Campers on the Great Plains A Sure Sign of Spring

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April 7, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

If you see daffodils popping up on the Great Plains, you can bet pop-up campers, RVs and even tents are once again beginning to repopulate state, county and commercial campgrounds across Siouxland, according to the Sioux City (S.D.) Journal.

Iowa's state park campgrounds are open year-round, although the water to restroom and shower facilities is turned off in mid-October. It's back on in the second or third week of April, depending on the forecast, said Mick Klemesrud, spokesman the state park campgrounds managed by the Department of Natural Resources.

Half of each type of Iowa state park campsites — tent, RV, cabin, lodge — can be reserved as much as three months ahead of arrival. For example, Friday was the first day you could book a campsite for Fourth of July weekend. The other half of the sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The DNR website provides maps of each park so campers can locate shower houses, playgrounds, beaches, dump stations and more. There's a searchable data base for finding special amenities such as equestrian facilities, golf courses or fishing sites. In addition, the site features a clickable map where you can find not only campgrounds but also a picture of the exact campsite you may choose. Yes, a photo of each of the state's 5,500 campsites is online.

Klemesrud said leaving half the sites available works especially well at state campgrounds that are run by counties rather than the DNR.

Although only about two dozen or so campers are in place at South Sioux City's Scenic Park Campground, which opened Thursday, hostesses Sue Brown and Carlene Modlin are already swamped with phone calls from campers planning visits to the popular facility this summer or fall. Others drop in to the straw house office to study the campsite map and make reservations. The two managers explain the various sites, rate options, services — electricity, sewer, water, cable, Wi-Fi — and campground amenities to each one and wait patiently as the customers mull over their choices.

Kent Larson, of South Sioux City is among a number of local residents who live at the campground during the summer, renting a camper pad on the peninsula by the month. He just settled in about a week ago.

"This is just really neat," he said. "As spring greens up, we'll put in some flowers. I've got a big picture window and watch the river water go by." He was among about a dozen campers already moved into one of the 24 monthly-fee sites on the peninsula last week.

His next-door neighbors, Dennis and Karen Hogan, proudly showed off the concrete patio they poured last year, with the city supplying the concrete and they the labor. And, they point out, they and two neighbors got together and laid sod around their pads last year. "We didn't want to wait for the grass to grow," Dennis said.

The couple sold their Sioux City house five years ago, bought an RV and now spend their summers at Scenic Park and their winters in San Diego.

Some Scenic Park campers just enjoy a weekend away from home, however. Shalynn Lundquist and her friends Kelsey Festar and Krystine Keleher, were enjoying part of their spring break in a pop-up camper with two of their older brothers.

"It's really fun," Shalynn said. "We get to go fishing and sleep by the water."

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