Open Access

The Instagram Effect: Is Social Media Influencing Visitation to Public Land?

Ashley Lowe Mackenzie, Steven J. Dundas and Bo Zhao


Public lands in the United States have recently experienced significant increases in visitation. Journalists and park managers suggest Instagram as a reason for the increase. We explore this issue in the Oregon State Park system by combining visitation data with park-specific georeferenced content and engagement indicators from Instagram. Using several empirical specifications, we show suggestive evidence that Instagram is not likely correlated to increased visitation everywhere, but only in a few locations generating high user participation within the app. We find no contemporary effect and a positive association with cumulative Instagram engagement indicators on visits at this subset of parks.

KeywordsJEL Classifications

This open access article is distributed under the terms of the CC-BY-NC-ND license ( and is freely available online at: