Rocky Mountain Research Station Publications
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RMRS-RP-71: Wilderness visitors, experiences, and management preferences: How they vary with use level and length of stay
Cole, David N.; Hall, Troy E. 2008. Wilderness visitors, experiences, and management preferences: How they vary with use level and length of stay. Res. Pap. RMRS-RP-71. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 61 p.
We explore the extent to which visitor experiences and management preferences vary between the most heavily used places in wilderness and places that are less popular. We also contrast day and overnight users. The study was conducted in Forest Service administered wildernesses in Oregon and Washington using both on-site and mailback questionnaires. The on-site questionnaires were administered as visitors exited the wilderness at 36 trailheads in 13 wildernesses. The trail use ranged from very high to moderate. To include visitors who selected low use trails, we sent mailback questionnaires to self-issue permit holders. We describe visitor characteristics, trip characteristics, motivations and experiences, encounters with other groups, attitudes toward recreation management, and opinions about the Forest Service. Differences related to use level were surprisingly small. Differences between day and overnight users were also small. We found evidence that wilderness experiences were adversely affected at high use locations but most visitors consider these effects to be of little importance. Most visitors to the more popular places make psychological adjustments to heavy use, allowing most of them to find solitude and have what they consider "a real wilderness experience." Consequently, most are not supportive of use limits to avoid peoplerelated problems. We draw conclusions about potential indicators, standards, and management actions for heavily-used places in wilderness.
Keywords: management preferences, recreation experiences, day use, visitor management, visitor surveys, wilderness recreation
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Wilderness visitors, experiences, and management preferences:
How they vary with use level and length of stay
Electronic Publish Date: June 23, 2008
Last Update: June 23, 2007
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