Record Camping Numbers at SD State Parks
PIERRE, SD (KELO AM) - More people camped in the South Dakota State Parks this past year than ever before. The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) reported that the parks hosted over 290,000 nights of camping last year, up 3.8 percent over 2013.
“Camping continues to be a popular pastime in the state,” said Doug Hofer, director of GFP’s Division of Parks and Recreation. “But it doesn’t stop there. The many recreational opportunities in the parks, from fishing to hiking to nature programs, all work together to provide a unique outdoor experience that attracts visitors.”
One of the biggest highlights of 2014 occurred at South Dakota’s newest park, Good Earth State Park at Blood Run, located near Sioux Falls. Good Earth, which officially became a state park in July 2013, saw a 27 percent increase in visitation in 2014.“People are drawn to Good Earth’s natural beauty,” said Hofer. “While there aren’t any facilities or services at the site yet, visitors come to explore the miles of trails or to take part in the frequent nature programs.”
Other parks that saw notable increases were Sheps Canyon on Angostura Reservoir and Fisher Grove near Redfield. Sheps Canyon has been gaining popularity since its creation in 2012, popular for its camping, horse trails, lodge, boating, fishing and hunting. Likewise, campers have come back in big numbers to Fisher Grove, where an entire new campground was built in late 2013 following the flood of 2011.
Hofer said he expects the state parks to do just as well in 2015. The year has already started off strong with a number of popular events in January, including 12 hikes on New Year’s Day, several snowshoe hikes and ice fishing tournaments. The state parks are open year-round and visitors often take advantage of the heated camping cabins during the winter months.
The year is looking particularly bright for Custer State Park in the Black Hills. Several projects are planned for the popular park, including construction of a new visitor center, improvements and additions to facilities at the resort and the 50th anniversary of the Buffalo Roundup.
“This year seems to be a celebration of the future and the past for Custer State Park,” said Hofer. “Throughout 2015, you’ll see the new improvements taking shape that will enhance visitors’ experiences for years to come. Several of these include renovating historic buildings, which will not only preserve them, but ensure they will be enjoyed by future generations. In the fall, we’ll top it off by celebrating 50 years of buffalo roundups. It’s going to be a busy year.”
Campsite reservations also indicate a busy year. Reservations for Custer State Park, which are available one year in advance, already show strong camping numbers for the destination park.
Reservations at other state parks can be made 90 days before arrival. Feb. 14 is the first day to make camping reservations for a May 15 arrival, which is Open House Weekend in the South Dakota State Parks. Reservations can be made at www.campsd.com.