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Good Season for Parks Along Mississippi River

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September 3, 2013 by   - () Leave a Comment

Mississippi River Valley in the morning fog from scenic overlook in Great River Bluffs State Park. The river meanders beneath the fog. Photo courtesy of Explore Minnesota

The slow economy and spiking gas prices apparently prompted some campers to park their RVs and pitch their tents closer to home this season.

Although a long winter and cold, wet spring started the season off slowly, it’s ending with  campgrounds and parks located along the Mississippi River in southwest Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota at or near capacity, the La Crosse (Wis.) Tribune reported.

“We’ve seen an uptick in local customers,” said Jordan Lyga, a senior employee at Prairie Island Campground in Winona, Minn. “I think it’s because of gas prices and the economy. People are looking closer to home, with less money coming in.

“What’s really important is family, and that helps us,” Lyga said.

Like at other area campgrounds, weather delayed Prairie Island’s opening, he said.

“It started slow because of the winter that lasted forever,” Lyga said. “We usually open in April but didn’t until May. Then the month of rain for all of June really hurt.”

Prairie Island, with 110 electrical sites and 100 non-electric, has been full during holiday weekends and expects a good crowd this weekend, he said.

The story is similar at Pettibone Resort RV Park and Campground in La Crosse, which manager Zeb Allert said was full for Labor Day weekend.

“We’ve seen an upswing in tent camping, kind of the younger generation,” Allert said. “Walk-ins also picked up.”

Some campers buy RVs at Pettibone’s adjacent sales facility and drive them over to the campground to break them in, he said.

Pettibone has a lot of older campers who take their RVs to Florida for the winter and trek back here for the summer.

Even though Labor Day generally signals the end of summer, it doesn’t end camping season, which will continue until Nov. 1 at Pettibone and many other facilities.

“We’ll be completely maxed out for Oktoberfest,” Sept. 27-Oct. 5, Allert said.

Goose Island Campground south of La Crosse rebounded after the wet, chilly start, said Mary Kaufmann, La Crosse County Parks Office supervisor.

“It’s looking good now,” Kaufmann said. “We’ve had a good season.”

Goose Island touts itself as the largest county-run campground in the state, with 300-plus sites.

Perrot State Park in Trempealeau also rallied from a flagging start with an influx of campers in June, said park manager Lois Larson.

“Then the heat knocked it out of everybody for awhile,” she said.

But outdoor lovers returned with milder conditions, and the park had only a few sites available Friday afternoon that probably would be taken by Friday night, Larson said.

Perrot stays open for camping “until the snow flies,” she said.

Showers are shut down Oct. 15, but Perrot keeps flush toilets and hot water in one building until Oct. 31, she said.

Fall is one of the best camping seasons, Larson said.

“It’s nice, and it’s cooler,” she said. “After the first frost, when the mosquitoes are gone and you don’t have to worry so much about ticks and the colors come out and migrating birds go through, it’s a nice place to be.”

 

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