Most Tourists Don’t Stray Far From the Road When Taking Photos in National Parks

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A trip to a national park is a chance for many to get away from the urban setting. A trip to a park like Yellowstone, Yosemite, or Pinacles offers stunning natural views and features. Cartography students from the University of Wisconsin at Madison wanted to see just how far from the manmade world tourists really get when visiting a U.S. National Park. Nick Underwood, Clare Sullivan, and Peter Newman mapped out 800,000 geotagged photos posted to Flickr to analyze how far those pictures were taken from a road.

The trio found that out of the 800,000 photos, only 14% were taken from a location more than one mile from a road in a park. When mapped, the photo locations are densely clustered around road networks to the point that the roadways are evident in a hexagon bin map of photos.


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Hexagon map of photo locations in Yellowstone National Park. Source: Underwood, Sullivan, and Newman.

The trio used violin plots to further illustrate that picture taking was mostly clustered close to road networks.

The group noted that there were some anomalies such as Glacier Bay National Park. However, many of the photos that were logged as being far away from a road were actually taken from cruise ships.

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