Crater Lake National Park and the Oregon Caves National Monument aren't just beautiful places to send visiting friends or relatives. They're also economic engines.
The two attractions brought in more than $40 million in 2010 while creating more than 600 jobs in southwest Oregon, according to a just-released study done for the National Park Service by Michigan State University researchers.
The study determined that the national park generated more than $34 million while creating 540 jobs, while the Oregon Caves produced about $6.5 million and 62 jobs in 2010.
The annual peer-reviewed analysis led by the university's Daniel Stynes indicated that spending nationwide at national parks added $31 billion in 2010 to the national economy and supported more than 258,000 jobs across the country that year. That reflects an increase of $689 million and 11,500 jobs over the previous year, the agency noted.
The study demonstrates that the national park system is an economic catalyst for local communities as well as the nation, observed agency director Jonathan B. Jarvis, a former Crater Lake National Park employee.
"The investment American taxpayers make in their national parks continues to offer a huge return, not only in priceless family experiences but in real jobs and economic growth in our gateway communities that ripples to suppliers across the nation," he said in a prepared statement.
Nationally, some 52 percent of the income and jobs are related to lodging, food and beverage service, followed by 29 percent other retail, 10 percent entertainment, 7 percent for gas and transportation and 2 percent for groceries, the study concluded.
Roughly the same trend can be seen locally as dollars spent on visits to Crater Lake or the Oregon Caves filter down into the communities, officials said.
"When tourists visit the park, people pass through local communities like Medford and Klamath Falls and spend money," said Marsha McCabe, chief of interpretation and cultural resources at Crater Lake.
Crater Lake, which is open year-round, receives about 500,000 visitors a year, mostly during the summer months, McCabe said. The Oregon Caves monument, which opens for tours on March 24, draws some 50,000 annually.
The staff at both sites have been working closely with the Southern Oregon Visitors Association and Travel Oregon to increase the number of visitors to the region while lengthening their stays, said Craig Ackerman, superintendent at Crater Lake.
"Both parks have added new visitor attractions or amenities, such as the trolley tours and new trails at Crater Lake and new, off-trail caving experiences at the monument," he said.
Working closely with local communities is vital to the success of the facilities, indicated Vicki Snitzler, the Oregon Caves superintendent.
"We are proud to be members of the Southern Oregon community and of our contributions to the local economy," she said.
Crater Lake National Park, created on May 22, 1902, by President Teddy Roosevelt, was the nation's sixth national park. Yellowstone was the first.
The crater, whose rim rises 7,100 feet above sea level, traditionally has been a sacred site for American Indians whose oral traditions tell of the eruption of Mount Mazama, a mountain that scientists estimate stood 12,000 feet high. The cataclysm that created the crater was about 7,700 years ago.
The nation's deepest lake, Crater Lake is 1,943 feet deep.
President William H. Taft declared Oregon Caves a national monument on July 12, 1909. The caves, the state's first national monument, were discovered by Williams resident Elijah J. Davidson while bear-hunting in the fall of 1874.
The monument is in the Siskiyou Mountains at about 4,000 feet elevation roughly 20 miles east of Cave Junction.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at email@example.com.