Wilderness Recreation Experiences: The Rawah Case

Perry J. Brown, Glenn E. Haas
1980 Journal of Leisure Research  
The workshop was convened to celebrate and review 50 years of research on wilderness visitor experience and its influence on wilderness stewardship. These proceedings are organized in three sections. The first section contains 12 papers that review literature or describe empirical research about wilderness visitor experiences. The second section provides three papers on management frameworks and the perspectives of planners and managers. The third section consists of five papers on wilderness
more » ... periences and the future. Abstract-This paper reviews 50 years of research on the experiences of wilderness visitors. Research on the nature of experiences began with an emphasis on motivations for taking wilderness trips and a focus on the experiential outcomes of wilderness visits. This perspective has been complemented by recent work that more deeply explores the lived experience in wilderness, its ebb and flow, and the process by which experience is constructed and developed into long-lasting relationships. In attempting to understand how wilderness settings might best be managed to protect high quality experiences, considerable work has been conducted on the effects of setting attributes on experience. In particular, the effect of use density on experience has been a prominent research theme. Among the insights of this body of research, is the realization that experiences are highly diverse and idiosyncratic and that visitors are highly adaptable and adept at negotiating the situations they experience. This suggests that it is impossible to know how to most effectively steward wilderness experiences without first deciding who and what to manage for. Moreover, given the idiosyncratic personal construction of experience, management action or inaction cannot guarantee high quality experiences for everyone. 4 environment, peace and quiet, engaging in enjoyable activities and interacting with other group members, while negative influences are generally confined to isolated instances. Assessments of hypothetical conditions-Visitors have also been asked to evaluate the importance of different attributes regardless of whether they were problematic on their recent wilderness visit. Evaluations are hypothetical (relevant to how respondents might be affected) rather than actual (relevant to how respondents were affected). Roggenbuck and others (1993) asked visitors to the Caney Creek (AR), Cohutta (GA) and Rattlesnake (MT) Wildernesses how much they "care about" such attributes as "the amount of litter I see" and "the number of hikers who walk past my campsite." With the exception of "number of wild animals" seen, they focused on negative attributes. The most important attributes were site impacts, particularly litter and tree damage at campsites, and humancaused noise. Wild animal sightings were also important, and encounters with other groups were less important. At Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness (AZ), Moore and others (1989) also found that litter was a major experience detractor, along with graffiti, feces and low-flying aircraft. Seeing animals, along with opportunities for recreational activities, was a major experience enhancer. One criticism of this approach is that respondents have little guidance regarding what conditions they are evaluating. When asked about tree damage, are they imagining a clearcut or a few nails in trees? To overcome this limitation, Cole and Hall (2009), in the Alpine Lakes (WA) and Three Sisters (OR) Wildernesses, provided three levels for each attribute (for example, "no litter," "a few pieces of litter," and "lots of litter in many places"), asking for ratings on a scale from "adds a lot to the experience" to "detracts a lot." Moreover, they reasoned that the most important attributes were those with the largest variation in evaluations among levels. Again, litter was rated the most important attribute. Human sounds were considered a major detractant and wildlife sightings added substantially to the experience. In these places, the level of interaction with people outside one's own group at campsites was considered to have a substantial adverse effect on experience quality. Effects on what people experience-Less is known about how many of these attributes influence what visitors actually experience. At Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness (AZ), Moore and others (1989) report that the presence of human feces or toilet paper substantially reduced one's experience of both untamed wilderness and unspoiled wilderness. This ability to experience untamed and unspoiled wilderness was reportedly not affected by evidence of campfires, damaged trees and vegetation, livestock manure, wildlife, low flying aircraft and firerings. The presence of litter, livestock manure and damaged trees and vegetation affected one's "feeling that no one had been here before," while feces, campfires, fire rings and wildlife did not. None of these attributes influenced feelings related to discovery, danger or security. Although not working in wilderness, Lynn and Brown (2003) asked respondents to assess the effect of six recreation impacts (trail erosion, trail widening, trail muddiness, tree and plant References _______________________ Absher, James D.; Lee, Robert G. 1981. Density as an incomplete cause of crowding in backcountry settings. Leisure Sciences. 4: 231-247. Arnould, Eric J.; Price, Linda L. 1993. River magic: Extraordinary experience and the extended service encounter. Journal of Consumer Research. 20: 24-45. Borrie, William T.; Birzell, Robert M. 2001. Approaches to measuring quality of the wilderness experience. In: Freimund, Wayne A.; Cole, David N., comps. Visitor use density and wilderness experience:
doi:10.1080/00222216.1980.11969447 fatcat:osggdhswkrfyvjzptmaecrcvi4