State parks enjoy record year in 2009
From the state Department of Game, Fish and Parks:
PIERRE, S.D. – Despite a tough economy and an increase in the park entrance fees, South Dakota State Parks experienced their busiest year on record. Across the state, visitation was up 7 percent from 2008 and camping numbers were up 10 percent.
Many state recreation areas along the Missouri River and adjacent to reservoirs in western South Dakota have been impacted by the recovering water levels. “The state’s Missouri River and western campgrounds saw the greatest gains, largely due to optimum reservoir levels and good fishing,” said state park director Doug Hofer. “The parks on Lakes Oahe, Sharpe and Francis Case have been filling to capacity, boosting their camping usage 20 percent from 2008.”
Camping in the southeast parks, where campgrounds have typically been at capacity throughout the summer weekends for many years, saw a 5% increase. “Parks in the southeast are full almost every weekend in the summer,” noted Hofer. “Any increase of campers in this region highlights the high demand for these areas and likely comes from weekday and shoulder-season campers.”
Only the northeast parks saw lagging visitation where they never caught up from a cold wet spring. The number of campers however, was up in all regions of the state, including the northeast.
Many individual parks set visitation records in 2009 including Custer State Park
in the Black Hills. In the last three years, Custer has undergone extensive improvement and expansion projects at their facilities. Custer State Park continues to draw the most visitors, with more than 1.8 million in 2009, a 7.9 percent increase over the previous year.
The state park areas near Yankton on Lewis & Clark Lake remains second in park visitation, with 1.2 million visitors last year, and is the top destination for campers once again.