RAPID CIITY, S.D. (KELO) — It had been since 2006 since the four famous faces on Mount Rushmore had fewer than 2 million visitors. But in 2019, the number of visitors dipped below the 2 million mark to 1,963,54. The national monument drew 1,989,771 in 2006.
The U.S. National Park Service released 2019 visitor numbers at the nation’s national parks and monuments on Thursday.
From 2006 through 2008 the monument drew fewer than 2 million visitors at 1,856,118 in 2007, and 1,789,328 in 2008.
Attracting 2 million visitors is a newer trend since statistics were first tracked in 1941. Mount Rushmore first topped the 2 million mark in 1971 with 2,281,200 visitors. It didn’t reach 2 million again until 1991 (2,044,522).
Except for 2006 through 2008, the monument drew more than 2 million visitors from 2002 through 2018.
Visitation milestones at the park include 393,000 visitors in 1941, surpassing the half million mark in 1948 (570,663) and reaching the million mark in 1958 (1,045,700).
Mount Rushmore drew its most visitors in 2017 with 2,437,800.
Although the National Park Service said visitor numbers increased at national park and monuments increased by 2.9% to 327,500 million visitors, South Dakota wasn’t part of that increase, except for the Missouri River National Recreation Area which posted an increase.
The recreation area had 129,280 visitors in 2019, up from 129,280 in 2018.
Visitor numbers also declined at Badlands National Park. The park drew 970,998 visitors in 2019, down from 1,008,942 in 2018.
Numbers were also down at Wind Cave National Park. The park drew 615,350 in 2019, down from 656,397 in 2018. Data from 1904 to 2019 shows the park has never topped 1 million visitors. The highest number of visitors was 997,100 in 1970. The number has never reached that level again but 874,167 visitors were recorded in 2003.
Jewel Cave had 123,489 visitors in 2019. The site had 142,356 in 2018. The lowest number since 2010 was 77,146 in 2010 while the highest attendance was 144,537.
The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site drew 125,776 visitors in 2019. The site had 139,273 visitors in 2019. Since 2004 when visitors were first tracked, the site first top 100,000 visitors in 2015 with 100,488.
The decline is similar to the decline in the number of visitors at South Dakota state parks. State officials said weather, including rain and floods, negatively impacted visitor numbers.
Nearby Pipestone National Monument drew 77,508 in 2019 after drawing 73,267 visitors in 2018. The monument had 76,486 visitors in 2017.
Agate Fossils National Monument had 16,657 visitors in 2019. The park is near Harrison, Nebraska. The site had 16,238 in 2018.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota had 691,658 visitors in 2019, down from 749,389 in 2018.
The most popular national park or monument site in the U.S. in 2019 was the Golden Gate National Recreation Area with 15 million visitors followed by the Blue Ridge Parkway with 14.5 million visitors. The top three most popular national parks are Great Smoky Mountains National Park with 12.5 million, Grand Canyon National Park with 5.97 million and Rocky Mountain National Park with 4.7 million.