South Dakota’s most popular camping destinations and some hidden gems

KELOLAND.com Original
South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Department

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)– South Dakota has several amazing state parks that draw in visitors from all over. There is something for everyone, whether they enjoy hiking or biking on the Michelson Trail, living history at a place like Good Earth, taking advantage of the amazing water resources or just a day to explore a place like the Palisades, Chris Hull, Communications Specialist for Game, Fish and Parks said.

“Last year, we had 1.8 million more visitors to our parks than ever before,” Hull said. “That is an amazing number. Our parks were open, clean, safe and friendly.  They also allow for people to get out and explore and practice social distancing. We really are working hard to make sure those folks return to the parks. It is good for the soul.”

Some of the more popular camping destinations include Custer State Park, Lewis and Clark Recreation Area, Platte Creek Recreation Area and Roy Lake State Park.

Hull said new campers need to realize that camping reservations can be made 90 days in advance, with the exception of Custer State Park, the modern cabins and group lodging. Veteran campers typically know the more popular weekends and many of the busiest campgrounds fill up quickly.

“That being said, if people are willing to explore new parks, there are almost always campsites available at short notice,” Hull said.

A few of the less popular parks that deserve to be experienced include Lake Louise Recreation Area, Shadehill Recreation Area, Rocky Point Recreation Area, Ft. Sisseton Historic State Park, Oahe Downstream Recreation Area and West Bend Recreation Area.

Hull said if people are planning to camp with more of a flexible schedule and maybe looking for fewer crowds, camp ground availability during the week increase.

Hull said camper numbers can be misleading because every park is a different size.

“Oahe downstream has 15,106 camping nights but on average is only 86% full throughout the summer, where Ft. Sisseton has 1,347 and is also about 83%,” Hull said.

Here are some of the camping numbers for the state parks and recreation areas:

Custer State Park: 58,639 camping nights

Lewis and Clark: 48,086 camping nights

Platte Creek: 2,104 camping nights

Roy Lake: 8,225 camping nights

Lake Louise: 2,521 camping nights

Shadehill: 7,256 camping nights

Rocky Point: 7,308 camping nights

Ft. Sisseton: 1,347 camping nights

Oahe Downstream: 15,106 camping nights

West Bend: 8,994 camping nights

“I think the message is there are a lot of great opportunities across the state,” Hull said. “If a family is willing to go to new places, they can find awesome camping spots across the state and in their own backyard.”

Some parks are more rustic, while other have modern cabins, kitchens, showers and more. Some, like Oahe Downstream, Sheps Canyon, Newton Hills, Lake Thompson, Shadehill and Palisades have group lodges available for larger gatherings.

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