The Effects of Climate Change on Outdoor Recreation

Effects of Climate Change on Outdoor Recreation

This is a sample of the editorial and news content you can get when you sign up for our Patreon (also sign up four our e-mail list). In 2017, Richard Dolesh wrote that “virtually every type of outdoor recreation is affected by climate change”. This article isn’t meant to offer solutions or debate. It’s simply an article meant to foster discussion and confront the realities that the effects of climate change will have on outdoor recreation.

It’s An Ongoing and Current Issue

We’ve seen weather affecting outdoor activities even just within the past two months. Higher temperatures are causing people to forgo outdoor activities such as running and hiking. Smoke from the Canadian wildfires make it more difficult for at-risk individuals to participate in outdoor recreation.

Warmer water can lead to dangerous algae blooms due to more algae-friendly habitat and agricultural runoff. This leads to fewer opportunities for fishing and swimming sports-which are mainstays of summer. While warmer weather is found to increase the number of outdoor activities (Willwerth et al, 2023), the research doesn’t consider drought or the effect that algae blooms and more salinized water has on outdoor recreation.

Fishing and Climate Change

Recreational fishing is dramatically affected by even subtle changes to climates. For example, in a study of fisherman not catching any trout, it was shown that when water temperatures were 19 degrees Celsius, the number of anglers not catching trout increased by 50% (Paudyal et al., 2015). In rivers in Appalachia, brook trout are at risk for losing significant portions of their habitat (Paudyal et al., 2015). Unfortunately, smaller catch rates will exacerbate the issue of declining participation in recreational fishing.

Recreational fishing and hunting are microcosms of the broader political discourse. Many anglers for instance, will blame decreasing catch rates on poor resource management by state governments, overfishing by other angles, and a myriad of other things, rather than identifying the role that climate change and overall warming temperatures have on fish catch rates. The study of the effects of climate change and commercial fishing has been a popular area of concern. However, the effects of climate change on sport and recreation fishing is a newer area. Townhill et al., have published a study (referenced below) that begins to consider the effects of increased salinity in freshwater, decreased salinity in saltwater and the overall warming of waters on recreational fishing.

Local Parks

Local communities with parks that have features such as beaches and trails are having difficulty maintaining park equipment and trails due to increased flooding and more damaging storms. This has a dramatic impact on everyone’s ability to get out and hike even at the local park down the street. Even worse, many boardwalks that make trails accessible to everyone can take years before they are properly fixed once damaged, if they are fixed at all.

National Parks

Even national parks have been closed in recent years due to extreme weather occurrences. For instance, this spring floods closed parts of Yosemite National Park due to winter snow melting. Before that, parts were closed due to extreme snowfall. In 2022, Yellowstone National Park experienced dramatic flooding that washed roads away, leading to closures. So even high-profile outdoor trips are becoming more and more frequently affected due to extreme weather.

Winter Recreation

Winter recreation in most parts of the United States has been suffering due to more unpredictable weather and above average temperatures. The U.S. Forest Service reports that climate change projects anticipate shorter winters with less snow. The EPA reports that total snowfall has decreased due to many locations receiving more rain in the fall than snow. Also, the days of peak snowpack have been decreasing every year. Projected to reach $32 billion by 2031, the winter sports equipment market will see dramatic shifts away from things such as ski equipment as the timeframe for using that equipment shortens every year.


As a nearly $1 trillion industry, the outdoor recreation industry is uniquely affected by climate change. Indeed, nearly every vertical within the industry relies on well, a stable climate that remains healthy for humans and the environment to participate in. However, climate change has been causing ongoing issues and if projections are accurate, it’s an industry that stands to get decimated. Also, climate change issues affect all participants, regardless of political party. This is something that needs to be figured out, or our fish are going to disappear, and our mountain breezes are going to be laden with ash. And those who participate in the outdoor industry will have to find new hobbies and passions.


Climate change and harmful algal blooms | US EPA. (2022, December 15). US             EPA.

Climate change indicators in the United States | US EPA. (2023, July 31). US             EPA.

Climate change is changing the face of outdoor recreation | Feature | Parks and Recreation        Magazine | NRPA. (n.d.).         magazine/2017/october/climate-change-is-changing-the-face-of-outdoor-recreation/

Climate change – Outdoor Industry Association. (2023, February 6). Outdoor Industry             Association.

Paudyal, R., Poudyal, N. C., Bowker, J., Dorison, A. M., Zarnoch, S. J., & Green, G. T. (2015). A       value orientation approach to assess and compare climate change risk perception         among trout anglers in Georgia, USA. Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, 11,        22–33.

Townhill, B. L., Radford, Z., Pecl, G. T., Van Putten, I., Pinnegar, J. K., & Hyder, K. (2019). Marine recreational fishing and the implications of climate change. Fish and Fisheries, 20(5),    977–992.

Willwerth, Sheahan, M., Chan, N., Fant, C., Martinich, J., & Kolian, M. (2023). The Effects of          Climate Change on Outdoor Recreation Participation in the United States: Projections for the Twenty-First Century. Weather, Climate, and Society., 15(3), 477–492.      22-0060.1

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