‘Typical’ Camping Year in Wisconsin
The number of people camping this summer in Wisconsin’s private campgrounds “has been pretty typical,” said Lori Severson, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners.
“We’ve had a cluster of campgrounds that had record years,” Severson said. “And we’ve had some areas that have had lower numbers than normal,” including some campgrounds in the Wisconsin Dells area. That was because some people seemed to incorrectly think the Wisconsin Dells area was closed because Lake Delton emptied, Severson said, according to the La Crosse Tribune.
“And gas prices affected some of our northern campgrounds” that traditionally draw campers from longer distances, Severson said. “I think the Chicago business was down a little bit (because of high gas prices), but our people staying closer to home made up for that.”
High gas prices prompted some people to camp closer to home, and also made extended stays a little more popular, Severson said. “People would stay more days at one particular campground,” rather than make more trips for shorter stays.
Summer camping got off to a slow start in Wisconsin because of flooding in some areas, Severson said. “But July and August turned out nicely,” she said.
The number of campers at the Goose Island Campground, a county-owned park in La Crosse, “has been very typical” this summer, campground manager Ida Christenson said Aug. 29, as the Labor Day weekend got underway. “I think we had a great summer,” she said.
“There definitely have been a lot of locals, and not as many travelers,” Christenson said. She attributes that to high gasoline prices.
The number of people camping there Friday was normal for a Labor Day weekend, Christenson said. All of the campground’s sites with both electricity and water, or with electricity only, have been booked for more than a month but tent sites were available. The campground has more than 400 sites, Christenson said.
The peak camping season is from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Christenson said. Goose Island Campground is officially open from April 15 through Oct. 31, but plans to offer winter camping for the second consecutive year.
“I assume it will start Nov. 1,” Christenson said. “We still have duck hunters who like to come out and camp.”
“It’s been very good” this summer, with typical numbers of campers, said Darlene Guinn, co-manager of Veterans Memorial Campground, a 114-site public campground near West Salem.
Guinn said this year’s campers include more local people than usual. “With the gas prices, people are just staying close to home,” she said.
Dells Hopes for Rebound
Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Dells is trying to rebound after a tough summer affected by flooding and it's held its own – that's the word from the Convention and Visitors Bureau about how Dells businesses fared this summer, according to WISCTV.com.
The area has had to deal with high gas prices, a slumping economy, flooding and the loss of Lake Delton.
"I think we're very lucky to be looking at good weather for this weekend," said Maria Yohn of Captain Ron's Original Jet Boat Tours.
It's the least that could be done for businesses that have struggled through challenge after challenge after kicking off the summer with the catastrophic Lake Delton breach the second week of June.
"We had a slow summer, definitely slower than in the past," said Yohn.
Loyal, returning customers are what saved them, but they'll end the year in the red, and that’s the same story at the Holiday Shores Campground.
"It started out slow obviously, but as the summer went on the weather definitely cooperated with us, so I think it was a pretty normal year after the flood. The waters receded, and everything got back to normal," said Jim Ward of Holiday Shores Campground.
The campground had gone through much this summer.
"Especially in June, we had hundreds of phone calls asking 'Are you in business?' — if everything was still here, if the business was normal as usual. So, it took awhile to overcome that," said Ward.
"I'm hoping that people come up especially with gas prices really going down," said Yohn.