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Publication Information

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Title: Wilderness visitor experiences: Lessons from 50 years of research

Author: Cole, David N.; Williams, Daniel R.

Date: 2012

Source: In: Cole, David N., comp. Wilderness visitor experiences: Progress in research and management; 2011 April 4-7; Missoula, MT. Proc. RMRS-P-66. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 3-20.

Publication Series: Proceedings (P)

   Note: This article is part of a larger document. View the larger document

Description: This paper reviews 50 years of research on the experiences of wilderness visitors. Research on the nature of experiences began with an emphasis on motivations for taking wilderness trips and a focus on the experiential outcomes of wilderness visits. This perspective has been complemented by recent work that more deeply explores the lived experience in wilderness, its ebb and flow, and the process by which experience is constructed and developed into long-lasting relationships. In attempting to understand how wilderness settings might best be managed to protect high quality experiences, considerable work has been conducted on the effects of setting attributes on experience. In particular, the effect of use density on experience has been a prominent research theme. Among the insights of this body of research, is the realization that experiences are highly diverse and idiosyncratic and that visitors are highly adaptable and adept at negotiating the situations they experience. This suggests that it is impossible to know how to most effectively steward wilderness experiences without first deciding who and what to manage for. Moreover, given the idiosyncratic personal construction of experience, management action or inaction cannot guarantee high quality experiences for everyone.

Keywords: management frameworks, recreation management, research methods, solitude, technology, visitor density, wilderness experience

Publication Notes:

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
  • You may send email to rschneider@fs.fed.us to request a hard copy of this publication. (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)

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Citation:


Cole, David N.; Williams, Daniel R. 2012. Wilderness visitor experiences: Lessons from 50 years of research. In: Cole, David N., comp. Wilderness visitor experiences: Progress in research and management; 2011 April 4-7; Missoula, MT. Proc. RMRS-P-66. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 3-20.

 


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