 they saw 1.2 million visitors.

Most parks saw a decrease in visitors during the year, but Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was among 14 National Park Service sites that saw an increase in visitation. Susan Reece, chief of interpretation for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, says they’ve seen a steady increase for the past few years but this is the largest jump in visitation.

“We always expect big numbers and we’ve had a steady increase since 2015 we kind of expect us to hold onto those high numbers but it jumped a lot higher than we expected,” said Reece. “I think that was probably due to COVID, the COVID response where initially visitation dropped as health department rules and state rules and things went into effect but it sure rebounded for July, August, September, October.”

Visitation trends at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore since 2011, courtesy of PRNL.

Reece says their campgrounds are normally at capacity on the weekends each year and 2020 was no different.

“We have just a couple small campgrounds so when you’re talking 70 some odd sites things fill up very quickly and they were filled,” said Reece. “Right now they’re already booked for the whole summer, six months out that’s what we allow on our reservation system is 6 months ahead of time and they’re already booked for all of that so going into August.”

Reece says based on the phone calls they’ve been getting, the campgrounds will likely be booked in September and October as they were in 2020. The park can’t increase staffing in the park but they can adjust what types of things staff are working on.

“We’re kind of maxed out where we can be with staffing but we do adjust some of the things we can do, I’m in the interpretation division so we will be positioning our staff outside in more of the busy places we thought we were doing that already but we’re just going to try to find a way to do it even more so,” said Reece. “To be at these busy places to try to help people with their visit try to help epople find places that maybe aren’t as crowded.”

It’s also important to plan ahead before visiting Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore. Reece says that hotels and campgrounds require reservations ahead of time. One of the challenges they said they had this year was people creating social trails at the park and an increased need for pumping septic systems in some areas of the park.