Hiking, biking, camping, kayaking fishing, swimming help PA economy


Pennsylvania has the sixth largest outdoor recreation industry in the United States, contributing $13.64 billion to the state’s economy,

That’s according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis statistics.

About 180 million people visited Pennsylvania last year, Carrie Fischer Lepore,  deputy secretary for marketing, tourism and film of the Department for Community and Economic Development, said during a webinar held Tuesday by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“Our areas of the state with strong outdoor recreation opportunities, places like the Poconos, Laurel Highlands, the Pennsylvania Wilds, Erie have had tremendous record breaking visitation the last two years in a row, in large part due to outdoor recreation,” she said.

“Outdoors recreation plays a ginormous role in both attracting visitors, welcoming visitors back for repeat visitations, as well as factoring in to our business development,” Fischer Lepore said.

Enjoy whitewater kayaking in a group on Slippery Rock Creek in McConnells Mill State Park.

For DCNR Pennsylvania Director of Outdoor Recreation Nathan Reigner, those numbers translate to jobs: 152,000 full-time employees in the commonwealth.

While that is a significant number of jobs, he said the state is hurting from reduced incomes.

“Outdoor recreation jobs only earn about 57% of the compensation earned by jobs of other sectors, so that’s something we are trying to work on here in the commonwealth,” Reigner said. The average Pennsylvania outdoor recreational worker made $44,623 in 2021, compared with $77,884 for all salaried jobs in the state.

Committing to Pennsylvania

The Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle State Park is a world reknown destination for white water enthusiasts.

Nicholas Gilson’s company suffered a major loss this year. A fire destroyed his factory in November, and it forced him to make a decision about staying in the state.

He is the founder of Gilson Snow in Winfield, Union County, a company that manufacturers snowboards and skis in central Pennsylvania, for about 50 countries.

“We realized within 12 months of building this business that there was no way we would leave,” he said. “Partially just because of how much this place means to us, how much the community embraced us, but also for very real business reasons as well. The woodworking heritage in our region is extraordinary. The access to natural, sustainably harvested Pennsylvania poplar where we don’t even have inbound shipping on our timber.”

He believes the fire has cleared the way for his company’s future to look at the landscape and rebuild. “The one place that  we are deeply committed to and the smartest place to build this business for the next chapter is right here in Pennsylvania.”

Before you buy:Looking for the perfect kayak? Here’s how to find one that fits your needs, size

Ride the rapids:Thinking about riding whitewater at Ohiopyle? Here’s what you need to know

Brian Whipkey is the outdoors columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him atbwhipkey@gannett.com and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter email on your website’s homepage under your login name. Follow him on Facebook@whipkeyoutdoors.


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