18.6 Trend in number of visitors to Territorial and National Parks

Last Updated: 
September 25, 2015

This indicator tracks the number of registered visitors to parks in the NWT.

Visitors crossing a stream in the Nahanni National Park Reserve

In addition to providing fresh air, clean water and sustaining the natural processes all people depend on, the environment also provides for the ability to enjoy and be refreshed by spending time in outdoor, nature-oriented activities. Parks are one location where this kind of non-consumptive use is tracked. Some parks are designated to protect representative landscapes and the features and wildlife they contain while others exist to provide places where people can spend time in a natural environment.

Data on National Parks is provided by Parks Canada2. Data on Territorial Parks1,3 is provided by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, GNWT.

NWT Focus

According to the Canadian Nature Survey4, 67% of NWT residents responded they chose to live in the NWT partly to have access to nature. Outdoor activities are important to NWT residents and visitors alike. While many outdoor activities take place outside of established parks, the use of territorial and national parks provides a measure of the value of these NWT natural areas to residents and visitors to the NWT.

Current view: status and trend?

Territorial Parks: NWT parks are divided into four categories (# of parks):

  • Heritage Parks (1)
  • Natural Environment Parks (3)
  • Recreational Parks (17)
  • and Wayside Parks (12) 

The Heritage Park is in Fort Smith and protects a historical mission building.

Natural Environment Parks preserve and protect unique, representative or aesthetically significant natural areas.

Recreation Parks encourage an appreciation for the natural environment or provide recreational activities (including campgrounds).

Wayside Parks, provided for the enjoyment or convenience of the travelling public, are not reported on in this indicator.

Number of territorial park camping visits

Number of visitors to NWT Territorial Parks, 2005-20131,3.

Number of visitors

NWT park permits issued by party origin for 2009-20131,3.
* Canada - NWT = Northwest Territories; ** Canada - Non-NWT = Canada, excluding the Northwest Territories

The number of visitors to NWT territorial parks in each ecozone has been relatively consistent since 2004. Differences in the number of visitors to each ecozone reflects the number and accessibility of territorial parks. There are three Territorial campgrounds and nine day use areas in the Taiga Shield ecozone; 10 campgrounds and seven day use areas in the Taiga Plains ecozone; and, four campgrounds and one day use area in the Taiga Plains North ecozone.

The number of territorial parks permits issued each year has remained about the same since 2005. Most park permits are issued to people from the NWT and from the rest of Canada.

Nahanni National Park Reserve2 is located in the Taiga Cordillera Ecozone. It, established in 1976, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978. This park was greatly expanded in 2010. It attracts visitors wanting to experience its many unique features including the South Nahanni River. Park staff have looked at various trends that might impact the number of visitors to Nahanni National Park, such as fuel prices and the monetary exchange rate. No distinct links with the pattern of visitation (for example, slightly more visits in the early 1990s) have been apparent. Overall, the number of visitors has remained relatively constant.

Trend in number of visitors to Nahanni National Park Reserve, 1985-2014

Aulavik (“place where people travel”) National Park is located in the Southern Arctic Ecozone. The main reason people visit Aulavik National Park is to canoe the Thomsen River. Visitor numbers to these parks in the far north are very low and any variation causes a large change in a graph. In 2001, a cruise ship with 60 people stopped at Aulavik National Park for a day. This caused the spike evident in the graph. In 2005, more private groups, several from Europe, visited this park.

Tuktut Nogait (“young caribou”) National Park is located in the Northern Arctic Ecozone. Tuktut Nogait visitors include hikers as well as people canoeing or kayaking the Hornaday River.

Trend in number of registered visitors to NWT National Parks in Southern and Northern Arctic, 1999-2012

Wood Buffalo National Park is located in the Taiga Plains Ecozone. It was established in 1922 and became a World Heritage Site in 1983. Wood Buffalo National Park is Canada’s largest national park, extending south of the NWT into Alberta. It protects the only known nesting site of the Endangered Whooping Crane as well as other rare species, the Peace-Athabasca Delta and vast expanses of boreal wilderness. Visitors come to experience its many unique cultural and natural features.

Tuktut Nogait National Park - Southern Arctic4

Visitor numbers to  parks in the far north are very low and any variation causes a large change in a graph. In 2001 a cruise ship with 60 people stopped at AulavikNational Park for a day. This caused the spike evident in the graph. In 2005, more private groups, several from Europe, visited these parks.

Wood Buffalo National Park is located in the Taiga Plains Ecozone. It was established in 1922 and became a World Heritage Site in 1983. Wood Buffalo National Park is Canada's largest national park, extending south of the NWT into Alberta. It protects the only known nesting site of the endangered whooping crane, other rare species, the Peace-Athabasca Delta and vast expanses of boreal wilderness. Visitors come to experience these and its many other unique cultural and natural features. It is difficult to track exact numbers to Wood Buffalo National Park without a park 'gate'. In this graph the earlier years (1999-2000), reflect visitor numbers of those who stopped at the Visitor Information Centre. The 2004-2008 data include additional activities such as campground stays. Data on visitors is no longer tallied2.  

Looking forward

Overall, visitor numbers to territorial and national parks have been stable during the past decade. 

Two major trends in Canada will likely impact visitor numbers in the future: the rapid growth of numbers of new and recent Canadians; and, the surge of baby boomers hitting retirement. Currently, the largest proportion of non-NWT visitors to NWT parks and campgrounds are retired Canadian couples. In the short term, the proportion of the population comprised by this segment will increase and more visitors from this group are expected to visit NWT campgrounds. In the medium and long-term, as new Canadians become a larger part of the Canadian mosaic, their travel patterns will likely influence the number of visitors to NWT campgrounds and parks.

Looking around

The Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Co-op reports on park visitors as an indicator: http://www.taiga.net/coop/indics/parks.html.

Find more

Other focal points

 

Found an error or have a question? Contact the team at NWTSOER@gov.nt.ca.


References

Ref. 1 - Tourism and Parks - ITI, GNWT. 2007. Northwest Territories 2004-2006 Territorial Park Permits Report. 

Ref. 2 - Parks Canada, Pers. Comm.

Ref. 3 - Tourism and Parks - ITI, GNWT. 2013. Northwest Territories Parks Fact Sheet. 

Ref. 4 - Federal, Provincial, and Territorial Governments of Canada. 2014. The 2012 Canadian Nature Survey: Awareness, participation, and expenditures in nature-based recreation, conservation, and subsistence activities. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers.