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Montana State Parks Hit New High

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Montana's state parks are pulling in the people like never before, making for a record breaking summer.

Officials with Fish, Wildlife, and Parks confirmed that this summer, Montana's 54 state parks saw more than 1.5 million people. That is a 10% increase over 2012, putting it down in the books as the best summer season on record.

"Montana is on a lot of people's bucket list," said Diane Medler with the Kalispell Convention and Visitor Bureau.

It is not all out-of-state visitors, though.

"For our state parks 75% of people who come to state parks are Montana residents," said Medler.

Getting Montanans to explore their own backyards is a pretty easy job, according to Medler.

"We're really targeting certain times of the year to increase visitations during those times that are typically a little slower," explained Medler.

Medler helps coordinate events like Dragon Boat in September that have an international pull, while located just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Wayfarers State Park in Bigfork.

Wayfarers had the highest number of visitors in all of Northwest Montana hitting almost 100,000 this summer, a nearly 10% increase over last year.

"If people don't have the time or are watching their budgets a bit more there's no need to leave," said Medler, "You can have a great vacation here."

Giant Springs State Park in Great Falls had the highest number of visitors of all the state parks, almost hitting 175,000. For the West Central region, Salmon Lake Park attracted the most tourists with more than 50,000. At just over 125,000 visitors, Cooney State Park topped the Southwest list of state parks. Although Wayfarers boasted the most summer visitors in the Northwest, Lone Pine State Park reported the biggest jump over last year in the region: up by 17%.

May through September of 2013 marks a 12% hike in total state park visitations over a three-year trend, beginning in 2011.

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