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15 State Economies Most Dependent on Outdoor Recreation


Woman drinking from a reusable water bottle
IKO-studio / Shutterstock.com

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Outdoorsy.

Over the past year, pandemic-related shutdowns inspired Americans to head outdoors to find open, safe places to relax and exercise in record numbers.

In 2020, 7.1 million more people headed outdoors, and overall participation in outdoor recreation surpassed 52% for the first time on record, according to the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA).

The boost in outdoor participation seen across the country in 2020 was particularly beneficial to states dependent economically on outdoor recreation.

To identify the states most dependent on outdoor recreation, researchers at Outdoorsy analyzed data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and created a composite index based on the outdoor recreation industry’s share of GDP, employment, and compensation in each state.

Here are the state economies most dependent on outdoor recreation.

15. South Dakota

Pierre, South Dakota from above
Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock.com

Outdoor recreation dependency index: 69.6
Outdoor recreation share of GDP: 2.5%
Outdoor recreation share of employment: 3.3%
Outdoor recreation share of total compensation: 2.5%
Largest economic impact activity: RVing

14. South Carolina

South Carolina beach
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Outdoor recreation dependency index: 74.6
Outdoor recreation share of GDP: 2.9%
Outdoor recreation share of employment: 3.5%
Outdoor recreation share of total compensation: 2.5%
Largest economic impact activity: Boating and fishing

13. Oregon

Cannon Beach, Oregon
Sharon Eisenzopf / Shutterstock.com

Outdoor recreation dependency index: 75.8
Outdoor recreation share of GDP: 2.9%
Outdoor recreation share of employment: 3.4%
Outdoor recreation share of total compensation: 2.8%
Largest economic impact activity: RVing

12. Nevada

Lake Mead, Nevada
CrackerClips Stock Media / Shutterstock.com

Outdoor recreation dependency index: 75.8
Outdoor recreation share of GDP: 3.1%
Outdoor recreation share of employment: 3.1%
Outdoor recreation share of total compensation: 2.8%
Largest economic impact activity: Boating and fishing

11. Idaho

Idaho
B Brown / Shutterstock.com

Outdoor recreation dependency index: 78.6
Outdoor recreation share of GDP: 3.0%
Outdoor recreation share of employment: 3.4%
Outdoor recreation share of total compensation: 2.9%
Largest economic impact activity: RVing

10. Colorado

Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs
CG3 / Shutterstock.com

Outdoor recreation dependency index: 81.2
Outdoor recreation share of GDP: 3.1%
Outdoor recreation share of employment: 3.8%
Outdoor recreation share of total compensation: 2.9%
Largest economic impact activity: Snow activities

9. New Hampshire

Lake Winnipesaukee
By Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com

Outdoor recreation dependency index: 82.8
Outdoor recreation share of GDP: 3.2%
Outdoor recreation share of employment: 4.1%
Outdoor recreation share of total compensation: 2.7%
Largest economic impact activity: Snow activities

8. Utah

Woman hiking in Zion National Park
EB Adventure Photography / Shutterstock.com

Outdoor recreation dependency index: 85.4
Outdoor recreation share of GDP: 3.3%
Outdoor recreation share of employment: 3.9%
Outdoor recreation share of total compensation: 3.1%
Largest economic impact activity: Snow activities

7. Alaska

Anchorage, Alaska
Rocky Grimes / Shutterstock.com

Outdoor recreation dependency index: 89.8
Outdoor recreation share of GDP: 3.9%
Outdoor recreation share of employment: 4.5%
Outdoor recreation share of total compensation: 3.6%
Largest economic impact activity: Boating and fishing

6. Maine

Acadia National Park in Maine
Eric Urquhart / Shutterstock.com

Outdoor recreation dependency index: 91.2
Outdoor recreation share of GDP: 4.2%
Outdoor recreation share of employment: 4.7%
Outdoor recreation share of total compensation: 3.4%
Largest economic impact activity: Boating and fishing

5. Florida

Huntington Beach Florida
JohnHancockPhoto / Shutterstock.com

Outdoor recreation dependency index: 91.6
Outdoor recreation share of GDP: 4.4%
Outdoor recreation share of employment: 4.0%
Outdoor recreation share of total compensation: 3.9%
Largest economic impact activity: Amusement and water parks

4. Vermont

Vermont
By Tony Baldasaro / Shutterstock.com

Outdoor recreation dependency index: 93.2
Outdoor recreation share of GDP: 5.2%
Outdoor recreation share of employment: 4.4%
Outdoor recreation share of total compensation: 3.6%
Largest economic impact activity: Snow activities

3. Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park
Kris Wiktor / Shutterstock.com

Outdoor recreation dependency index: 94.2
Outdoor recreation share of GDP: 4.2%
Outdoor recreation share of employment: 5.2%
Outdoor recreation share of total compensation: 4.1%
Largest economic impact activity: Snow activities

2. Montana

Montana
SNEHIT / Shutterstock.com

Outdoor recreation dependency index: 94.8
Outdoor recreation share of GDP: 4.7%
Outdoor recreation share of employment: 4.5%
Outdoor recreation share of total compensation: 4.1%
Largest economic impact activity: Boating and fishing

1. Hawaii

Kailua Beach Park in Hawaii
Dmitrii Sakharov / Shutterstock.com

Outdoor recreation dependency index: 100.0
Outdoor recreation share of GDP: 5.8%
Outdoor recreation share of employment: 5.9%
Outdoor recreation share of total compensation: 5.3%
Largest economic impact activity: Game areas (including golf and tennis)

Methodology & Detailed Findings

Man analyzing data on a laptop
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

The data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis’s Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (2019), the most recent data available. To determine the states most dependent on outdoor recreation, researchers created a composite index based on the following metrics:

Outdoor recreation share of GDP: Total outdoor recreation value-added as a percentage of total value-added. Value-added is the value of goods and services produced minus the value of goods and services used up in production.
Outdoor recreation share of employment: Total outdoor recreation employment as a percentage of total employment (excludes self-employed workers).
Outdoor recreation share of total compensation: Pay to outdoor recreation employees (including wages, salaries, and benefits) as a percentage of pay to all employees.

States were ranked by their composite index. In the event of a tie, the state with the larger outdoor recreation share of GDP was ranked higher.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.