Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport

Degree Type

Master of Science


The sport of rock climbing has exploded in America over the last decade resulting in millions of climbers flocking to the available areas near and far from their home. Such traffic demands clear and effective policy-making from land managers, public and private, in order to conserve and protect valuable natural resources. The Red River Gorge area hosts thousands of climbers each year and contains over 1,000 climbing routes in ten separate areas with an array of amenities for lodging, food, and other recreation. However, no research has been completed to determine the benefits of these climbing resources for local businesses and residents. This study was designed to investigate the economic impact of rock climbers on the local communities in and around the Red River Gorge area. Surveys obtained from 141 climbing groups over fifty-one days provided travel distances, group size, trip duration, and the amount of expenditure inside and outside the Gorge area. Climbers surveyed spent $34,708.45 in Kentucky, an average of $28.17 per climber per day. Specifically within the delineated Gorge area, the expenditure totaled $25,563.50, or $19.95 per climber per day. The data were analyzed using the input-output model, IMP LAN, to determine the impact on employee compensation, labor income, total value added, and employment in the designated area. The total economic effect inside the Gorge area, based on $1 million in annual climber expenditure, was $307,318.


Economics | Tourism