Travelers bolstered Montana's reputation as a tourist destination last year as state parks broke records with more than 2.1 million visits.
Montana State Parks this week announced the 2013 visitation total was a 5 percent greater than 2012's and topped the 10-year trend by almost 30 percent.
The May to September summer season alone broke records, also 5 percent above the 2012 totals.
While state parks are sometimes overshadowed by Montana's two national parks, Glacier and Yellowstone, state parks saw larger increases in visitation than their federal counterparts.
Glacier National Park's 2.1 million visits, equivalent to the state-park total, was just 2 percent more than in 2012.
Visits to Yellowstone National Park were down 8 percent, but the nation's first national park still hosted 3.2 million people.
State parks in southwest Montana, which includes Bozeman and Butte, logged more than 336,000 visits over the year.
While it received just a little more than 11,500 visits, Madison Buffalo Jump State Park near Three Forks was the success story of the year.
At the beginning of 2013, Montana State Parks was considering closing the Buffalo Jump State Park due to budget constraints. Local supporters rallied to submit hundreds of comments on the proposal and organized a fundraising group, the Friends of the Madison Buffalo Jump.
To raise awareness, the group hosted a few public events that helped to more than double visitation.
Cooney State Park in Roberts ranked fourth in the state after its visitation increased 17 percent to more than 157,000.
Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park near Three Forks ranked eighth with more than 70,000 visits, up 9 percent over 2012.
Southwest Montana might have done better if Bannack State Park hadn't had to close for seven weeks due to a flash flood in July, which decreased visitation by almost 40 percent.
The north central region of the state recorded the most visits – more than 602,000 – but it includes two larger metropolitan areas, Great Falls and Helena, which host a large number of tourists.
Giant Springs State Park in Great Falls led the state with more than 307,000 visits. Spring Meadow Lake State Park in Helena saw the greatest increase in visits. Its annual total of 158,000 visits was up 55 percent over 2012.
The 2013 Legislature created a separate commission to oversee the Montana State Parks agency, which is part of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks but receives no money from hunting or fishing license fees.