FRUITA, Colo. (KREX) — When it comes to tourism numbers, Colorado National Monument is smashing records left and right. CNM’s Chief of Interpretation Arlene Jackson says more people looking to explore are finding our park.

“We had about 435,000 visitors last year,” Chief of Interpretation Arlene Jackson mentions, “We are above that at the end of November, so we haven’t even counted December’s numbers yet.”

More tourists at the monument mean more people visiting the gift shop. Colorado National Monument Association, the monument’s only non-profit friends group, had record sales almost every month of 2021.

Betweeen memberships and donations, Co-Executive Director Johanna van Waveren says 2021 is their best sales year ever.

“As of November, we have made over $600,000 in sales in the bookstore and, previously, it had been 200 hundred thousand dollars less than that,” Co-Executive Director Johanna van Waveren shares, “Because we use local businesses and artists, we really found a lot of success keeping things stocked for folks coming into the visitor center. This was a year of unprecedented business for us, we kept on hitting record numbers in sales. It was definitely hard to keep things on the shelf but using local folks really helped us out.”

Some see monument and think it’s a statue.

“People like coming to the monument because, for many of them, it’s a surprise,” Jackson describes, “They don’t know what to expect when they get here and they see these amazing canyons and mesas and they’re just pretty much blown away by it.”

Every surprise is worth the drive for visitors, near and far, like Veena Chakrasali. Her family arrived in Colorado before Christmas Eve.

“We drove all the way from California because we didn’t want to miss all the scenic routes and we want to really feel it,” Monument Visitor Veena Chakrasali enlightens, “We love the nature so we’re here more for sightseeing and experience this; get a feel of Colorado. We have big souvenirs from every place we’ve stopped over.”

Record-breaking sales provide funds for interns, the Junior Park Ranger program and restoration of the old amphitheater.

“Really hope that this is something we can continue to do: is to fund an intern in their entirety so they’re able to be housed while they’re here and be able to be at the monument for months on end, doing really important work,” van Waveren discusses.

The record number of monument tourists also visit local shops, hotels, restaurants and wineries, so when the monument gets a boost the entire Grand Valley does too.

If you plan on visiting Colorado National Monument soon, calling ahead for road conditions is highly advised by its staff.