GARRETSON, S.D. (KELO) — Labor Day weekend campers are streaming into South Dakota state parks to enjoy the final holiday of summer. Campgrounds will be crowded through Monday with families seeking a break from the challenges of dealing with the pandemic. Palisades State Park near Garretson has been busy all summer long.
The Hutson family from Ipswich, South Dakota, has come a long way to get back to nature at Palisades State Park.
“It was a three-and-a-half hour drive about, so,” Tracy Hutson said.
“Worth it, though, it’s beautiful,” Jean Hutson said.
Booking a campsite for the long holiday weekend can be a challenge.
“We’ve always just wanted to camp at Palisades, we’ve heard awesome things about it, we want to do some hiking and this is the first time in 10 years that we’ve been able to get in here,” Jean Hutson said.
It’s not just holiday weekends that are busy at South Dakota state parks. Palisades has seen a 34-percent jump in campers this year compared with last year.
“The last couple weeks, seeing people, they’ve been coming from a little bit of everywhere, we’ve pretty much seen everyone from all 50 states have been covered,” District Park Supervisor Luke Dreckman said.
Palisades has also seen an 80-percent rise in overall usage at the park. Mild, dry weather and COVID-19 are likely reasons for the increase, as families seek a safe way to spend their summer outdoors.
“We’re usually in a big group of people who are all from the same area, so I mean, we’re not being exposed to anyone from different cities or anything like that so that’s kind of nice,” Jean Hutson said.
The park is reminding campers to social distance and wear masks when they’re in close contact with others. As campers enjoy the long holiday, it’s also a bittersweet time for the staff who, come Monday, will say goodbye to the visitors who have made Palisades their summertime home away from home.
“It’s always kind of sad to see everybody leave and see winter come. But it’s a good time to sit back, reflect on how the year went, and how to improve and make it better for the next year,” Dreckman said.
But it’s not like Palisades will turn into a ghost town after Labor Day. Dreckman expects many campsites will be booked solid on weekends through the end of this month.