Economic Impact of Outdoor Recreation

​​​​​​​​​Outdoor recreation is a major economic driver for Wisconsin. From tourism to manufacturing to retailers and outfitters, it is a job-supporting industry that provides the quality of life Wisconsin residents enjoy. Each year, the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account of the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis measures the economic activity of outdoor recreation across the nation and for each state. ​

​Key Findings​

  • $9.8 billion contributed to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP)
  • 6.8% growth year over year
  • 2.5% share of GDP
  • 94,042​​ jobs across diverse sectors 
  • 3.1% share of all state employment
  • $4.7 billion in compensation provided to Wisconsinites

Reports and Other Highlights

​The Office has published two comprehensive economic reports that detail the impacts of Wisconsin's outdoor recreation industry. Both were produced by Headwaters Economics, a leading independent, bipartisan and nonprofit research firm.​ 

​​​​Read​​ the full economic data and impact report for more details on the outdoor industry's contributions to Wisconsin in 2021 as well as how the Office of Outdoor Recreation works to support this vital industry.

I​​n 2020, the Office released a first-of-its-kind report that provided a comprehensive review of the economic impact of outdoor recreation industry in Wisconsin. Several studies included in the report showed the impacts of outoor recreation are significant drivers of local economies, too.

  • 17 million visits annually to the Wisconsin State Park System drive more than $1 billion in spending per year. (In 2020, park visits increased by over 20% to 21 million.)
  • Driftless Wisconsin’s Kickapoo Water Trail attracts 16,000 paddler visits per year that generate $1.2 million.
  • The 47-mile Cheese Country Trail – an ATV/UTV trail in southwest Wisconsin – attracts 98,000 visits that create more than $15 million in spending in the area.
  • Silent sports enthusiasts spend about $14.7 million per year in Ashland, Bayfield and Sawyer counties.