An interpretation of special place meanings whitewater recreationists attach to the South Fork of the American River

Kelly S. Bricker, Deborah L. Kerstetter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


The concept of place attachment for one of the most popular whitewater destinations in the Western United States, the South Fork of the American River, was explored through qualitative analysis. Whitewater rafters and kayakers visiting the South Fork were surveyed to understand places they perceived as special along the 21-mile river corridor. This included an open-ended mail survey following an on-site interview with each respondent. The results of qualitative analysis indicated that the meanings whitewater recreationists attach to special places are multi-dimensional and complex, ranging in focus from a specific geographical location to the social benefits accrued from visiting the river. Environmental-Landscape, Recreation, Human-Social, Heritage-Historic, and Commodity dimensions were identified as base dimensions that provided a basis for added exploration. Sub-categories were found within each base dimensions that further explained special place meanings. Additionally, complex dimensions emerged as combinations of the Human-Social, Environmental-Landscape, and Recreation dimensions. Within each complex dimension, sub-categories identified specific types of meanings and further clarification of major base dimension groupings. The results of this study documented how a person's attachment to particular places can contribute to our understanding of the quality nature-based tourism experiences. Through qualitative analyses results indicated that different types of place meanings play an important role in an individuals' preferences for places, as well as the ways in which they value the South Fork of the American River corridor. The results also bring into question traditional methods of assessing place, especially when the data are used in managing natural resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)396-425
Number of pages30
JournalTourism Geographies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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