Survey says: Visitors to national parks don’t like noise

Share via

Talk about an unsurprising finding: Visitors to remote areas in national parks consider noise from helicopters or planes an unpleasant intrusion. That is the result of a study conducted jointly by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Park Service, presented this week at the national meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Providence, R.I.

The visitor surveys were conducted in backcountry in four national parks: Bryce Canyon and Zion in Utah, Grand Canyon in Arizona and Glacier in Montana. Researchers questioned visitors about their reactions to noise from helicopters, general aviation and high-altitude commercial aircraft.

The study looked at more than 4,600 responses.

Additionally, acoustical monitors recorded the noise, much of it from air tours specifically routing over the spectacular landscapes offered by the parks.


The study found that the deeper into backcountry visitors went, the more intrusive aircraft noise was. Those hikers reported they enjoyed the natural sounds of nature and were sensitive to sounds created by planes and helicopters.

The park service is well aware of the impacts of noise on visitor experience. The agency has a mandate to maintain a natural soundscape and in 2000 established a program that considers sound in all of its forms: the natural acoustic environment that includes sounds generated by wind and water as well as sound from battle reenactments or Native American ceremonies.

The Grand Canyon has developed a plan to manage air tours flying over or in the canyon.

Unmanned drones are the most recent issue in parks. This month Zion and Yosemite national parks banned the use of drones, levying a 6-month jail sentence or $5,000 fine.

The aircraft are often used by visitors for aerial photography, but park officials maintain that drones detract from the visitor experience and may bother wildlife.