The Disappearing Wonders of America’s Great Outdoors

The Great American Outdoors…an element as central to our national identity as freedom of speech and summer vacation. Some 140,000,000 Americans spend time and money each year pursuing outdoor recreation, and that number’s on the rise. Even during the recession of the aughts, the outdoor recreation industry surged an average of 5% a year as Americans sought more opportunities to get outdoors.

At the same time Americans are looking to reconnect with nature, however, some of the country’s greatest outdoor wonders are disappearing.

Americans Crave Outdoor Adventure

As our lives become more sedentary and screen-bound, Americans are finding themselves with less daily time to be outdoors. In fact, three in ten adults in the U.S. do not spend time outdoors on a daily basis, and two percent of adults say they never go outside!

The good news is similar studies point to an increased desire by Americans to actively seek out outdoor adventure. Between 24-48% of people say they’re willing to trade time with their TVs, phones, or tablets for more time outside. With more U.S. citizens living in cities than at any point in history, many are finding outdoor adventure travel to be a perfect solution to the perils of indoor life. The World Tourism Organization says that outdoor adventure travel is one of the fastest-growing segments in tourism.

America’s Disappearing Outdoors?

At the same time Americans are clamoring to get outside, some of the country’s most revered natural spaces are quietly disappearing. Storm surges threaten some of the best historically-preserved forts and shell structures in Florida and the Carolinas, and wildfires are wreaking havoc within sacred spaces like Mesa Verde National Park. The sad story of the melting ice at Glacier National Park is one that almost anyone can repeat. One of the biggest threats, though, to some of the most popular outdoor destinations in America is people. Record numbers are showing up at our National Parks and other managed outdoor areas, prompting many to call for a limit on daily visitors to avoid pitfalls of overcrowding. Not only do these experiences disappoint visitors looking for solitude with nature, they pose a real threat to the flora and fauna of the areas they’re meant to preserve as well.

Thankfully, there are many, many wonderful natural spaces still unspoiled by overuse in America! Some of America’s best “parks” are actually private (**link to that article here once live!) and wilderness travel destinations in the much-unexplored Southwestern U.S. abound. And Americans are looking for more luxury with their legroom, too. Ted Turner Expeditions, for example, is seeing an increase in “soft adventure” travelers – those who love the excitement of a 10-mile hike through a volcano but relish the comforts of a nature lodge and spa when the day’s adventures are done. For many of our clients, reconnecting with nature is most enjoyable when they’re also able to stay connected with home.

Outdoor adventure is as pastime Americans have invested in since the dawn of the 20th century. While some of the U.S.’s best natural destinations are changing through time and use, others are just emerging as premiere wilderness travel hotspots. America’s bounty is only just beginning to unfold – outdoor adventure enthusiasts simply have to look a little deeper to discover its yet untapped experiences.