How much money do national parks make

The business with the national parks

Kilometers of green hills - covered by a thick fog. These are the Great Smoky Mountains, a national park in the US states of Tennessee and North Carolina. With over 10 million visitors annually, they are the most-visited national park in the United States. In addition to this enormous influx of visitors, the Grand Canyon is almost an insider tip with just over five million visitors.

These crowds of visitors want to be entertained - think business-minded residents. Because just because of the hundreds of kilometers of hiking trails, waterfalls and rock formations, such a holiday can hardly be filled. And even if there is, there is still room for man-made pleasure.

American leisure activities

This can be seen in the suburbs of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. In order to get into the huge national park at all, sheet metal avalanches push their way through the streets, which are initially very wide. In the small town of Pigeon Forge, which mainly consists of an eight-lane road, the temples of amusement crowd together.

As a resident, I know every facility here. From go-carts to adventure mini-golf to Dollywood. I like to go there.

Rodney Gibson, local resident

Country singer Dolly Parton was born near Pigeon Forge and today her own theme park, Dollywood, is a reminder of that. KingKong clings to a miniature high-rise and in Gatlinburg tourists can try out an earthquake simulator or be enchanted in the huge aquarium. For the particularly daring, several ziplines span the place. Gatlinburg itself is modeled after a Swiss mountain village and that is what the mostly American tourists particularly appreciate.

“We're here on vacation and I love it. It's my first visit. Madness! Feels so homely, we've always wanted to come, ”enthuses a tourist between a few sips from her slush ice cup. She wears a bright tie-dye shirt on which the outlines of the Smoky Mountains have been airbrushed.

Man poisons their refreshing air currents and is a curse on the land that gave birth to him.

Henry David Thoreau, American writer on nature

There is so much going on in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge that you could almost forget that one of the largest national parks in the country, a marvel of nature, is just around the corner. In the park itself, too, the density of tourists wearing tie-dye shirts is still high. But if you leave the easily accessible viewpoints behind and go on one of the numerous hiking trails, it suddenly becomes quiet. Only a few, well-equipped tourists are still on the way.

The contrast between nature and man-made pleasure couldn't be greater. And the impression is created that the national parks are being marketed. The mood is good in the small shops and restaurants in Gatlinburg. After all, many of the tourists crowd in to experience the “best steak of the Smokys” or “the largest brewery in the southern USA” for themselves.

We would not exist without the tourists. Some come for the park, others for the cities. For me this is not a conflict.

Judy, The Sock Shop in Gatlinburg

Official authorities have withdrawn in these cities and let free capitalism take its course. For many Americans, a visit to Gatlinburg, with its many shops and the homely feeling through the narrow streets, is a welcome change from the sprawling cities that usually cover the USA. In many ways the place looks very European. And despite the nearby natural spectacle, they just don't want to do without their flashing pleasure.

Not all amusement parks are created equal

The Great Smoky Moutains have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. A title that magically attracts vacationers. Almost as magical as a Titanic exhibition in a faithful ship including an iceberg. As in all other amusement parks, prices are skyrocketing in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Nevertheless, there is much more going on here than in the adjacent national park.

Unlike in the large national parks on the west coast, the path of the Smokies was rocky. Because the land belonged to numerous smallholders and first had to be acquired by the government. In order to be considered a national park, strict guidelines must also be adhered to. Little human intervention is particularly important. A visit to the Smoky Mountains provides great insights into a natural forest.

The batik shirt-wearing tourist sums up her visit with a smile: "I love the Mountains!"

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