GARRETSON, SD (KELO) — Families across KELOLAND are loading up their camping and fishing gear for a weekend in the great outdoors. Friday kicked off Open House Weekend in South Dakota. Plenty of people are already taking advantage of the free entrance and fishing at Palisades State Park.
State parks, like Palisades saw record attendance last year, as visitors sought the safe social distance of the outdoors. Palisades will be a popular destination, again this weekend for the Open House.
“Camping’s just the outdoors, you’re not that close to people, even on beaches and things like that,” Ashley Halvorson said.
Beresford teacher Ashley Halvorson and her three kids are done with the school year, so they’re starting summer vacation at Palisades.
“This weekend, we’re going to just camp, fish, attend the programs at the park, do some more hiking, enjoying family time,” Halvorson said.
The Halvorsons went all-in on camping last year, having bought their camper at the start of the pandemic.
“We actually bought our camper because of COVID, all the baseball seasons were cancelled. We went down to Yankton a lot last year, we went out to Platte Creek, Union Grove, Newton Hills, it was just nice to be outside,” Halvorson said.
Open House weekend sets the tone for park visitation through the rest of the season.
“I think people are just excited to be out here and get back out in the park and have some fun recreating,” District Park Supervisor Luke Dreckman said.
District Park Supervisor Luke Dreckman doesn’t expect Palisades State Park attendance this summer will match last year’s record turnout.
“There’s more opportunities this year now, with things open back up that people can get out, have more choices. But they are still utilizing the parks from our first indicator numbers that we’re seeing,” Dreckman said.
And even though they have more summertime options this year, the Halvorsons won’t be letting up on their camping outings.
“I think we’ll be doing just as much, if not more camping, just because we enjoyed it so much,” Halvorson said.
Even though there’s free park entrance and the fishing’s free, visitors still have to pay for camping. There have been a few last-minute cancellations at Palisades. But the campsites are booked solid for the long Memorial Day weekend, next week.
Because of the high demand for campsites, you’ll want to make your reservations well ahead of time.
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