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cover to Visitor Fees
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    Visitor Fees: Table of Contents



    Executive Summary


    Recent Legislative History

     Current Status

     Results of Analysis

    Potential Changes

Visitor Fees in the National Park System:
A Legislative and Administrative History
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The Service wishes to ensure the equity of the current fee system and the effectiveness of fee collection. The Department and the OMB have also inquired into fee revenues, their relationship to visitation, and the possibility of implementing changes to increase fee revenues.

OMB also requested that the Service charge user fees experimentally for at least three visitor transportation systems (VTS) during FY 78. This summer the Service is collecting visitor use data on all VTS operations. Next summer fees will be charged for rides on three systems. The experiment will then be evaluated.

The Congress is considering several bills that propose the following changes in the fee system:

  1. freezing all entrance fees as of January 1, 1977 (Byron. H.R. 5524);

  2. lowering the minimum age to 60 for the Golden Age Passport (Byron, H.R. 5524; Gudger. H.R. 5248);

  3. authorizing free entry to blind or disabled persons and those accompanying them; (Byron, H.R. 5524; Sisk, H.R. 5801); and

  4. authorizing a multi-day entry permit (Sisk, H.R. 5802).


In 1976, 116 parks charged fees. Revenue totaled $16.9 million--a 17% increase over the previous year. Of total revenue, entrance fees generated 53%, user fees 38%, and Golden Eagle Passport sales 9%.

The number of areas which charge fees is limited due to:

  1. legislative or legal restrictions;

  2. economic or administrative limitations;

  3. limited facilities; and

  4. policy considerations.


Entrance fees were charged at 66 areas in the National Park System. (See Table I in the appendix). In 1976, the Service collected $9 million in revenue at an estimated cost of $2.2 million. Most revenue was collected from a small number of areas. Ten parks account for 67% of the total; 25 parks account for 93%.

Collection costs varied considerably. In general, for every $1 spent collecting entrance fees, an average of $4 was returned in revenue. The ten parks that collected the most revenue also reported the greatest net return--every dollar spent in collection costs returned an average of $5.50 in revenue.

Many parks do not collect as much entrance fee revenue as might be expected from annual visitation. This relationship was examined but several factors preclude making a valid comparison: different entrance fee rates, varying collection seasons and hours, entries by Golden Age and Golden Eagle Passport holders, and lack of control led access.


User fees were charged at 77 parks in 1976, mostly for camping. (See Table II in the appendix ). Other services or facilities for which user fees were charged included tours, elevators, use of special sites, special programs and bathhouse lockers. In 1976, the Service collected $6.4 million in user fee revenue at a cost of $2.3 million. User fee revenue in 1976 Increased 14% over 1975.

As with entrance fees, most user fee revenue was collected from a small number of parks. Ten parks accounted for 59% of total user fee revenue; 25 parks accounted for 81%. Of the ten highest parks, six were also among the ten highest entrance fee revenue producing parks. The remaining four user fee parks were Mammoth Cave NP, Great Smoky Mountains NP, and Cape Hatteras NS which did not charge entrance fees, and Glacier NP which ranked 19th In revenue among the entrance fee parks.

User fees generally returned less revenue in comparison to collection costs than did entrance fees. This difference is due largely to the number and capacity of campgrounds (lower volume, greater time spent collecting less revenue) and greater staffing requirements for personal fee collection. User fees also varied considerably, from as low as 10 cents for elevator service to $4 for campground space.

Every $1 spent collecting user fees returned an average of $2.65 in revenue. The ten highest revenue producing parks collected $3.8 million at a cost of $1.2 million. The remaining 67 areas collected $2.3 million in revenue at a cost of $1.1 million.

There is some difficulty in reporting and analyzing user fee collection costs. These costs only include operating costs, not amortization of collection facilities and equipment. Moreover, operating costs have been defined as those salaries and other expenses that result solely from fee collection efforts. However, oftentimes fees are collected at facilities that are used for other functions such as visitor information, law enforcement and park offices. Reported fee collection costs ideally should include only a pro-rated portion of the total cost of managing that facility, but staff time spent on each function varies and Is difficult to determine.


