Camping Visits Rise 6% at Popular South Dakota Park

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September 8, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

Families may have been trying to trim their spending because of the nation's economic downturn, but they have still found their way to Yankton, S.D., campgrounds.

And in turn, those sites have posted record numbers this summer, according to the Sioux City Journal.

According to Jeff Van Meeteren, regional park supervisor at Lewis and Clark Recreation Area, the number of camping units at the state park have risen 6% from 2008. Through the third week of August, the park has hosted more than 28,000 camping units, compared to about 26,500 last year.

Van Meeteren said the recreation area has already exceeded its record camping year, set in 2007. Typically, the percentage increase from one year to the next does not reach higher than 4%, he said.

"We could have never anticipated a year like this," said Van Meeteren, of the South Dakota State Game, Fish and Parks Department. "This summer has been huge for us, across the board."

Among the campgrounds at Lewis and Clark Recreation Area — which is second only to Custer State Park in the number of visitors each year — two locations have either remained constant or have increased from last year.

Van Meeteren said Chief White Crane has seen an increase of 2.5% of camping units, while Pierson Ranch is essentially the same, just one unit ahead of last year.

"Considering everything that's worked against us, we're a little surprised at how high the numbers have been," he said.

The overriding concern for families deciding how to trim costs for vacation spending has been the economy, Van Meeteren said. However, he said attractions such as campgrounds are finding that although visitors are traveling less, their stays have been extended.

Not only has the economy been a concern, but the unseasonably cool weather this summer also raised "worries" over the likelihood of the visitor numbers remaining constant, Van Meeteren said.

"Our day-use numbers have been hurt by the wet weather, but camping is still our bread and butter," he said. "To be honest, if we had known in advance what the weather would be like, we would have predicted really low numbers."

Instead, the number of visitors is at an all-time high.

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