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Agriculture & Tourism


Kentucky’s Red River Gorge is a popular rock climbing destination located amid longstanding poverty in America’s Central Appalachian region. Climbing represents an important part of the outdoor recreation economy and may provide one alternative to mono-economic extractive industry dependency in this region. This study examines the economic impact of climbing in the Red utilizing an online survey of rock climbers and economic impact methodology. The survey examines expenditures in lodging, food purchases, travel, retail purchases, and services. The survey also collected visitation and demographics data. The authors estimate climbers spend $8.7 million annually (up from $3.8 million in 2015) and support over 100 jobs in some of the poorest counties in the region and nation. The study reiterates previous findings indicating climbers are well-educated with incomes higher than those typically found in this region. The study’s results help reframe the value of climbing’s economic impact in rural transitional economies throughout Central Appalachia. These findings also raise policy implications regarding public land access and reducing climber environmental impacts on public lands.


Publication Title

Journal of Economic Impact


Original Citation:

Maples, J.N., & Bradley, M.J. (2022). Outdoor recreation and rural transitions in Central Appalachia: Revisiting economic impact of rock climbing in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. Journal of Economic Impact, 3(3), 186-195. doi: 10.52223/jei3032108.

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