Outdoor Recreation Worth Nearly $10B for the State

Wisconsin’s outdoor industry grew 7% last year, breaking record

V1 Staff, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Cross-country skiing is one of countless outdoor opportunities in Wisconsin.
SNOW MUCH FUN. Cross-country skiing is one of countless outdoor recreational opportunities in Wisconsin.

From snowmobiling to water skiing, outdoor recreation isn’t just a lot of fun for Wisconsinites: It’s also big business. How big? It contributed nearly $10 billion to the Badger State’s gross domestic product in 2022, according to recently released figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

More specifically, the estimated $9.8 billion generated by outdoor rec was a 6.8% boost from the previous year, state officials announced in December.

“With over 800 miles of Great Lakes shorelines, more than 1,000 miles of Ice Age Trail, countless state parks, forests, trails, and green spaces, outdoor recreation is core to Wisconsin’s culture and identity, and it’s an important piece of our economy,” Gov. Tony Evers said in a media release.

From boating to hunting to biking, outdoor recreation accounted for 2.5% of the state’s GDP last year. Among the top sectors were:

  • Multi-use apparel and accessories: $1.15 billion
  • Motorcycling/ATV/UTV: $1.1 billion
  • Boating and Fishing: $710 million
  • RVing: $553 million

“These historic numbers are a testament to the importance of the outdoors and the outdoor recreation economy to Wisconsin,” said Monroe Brown, director of the state’s Office Outdoor Recreation. “More than just a fun thing to do, outdoor recreation is big business and a solution for our local communities as it drives tourism, workforce attraction, and retention in all sectors of the economy.”

Learn more about the impact of outdoor recreation in the state at outdoorrecreation.wi.gov.