Date of Award

5-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

Committee Member

Jeffrey C. Hallo, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Matthew T. J. Brownlee

Committee Member

Robert B. Powell

Abstract

Waterfalls have long been popular tourist attractions due to their soundscape, beauty, natural pool, and recreational opportunities. With technological advances and abundant tourism information, more visitors are being drawn to waterfalls. Such high visitation and use amplifies the risk of degrading pristine waterfall sites and their resources. Not only are waterfalls experiencing high demand, but state parks are also seeing large increases in visitation. State parks are typically located closer to population centers and complement the more well-known and iconic national parks by providing recreational opportunities to more, diverse visitors. The present study aims to provide a basis for understanding the visitor experience and carrying capacity at a waterfall-based state park where visitors engage in an activity with the water (e.g., swim in the natural pool, climb the waterfall). Further, the study investigates intrasite displacement from an activity with the water in tandem with the examination of carrying capacity. Visitor surveys and time-lapse field cameras were deployed to collect data on visitor use at a popular waterfall-based state park in Tennessee. The results indicate that use levels are near or above crowding-based thresholds, supporting the implementation of a carrying capacity. While the results do not provide evidence for intrasite or activity displacement, they seem to reflect a reduction in the visitors’ freedom of choice in activity or location. The present study fills a gap in the literature by empirically investigating the carrying capacity of visitors at a waterfall site and utilizing an indicators and thresholds-based approach in a state park. Empirical research on these is needed since citizens highly value waterfalls and primarily gain exposure to nature through state park visits.

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