Area state parks more popular than ever

Visitation numbers at Shenandoah River State Park near Bentonville have been steadily climbing in recent years.

“Our cabin turnovers have dramatically increased, and our day use attendance also has increased so much so that we have had to close the park almost every weekend now. Our total attendance this past year was over 280,000,” park manager Tony Widmer stated in an email.

The park, known as Andy Guest State Park, employs seven full-time staff, between five and 20 wage workers depending on the season and roughly 15 volunteers who assist in the park’s operations.

Widmer attributed the increased visitation and visitor spending to a variety of reasons.

“We have increased our interpretive (educational) programs but the biggest reason is simply an increase in our popularity,” he stated. “There are no clear reasons for this. However, we are the only Virginia State Park that offers the Virginia Canopy Tours zip line and we are in a great location surrounded by other popular attractions.”

Visitors at the state’s 37 parks combined to bring in more than  $224 million in visitor spending last year, according to a news release from Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office.  The release cited a new economic impact report from the Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business.


Shenandoah River is one of several state parks in District Three, which also includes James River, Douthat, Natural Bridge, and Sky Meadows.

Day user spending for Shenandoah State Park near Front Royal totaled $4,456,963 in 2016 and totaled  $4,513,831 at Sky Meadows State Park in Fauquier County.

Overnight user spending totaled $1,673,045 and $188,572 for Shenandoah River and Sky Meadows State Parks, respectively.

Resident spending for 2016 totaled $3,489,273 at Shenandoah River State Park, compared to $2,613,416 at Sky Meadows. Non-resident spending at Shenandoah River State Park was at $2,640,735 and $2,088,986 for Sky Meadows.

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com