Obamas Ride Wave of Interest in National Parks

Yellowstone-bound first family will add to record number of visitors
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2009 3:42 PM CDT
A pair of visitors to the Yellowstone National Park photograph the Old Faithful geyser as it rockets 100-feet skyward , in Wyoming.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The Obama family will visit Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon this weekend, doing their part to add to this year's already-booming national parks attendance figures, USA Today reports. Yellowstone hit a record high of 900,500 visitors in July—up 11% from last year, and 6% over the 1995 record—and other parks are reporting upticks as well. The parks service expects attendance to be up 3% over 2008, thanks possibly to its free weekends promotion.

Though the impact of the free weekends—the last one is this weekend—is not yet known, they certainly “made people aware national parks are economical destinations," a spokeswoman says. “In the '50s and '60s, this was the American vacation. But we've gotten away from it. Now, there's been this growing movement to connect kids with nature and spend more time with the family.”