Visitation picking up in Smokies

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) -- Visits to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are running ahead of last year's traffic.

The National Park Service said February saw an 11.6 percent increase in visitors over the same month last year.

Visits in February totaled 351,617 -- a jump of 36,411 over February 2011.

That made for the busiest February in the Smokies since the same month in 2001.

A news release from park officials stated visits were up 16.5 percent for the first two months of this year, compared with January and February of 2011.

Park campgrounds had a 24.3 percent increase in camping nights last month.

Just over 9 million people visited the 500,000-acre park on the Tennessee-North Carolina border in 2011.