The University of Montana
Department of Mathematical Sciences

Technical report #12/2013

A Natural Experiment in Reservoir Levels and Recreational Use:
Modeling Visitation on Lake Mead and Lake Powell

Chris J. NeherA,C, John W. DuffieldA, David A. PattersonA
ADepartment of Mathematical Sciences, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812,USA.

C Corresponding author. Email:


The Colorado River is one of the most highly developed watersheds in the United States and has relatively unique long term data sets for both recreational visitation and water levels on the two largest reservoirs in the United StatesóLake Mead and Lake Powell. Previous efforts to model the relationship of recreation and reservoir water levels have primarily relied on survey-based estimates of visitor response to past actual or future hypothetical water levels. We provide the first major reservoir-recreation study based entirely on long-term observed data that also includes observed economic impacts.

Keywords: Lake Powell, Recreational use, Reservoir levels, Visitor spending, National Park Service

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