GARRETSON, SD (KELO) — Fall officially arrived this weekend. But that doesn’t mean families in KELOLAND have packed away their camping gear for another year, just yet. South Dakota state parks expect a steady turnout for the season, especially if the mild weather holds.
Mike and Robyn Brown are full-time RV’ers who spend most of their time on the road.
“You gotta be in shape to do it. There’s a lot of packing up and putting stuff away. You can’t be out of shape and do it,” Mike Brown said.
The Browns are packing up following their four-day stay at Palisades State Park near Garretson.
“We just hang out and go on walks and just enjoy nature,” Mike Brown said.
“And we saw the pioneers and the farmers market as well,” Robyn Brown said.
“Yeah, and we did the farmers market and saw the Falls. We just go and pick a thing to go to and do a day and just go do it,” Mike Brown said.
The Browns prefer the solitude of fall to the crowds that fill state parks during the summer months.
“There’s a lot less people. A lot of the campgrounds are vacant, so we don’t feel so crowded,” Robyn Brown said.
“The weather’s amazing in the fall. We chase the good weather. It can always be fall if you move far enough south,” Brown said.
“In the summer, it gets so hot that you almost can’t be out in it, sometimes. It’s really not that much fun to just go and sit in your camper,” Beth Olsen said.
Beth Olsen is camping with their dogs Jack and Hazel while her husband is golfing in Sioux Falls.
“My husband loves to come out and have dinner with me. But he doesn’t like to camp. So, if I’m close enough to Sioux Falls, like here or Newton Hills, then he’ll come out and spend the evening with me and then go home,” Olsen said.
It’s easier to book reservations when campsites aren’t as full. Plus fall campers prefer the cooler weather to the 100-degree heat of summer.
“I woke up this morning, it’s like 50 degrees. But I really like that nice crispy fall kind of weather. I had a fire,” Olsen said.
Palisades expects a steady turnout of fall campers well into October.
“You get a little bit more privacy and be able to enjoy the park a little more on your own during the week, with school starting, it’s obviously cooler,” District Park Supervisor Luke Dreckman said.
Fall weather can be the make-or-break factor at state parks when it comes to attendance for the year.
“During the summer, it just seems like it’s busy. And you can’t get busier than busy. So the spring and fall definitely is when things slow down and if the weather’s nice, we can see a bit of an influx of people coming in during the week and that can really help our numbers out,” Dreckman said.
Camping in the fall requires a wardrobe adjustment from summer tee shirts and swimsuits.
“You have to pack a little more clothing to stay warm. But I like sweatshirts and blue jeans, so I’m fine with that,” Olsen said.
Of course, the scenery is always a big draw at South Dakota state parks at any time of year. But the fall camping experience is enhanced even more as the leaves change colors.
“It’s really magnificent in the fall. The colors change and here you can go for hikes on the rocks and really just see some beautiful, beautiful scenery,” Olsen said.
The Brown’s next stop is Watertown before heading south to Arizona.
“It can always be fall if you move far enough south. It’s just constant fall,” Mike Brown said.
Olsen’s fall camping schedule will keep her in South Dakota.
“I have a sisters’ camping trip planned for late September. We’re going to be here at Lake Vermillion, myself and two sisters. And then, in the first week of October, my husband and I are going to Custer, he is going to camp with me for a couple of nights,” Olsen said.
The allure of the outdoors remains unchanged even with the change of seasons, as hardy fall campers lay claim to their scenic and serene piece of South Dakota.
While fall camping season is just getting underway, Palisades State Park is already looking forward to next spring, where a park expansion that’s underway will triple the number of campsites that are currently available.