Visits, camping at S.D. parks jumped — a lot

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The pandemic fueled people’s interest in South Dakota’s state parks and rec areas.

Camping nights rose 25% this year compared to the first 10 months of 2019, topping 380,000. Visitations climbed 31% to nearly 7.8 million.

For just the month of October, campground use jumped 99% to 20,574. Visitations went up 51% to 528,940.

The state Game, Fish and Parks Commission received the numbers Thursday. Among the many standouts were campgrounds at Roy Lake, Hartford Beach, Lake Herman, Platte Creek, Buryanek, North Point, Randall Creek and Cow Creek.

“We did have a good October, just like all the other months”, Al Nedved, deputy director for the state Parks and Recreation Division, told commissioners. “The year continues very well.”

Several of his slides used zip code data to show locations from where visitors came and how the numbers compared to the prior three years.

Among nonresidents who purchased park entrance licenses online, people from Nebraska bought the most at 1,611, followed by folks from Minnesota at 1,413.

For nonresidents who made camping reservations, Nebraska led the way with 10,369 nights, a 22% increase. Minnesota was next at 8,766, up 26%.

“Those are messages that we should get out there,” chairman Gary Jensen of Rapid City said.  

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