Smokies visits about 9% ahead of last year

Smokies visits about 9% ahead of last year


GATLINBURG (AP) - The Great Smoky Mountains National Park entered the fall foliage season with nearly 9% more visitors, year to date.

Figures released by the National Park Service showed 963,317 people came to the park in September - a 9.2% increase over September 2011.

Through the first nine months of this year, visits were up 8.9%, meaning 602,000 more people have come to the Smokies this year than in the first three quarters of 2011.

Park officials say September is a transition month that usually sees a slight lull in visits between Labor Day and the start of the "leaf peeper" season late in the month.

The park covers 500,000 acres on the Tennessee-North Carolina border and is the most-visited of the national parks.

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