Numbers Game

Numbers Game

Another July 4th holiday in the books! For Devil’s Lake State Park this is where “full on” summer really begins. Things won’t slow down much between now and the end of August. I hope everyone who visited Devil’s Lake and the Baraboo Hills area over the weekend had a great time. I’m sure most did.

It was an odd juxtaposition yesterday (July 4th) driving through downtown Baraboo where most shops were closed and the community seemed to be in an “old-fashioned Sunday” state of mind, then entering Devil’s Lake State Park just a couple of miles down the road where a prime summer holiday was in full swing. Wow!

Of course, it’s been crazy busy at the park since Saturday and it’s anybody’s guess how many people visited the park over the holiday weekend!

July 4th North Shore Beach

July 4th North Shore Beach

One thing a weekend like this demonstrates very clearly is that “official” park visitor estimates are loose to the point of being inconsequential. Sure, you can estimate the number of campers to some degree. You can count parking stickers and day passes sold, but those numbers don’t reflect the number of people in the cars, the number of cars that already had stickers purchased online or elsewhere, nor do they include repeat visitors. (Vehicles entering the park are not counted directly.) Let this play out over the course of a year and in the end, official numbers are simply a lowballed dart toss. Given what I understand of the estimated 2.6 to 2.7 million number official number for 2016, I’m comfortable to suggest that the true number was closer to 3 to 3.2 million. What’s important to understand here is that underestimating these numbers is detrimental to planning budgets and staffing going forward each year. (Think bathroom cleaners, etc…)

So let’s put our numbers in perspective with comparisons to a few national parks…

Compare 2016  (Devil’s Lake covers almost 10,000 acres of land)

– Badlands National Park reported 996,263 visitors within 242,756 acres.
– Joshua Tree National Park reported 2,505,286 annual visitors within 790,636 acres
– Glacier National Park reported 2,946,681 annual visitors within 1,012,837 acres of land.
– Grand Teton National Park reported 3,270,076 visitors within 310,000 acres.
– Yellowstone National Park reported 4,257,177 visitors within 2,219,789 acres

** NPS Numbers Available Here.

You can see Devil’s Lake State Park has comparable numbers to these popular national parks BUT compresses their millions into just a fraction of the property sizes. And here’s something else to consider; In July of 2016 Yellowstone National Park had a total of 793 staff members! That’s 361 year-round and 423 seasonal staff.

Thing is, when you find garbage stacking up and bathrooms starting to smell, it’s not usually because the park’s staff isn’t working their butts off, it’s because they are overrun and outgunned.

***Obligatory Disclaimer: This website is NOT associated with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The views expressed in this blog are mine and do not represent the views of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.



    1. Author

      I’m not sure if you’re joking or being satirical. It’s hard to infer from your comment, so I’m sorry if I misunderstand your meaning, but what you’re describing is not “averaging, but basic mulitplication, i.e., 7,000 x 365 (which doesn’t’ add up to 3 million anyway), this is not how an average it created. So the short answer is no. Averages (what we are talking about here) are general estimates based on a set of numbers or formula. The trick, of course, is the accuracy of the numbers used to create the average.

      Basically, the park sees some days where many, many more than 7,000 people per day visited and many days when much less than 7,000 visited. Basically very busy in the summer, slower in winter. There are exceptions and variances day by day and year by year of course. A formula is created to try to be as accurate as possible based on known factors.. (Such as how many day passes or annual stickers are sold), then unknown factors such as how many ppl per car, or how many repeat visitors, etc., has to be estimated (Basically an educated guess). It gets even more complicated when you include buses, folks with national park passes that are accepted.. people who don’t purchase stickers and don’t get courtesy notices, etc..

      Anyway, the bottom line is not 7,000 per day but lots more some days and less on others.

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