In 1976, over 157,000 Golden Eagle Passports were sold and over 270,000 Golden Age Passports were issued. There were approximately 3 million entries by passport holders. Passport purchases and use have increased modestly over the past three years.


(ranked by revenue)

 1. Yosemite NP1,132,554 244,6512,682,422
 2. Grand Canyon NP1,007,804 98,4812,791,551
 3. Shenandoah NP814,085 204,5002,448,597
 4. Yellowstone NP763,290 219,4002,519,226
 5. Rocky Mountain NP534,201 101,4032,727,933
 6. Carlsbad Caverns NP519,176 47,777876,500
 7. Grand Teton NP329,032 80,7002,834,702
 8. Sequoia NP & Kings Canyon NP301,805 80,0001,040,575
 9. Muir Woods NM297,000 35,000958,247
10. Mt. Rainier NP267,855 66,3701,414,472


11. Castillo de San Marcos NM261,069 36,800775,721
12. Colonial NHP249,240 14,252853,136
13. Zion NP243,122 49,1001,089,967
14. Everglades NP239,010 88,718955,654
15. Mesa Verde NP193,863 16,600675,097
16. Petrified Forest NP175,782 103,9201,066,231
17. Cape Cod NS148,509 32,9004,989,862
18. Crater Lake NP147,702 31,000532,707
19. Glacier NP136,852 71,5141,661,178
20. Badlands NM128,773 27,1711,210,054
21. Bryce Canyon NP119,282 13,900625,597
22. F.D. Roosevelt-Vanderbilt NHS91,389 34,000644,623
23. Gulf Islands NS78,481 32,8502,350,700
24. White Sands NM74,354 43,609575,185
25. Montezuma Castle NM62,986 27,000492,912


26. Lassen Volcanic NP51,985 32,900461,419
27. Sagamore Hill NHS38,815 11,400370,891
28. Black Canyon of the Gunnison NM37,645 16,754373,553
29. Great Sand Dunes NM31,913 12,167247,972
30. Arches NP29,701 18,220294,779
31. Bandelier NM27,699 14,700283,225
32. Theodore Roosevelt NMemP24,760 8,566937,613
33. Pinnacles NM23,165 9,451156,857
34. Walnut Canyon NM23,013 21,86076,704
35. Morristown NHP22,897 12,976902,981
36. Appomattox Court House NHP21,841 11,658220,778
37. Devils Tower NM21,310 8,798167,122
38. Colorado NM19,235 14,174514,934
39. Casa Grande Ruins NM19,000 23,200143,432
40. Aztec Ruins NM17,056 16,00067,173
41. Craters of the Moon NM15,818 5,220251,303
42. Adams NHS15,147 2,00041,792
43. Ft. Pulaski NM14,578 7,000323,958
44. Pea Ridge NMP14,251 13,200101,314
45. Tumacacori NM14,212 13,00080,255
46. Capulin Mountain NM12,340 3,93950,707
47. Tuzigoot NM12,577 16,70092,726
48. Saguaro NM12,493 12,200400,969
49. Ft. Davis NM12,020 8,70063,385
50. Scotts Bluff NM10,383 12,943213,267
51. Edison NHS9,924 3,60054,653
52. Chiricahua NM8,245 1,18558,488
53. Natural Bridges NM6,882 5,40071,337
54. Chickamauga & Chattanooga NMP6,506 2,0001,094,192
55. John Muir NHS6,064 1,32629,429
<56. Tonto NM/TD>5,699 8,82071,062
57. Longfellow NHS4,897 5,20017,877
58. El Morro NM4,800 9,60029,561
59. Pipe Spring NM4,069 1,47027,150
60. St. Gaudens NHS3,327 4,42213,579
61. Minute Man NHP2,895 1,8001,165,150
62. Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace NHS2,798 5,16613,888
63. Ft. Union NM2,568 1,2116,916
64. Andrew Johnson NHS1,590 500301,236
65. Salem Maritime NHS1,093 2,27418,776
66. JFK NHS125 25018,776




