Many top camping spots in South Dakota have already reported a 10% to 20% increase in visitors this year. Game Fish and Parks says they’ve already booked 37,000 campsites for the summer, up from last year’s 29,000, according to KSFY-TV, Sioux Falls.
Lake Herman State Park is home to 72 campsites and looking ahead to one very busy weekend.
“Last I heard, our park was full and that means we have a very busy weekend ahead. Walker’s Point and Lake Herman are full for this weekend,” John Bame said.
And that’s happening a lot more this year than last year.
“It might attribute to the warmer spring we had, and April was a god month as well. A lot of our counts increased because a lot of people came out early to recreate due to the good weather,” Bame said.
Despite some recent rain in Madison which left temporary water damage to the campground, booked weekends are what staff likes to see.
“It’s hard to get a spot out here, especially a good one. We have a nice view. The lake is right there and the water is nice,” staffer Nick Foster said.
“It’s nice to see people come out and utilize the parks. The more people we have out here, that’s what makes my job enjoyable is getting people out enjoying the resources I get to work with everyday,” Bame said.
To plan for a busy weekend, staff makes sure they’ve got a clean park and each site is ready to be enjoyed.
“It’s good to know the general public are interested in coming to the state parks and I hope we’re doing a good enough job for them to continue to come back,” Bame said.
It may seem a bit early to get out the camping equipment, but that’s exactly what many people are doing this year in South Dakota.
“We’ve seen visitors from Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Colorado,” Custer State Park Campground Manager Lance Catron told KELO-TV, Sioux Falls.
And Michigan, where campers Faye Miller and Stan Cerny hail from.
“As soon as the weather permits, we’re out. So the weather was nice early so we’re out early,” Miller said.
“It still gets chilly. We don’t care as long as the sun comes out during the day, it’s fine,” Cerny said.
“With the perfect weather that we’ve had in March, the reasonable temperatures have helped us out tremendously,” Catron said.
And while Custer State Park rented three times as many camping sites this March as they did last, the numbers for the entire state are even greater. Statewide, South Dakota’s state campsites saw a 388% increase.
But the weather isn’t the only thing bringing these campers out.
“I went to Alaska, and you saw caribou, but you didn’t hardly see any animals. We’ve seen more animals in two days than we saw in Alaska in two weeks,” Cerny said.
“To have it in the park with you is even more surprising. You wake up and see the tails going across the park, and it’s like, ‘Wow,’” Miller said.
If the weather continues to wow park visitors, Catron is hopeful that these numbers will continue to increase.
“If everything holds true, we’ll have one of the best camping seasons we’ve ever had here in Custer State Park,” Catron said.
State parks are well on their way to breaking more records. Campground reservations are up 15% at Custer State Park compared to this time last year.