Everyone knows about our national parks - Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. They have had pretty good attendance again in 2020, even with the pandemic. What about the myriad of Montana State Parks? They've done pretty well, too.

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks reported over 3 million visitors from January through September this past year. That's very good with three months remaining. And, it's an increase of 25 percent from 2019.

Eight of the parks exceeded 100,000 visitors by themselves. They were led by Flathead Lake State Park with 439,298 visitors. Coming in second was Cooney Reservoir State Park at Roberts, MT., with 330,730, then Giant Springs State Park in third place with 312,655, Lake Elmo State Park near Billings with 206,091 and in fifth was Thompson Chain of Lakes State Park near Libby with 155,483, which is almost 50 percent better than 2019. Notice how all of the most popular parks deal with water? No surprise for those of us who love summer splashing.

Digging deeper into the numbers, here are the top parks in the Montana FWP regions. Region 1 (Kalispell) - Flathead Lake State Park. Region 2 (Missoula) - Placid Lake State Park. Region 3 (Bozeman) - Missouri Headwaters State Park. Region 4 (Great Falls) - Giant Springs State Park. Region 5 (Billings) - Cooney Reservoir State Park. Region 6 - No state parks. Region 7 (Miles City) - Makoshika State Park.

Martha Williams, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Director, said in a recent news release, "These visitation increases represent the busiest summer on record for the State Park system. FWP Staff, volunteers and AmeriCorps members went above and beyond to keep these sites open, and to safely host visitors in the face of the pandemic."

Nearby, Travelers' Rest State Park at Lolo is now in its winter season with visitor center open Sundays from 12 noon to 4 p.m. and Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Vivaca Crowser reports the trails are cleared during the winter and pedestrian entrances are open from sunrise to sunset every day.

Meanwhile, Fort Owen State Park at Stevensville is undergoing huge improvements - with a new roof on the barracks and a larger parking area. It's closed until the work is done.

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