Why You Might See More Selfie Stations Popping Up in National Parks

National parks are crowded — and selfie stations may be able to help.

It's no secret that national parks have been especially popular during the pandemic summer of 2021.

Several of the country's most popular national parks have even set new records for visitation this year, and tourists dedicated to scoring that perfect selfie aren't helping to alleviate the congestion and crowding that has increasingly become the norm in these beautiful places.

At one point in 2018, Grand Teton National Park urged tourists to avoid geotagging photos in an effort to keep local trails from being overrun by tourists, The Guardian reported. Nowadays, officials are looking toward a different solution: strategically placed selfie stations.

And they're just in time. Several popular national parks have had to close their gates this summer as crowds have overwhelmed places like Arches National Park and Zion National Park in Utah. Several parks are also turning to reservation systems and entrance fees to limit visitor numbers.

Selfie stations aren't just meant to alleviate the congestion that stems from tourists' dedication to nabbing that ideal snap. They're also there to protect people from potentially deadly accidents in pursuit of a perfect picture. One woman died in 2020 after falling into the Grand Canyon. She had left a designated path in pursuit to take photos, ABC News reported.

Officials in Iowa have already installed more than 100 selfie stations at county parks across the state. Think of these as monument markers that not only hold your phone, but are also perfectly placed for a photo. "They are getting used and they are low maintenance and easy to build: The signs are $30 and the wood is another $60 and there you go," Tom Hazelton, who oversaw the Iowa project, told The Guardian.

A selfie station at Cowpens National Battlefield, a National Park Service (NPS) site in South Carolina, is akin to a historical photo booth. And it's not just selfie stations that officials are turning to as they work to better manage traffic at popular U.S. national parks. At Shenandoah National Park, for example, officials have set up a photo station for visitors to contribute to a crowdsourced time-lapse photography project.

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets and walking on beaches. Find her on Facebook and Instagram.

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