PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The 396,365 nights that people camped in South Dakota’s state parks and recreation areas through November this year were the most ever.

They were 1% more than the old record of 394,714 covering the full year that was set in 2021, according to Scott Simpson, director for the state Parks and Recreation Division.

“Anytime we’re gaining on this, this is epic,” Simpson told the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission on Thursday. “That was awesome.”

Visitation through November dropped to 7,823,635, which was below last year’s record 8,540,702 and the prior year’s 8,293,684.

Simpson called the three years “a great trend” and praised the staff. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of this team and what’s been accomplished,” he said.

And there’s room for more use of the system in shoulder months of May, September and October, according to Simpson. “We’ve got a resource out there underutilized some of the year,” he said.