USER FEES — 1976
(ranked by revenue)

Mammoth Cave NP725,100 74,300Tours & Campground
Yosemite NP702,961 149,940Campground
Graat Smoky Mountains NP473,035 171,000Campground
Yellowstone NP441,683 143,600Campground
Cape Hatteras NS293,359 135,900Campground
Rocky Mountain NP277,920 72,596Campground
Shenandoah NP237,513 121,600Campground
Grand Teton NP217,330 63,400Campground
Sequoia & Kings Canyon NP200,038 177,379Cave Tour & Campground
Glacier NP190,856 75,186Campground
Blue Ridge Parkway171,999 107,764Campground
Death Valley NM165,669 39,135Castle Tour & Campground
Acadia NP149,159 31,00Campground
Grand Canyon NP142,436 99,268Campground
Lake Mead NRA137,432 24,400Campground
Gulf Islands NS113,346 47,272Campground
Wind Cave NP100,753 14,000Tours & Campground
Olympic NP90,422 26,413Campground
Zion NP87,779 14,250Campground
Everglades NP73,434 28,777Campground
Glen Canyon NRA72,750 34,700Campground
Mesa Verde NP69,156 5,680Campground
Mount Rainier NP68,568 1,203Campground
Gettysburg NMP68,685 10,500Programs
Big Bend NP56,442 35,917Campground
Bryce Canyon NP54,677 13,652Campground
Washington Monument54,138 44,110Elevator
Sleeping Bear Dunes NL46,382 17,704Campground
Ozark NSR46,081 72,230Campground
Jewell Cave NM45,925 7,000Tours
Chicksaw NRA41,550 48,000Campground
Buffalo NR39,332 21,000Campground
Assateague Island NS39,288 13,740Campground
Greenbelt Park37,583 9,800Campground
Lassen Volcanic NP37,136 14,500Campground
Crater Lake NP35,450 22,000Campground
Mount McKinley NP33,974 9,600Campground
Organ Pipe Cactus NM32,339 13,000Campground
Coule Dam NRA32,298 6,065Campground
North Cascades NP28,796 18,400Campground
Statue of Liberty NM27,452 23,302Elevator
Padre Island NS26,776 9,800Campground
Great Sand Dunes NM26,550 9,956Campground
Cumberland Island NS26,187 20,000Boat Transportation
Whiskeytown NRA24,361 24,400Campground
Hot Springs NP24,157 18,100Campground
Arches NP22,221 9,015Campground
Timpanagos Cave NM19,728 4,700Tour
Dinosaur NM17,471 8,200Campground
Capitol Reef NP15,287 4,930Campground
Perry's Victory &
International Peace Memorial NM
15,095 2,900Elevator
Badlands NM14,957 3,445Campground
Theodore Roosevelt NMemP14,108 6,705Campground
Bandelier NM12,562 5,300Campground
Pinnacles NM12,477 5,382Campground
Lehman Caves NM11,882 1,565Tour
Curecanti NRA11,416 3,700Campground
Cumberland Gap NHP9,811 6,700Campground
Haleakala NP9,000 4,500Back Cabin
Colorado NM8,898 847Campground
Catoctin Mountain Park8,526 4,069Campground
Prince William Forest Park8,493 1,967Campground
Canyonlands NP7,335 4,050Campground
Chiricahua NM6,911 1,185Campground
Joshua Tree NM6,870 6,500Campground
Craters of the Moon NM6,749 607Campground
Gateway NRA6,575 18,000Bath House
Devil's Tower NM5,344 2,602Campground
San Juan NHS4,493 4,300Tour
Devil's Postpile NM4,136 ---Campground
Black Canyon of the Gunnison NM4,115 2,021Campground
Cedar Breaks NM3,389 1,400Campground
Hubbell Trading Post NHS3,300 2,100Tour
Lava Beds NM3,082 996Campground
Chaco Canyon NM3,047 1,222Campground
Bighorn Canyon NRA1,664 778Campground
Natchez Trace Parkway955
TOTAL6,368,150 2,263,925


Last Modified: Tues, Apr 4 2000 07:08:48 am PDT

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