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Smokies visits about 9 percent ahead of last year

Associated Press Published: October 18, 2012

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — The Great Smoky Mountains National Park entered the fall foliage season with nearly 9 percent more visitors, year to date.

Figures released by the National Park Service showed 963,317 people came to the park in September — a 9.2 percent increase over September 2011.

Through the first nine months of this year, visits were up 8.9 percent, meaning 602,000 more people have come to the Smokies this year than in the first three quarters of 2011.

Park officials say September is a transition month that usually sees a slight lull in visits between Labor Day and the start of the "leaf peeper" season late in the month.

The park covers 500,000 acres on the Tennessee-North Carolina border and is the most-visited of the national parks.