Grid Analysis of Visitor Travel Patterns in a Dispersed Outdoor Recreation Setting


  • Brian A. Peterson Kansas State University
  • Matthew T.J. Brownlee Clemson University
  • Jeffrey C. Hallo Clemson University
  • J. Adam Beeco National Park Service
  • David L. White Clemson University
  • Chris A.B. Zajchowski Old Dominion University
  • Brenda B. Bowen University of Utah



GIS, GPS, grid analysis, spatial behavior, visitor conflict, visitor travel patterns


Understanding visitor travel patterns within parks and protected areas has continually been recognized as beneficial for managers. This information can identify high-use areas and locations of potential conflicts. However, visitor travel patterns can be difficult to understand in parks and protected areas that lack organizational infrastructure, such as trails, roads, or signs (e.g., open deserts and marine environments). In this article, we demonstrate a digital grid analysis of travel patterns at the Bonneville Salt Flats Special Recreation Management Area, Utah, a vast desert expanse where trails, roads, or wayfinding signs do not exist and there is no vehicular speed limit. Data were collected using GPS data loggers and analyzed using ArcGIS. We first conducted spatial descriptive analysis to understand mean center point, median center point, directional distribution, and central line feature. Mean center point and median center point were reported in decimal degrees, which can be inputted into any smartphone or GPS unit for navigation. Using ArcMap, we designed a digital grid that overlaid the study site. The grid provided insight into spatial variations of visitor use and vehicle speeds. Using hot spot analysis, we determined areas where high use and high vehicle speeds were coinciding, which informed a spatial grouping analysis to identify areas for future monitoring. Monitoring areas are reported using navigation directions for easy location. We identified two areas where high use and high vehicle speeds coincide. Both of these areas are near the end of the access road, which suggests some visitors drive fast immediately upon entering the Bonneville Salt Flats. This finding led us to recommend managers put a speed limit zone near the access road for visitor safety. The findings of this study demonstrate the utility of grid analysis for advancing understanding of spatial variations, visitor travel patterns, and identifying priority areas to monitor in a dispersed recreation environment.Subscribe to JPRA