ALBEMARLE — North Carolina State Parks announced last week that it welcomed a record-setting 19.8 million people in 2020. With 512,702 visitors for the year, Morrow Mountain State Park was among the parks breaking a previous visitor record.
“We are glad that our community as well as visitors to our area found peace and respite last year at Morrow Mountain State Park,” park superintendent Jeff Davidson told SCJ on Feb. 2. “As we try to balance this increase in visitation with protecting the park’s resources, we ask visitors to stay on trails; don’t litter; follow all park rules; and be patient and respectful with park staff and others.”
Morrow Mountain’s visitor tally for 2020 was a nearly 60,000-person increase over its total for 2019 (452,862) and even more so for 2018 (447,574). The new record surpassed the park’s previous record, which came back in 2016 when 512,427 people visited.
Established in 1939, Morrow Mountain now contains 5,881 acres of land within the Uwharrie Mountains.
Overall, the 41 state parks within N.C. saw 400,000 more people in 2020 than any other year on record, surpassing 2017’s previous record of 19.4 million visitors; the reported 19.8 million was a 1.2 million increase from the previous year.
“As we came together to face the pandemic, our state parks became a comfort in a time of isolation,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in the NC State Parks news release. “The records set in park visitation show that our outdoor spaces hold even greater value than we could have imagined before the challenges of the last year.”
Jockey’s Ridge State Park, located on the coast of the Outer Banks in Nags Head, NC, saw the most visitors in the state, with a reported 1.9 people. Pilot Mountain, Carolina Beach, William B. Umstead, Fort Macon and Eno River State Parks, as well as the Falls Lake State Recreation Area, all also eclipsed the one-million visitor mark.
“State Parks staff have done an extraordinary job welcoming guests, protecting natural resources, and ensuring public safety during the pandemic,” said Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary D. Reid Wilson. “These outstanding public servants look forward to continuing to welcome and serve park visitors in 2021.”