Sioux Falls camping bookings fill up, record year


Parks in South Dakota are seeing reservations fill up as more people return to the campsite.

That’s true in eastern South Dakota and beyond, say those who work in the campgrounds.

Wylie Park has booked

At Wylie Park in Aberdeen, reservations went quickly, according to dealership manager Dawn Thorstenson.

The park, along with Storybook Land and Thunder Road, has long been a popular summer attraction, and that isn’t changing.

In fact, weekend campsites and cabins are pretty much booked all summer long, Thorstenson said. That was certainly the case during the unofficial kickoff of the summer – Memorial Day weekend.

“It was like that the last few years, but what I noticed this year is that we were full earlier,” said Thorstenson. “Typically, it would take us until this time of year, even mid-June, to start filling some of those August weekends.”

Reservations for the Labor Day weekend were filled in March, she said.

Last summer, Wylie Park never closed its doors to the campsite and drew both returning and first-time visitors from Minnesota. Wylie’s visitors come from just about anywhere, Thorstenson said, but she’s noticed Minnesota and North Dakota top the list.

This year, some of these first-time foreign visitors are coming back and bringing their friends.

“They found us last year because they just googled South Dakota and what’s open, and now they’re coming back,” she said.

With bookings popular on weekends, there has also been an increase in bookings on weekdays.

“I’m definitely seeing a lot more bookings even during the week that we haven’t seen bookings during the week, and it’s starting to get a lot more booked during the week as usual,” Thorstenson said.

“We actually have a waiting list during the week, which never happens,” she said.

Watertown Recreation Areas

The Pelican Lake Recreation Area and the Sandy Shore Recreation Area near Watertown also saw an increase in campers during Memorial Day – especially compared to last year with COVID-19 cases on the decline .

The high volume is expected to continue through the summer, said Heath Stone, manager of both parks.

“We have a lot more camping bookings during the week than even compared to last year. So I would say the numbers are definitely up this year,” he said.

Sandy Shore is almost full for the 4th of July weekend and Pelican Lake is already full.

Out-of-state people don’t make up the majority of campers, Stone said, but there’s still a small percentage at both campgrounds. But most of the campers are locals, he said.

“There are weeks when you have a lot of campers,” he said. “Then you have your weeks where you don’t have a lot of campers. It just depends on when people are planning their vacations.”

He said Sandy Shore is busy throughout July, with campers on weekends and during the week.

There is a little less demand at Pelican Lake.

“For people looking to get out and go camping, the week is the best time to go,” Stone said. “A lot of campers aren’t there and it’s quieter. You don’t have traffic like you do on weekends.”

The South Dakota Department of Game, Fisheries and Parks advises to arrange rentals and reservations as soon as possible for any upcoming projects.

Sioux Falls scene

For people who live in eastern South Dakota, Sioux Falls is right on the way to Yellowstone, Glacier, the Black Hills and other areas who expect record years after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. . And local campgrounds are reporting that they’re busy, too.

“We have people from California to Alaska here. We’re in between, ”said Brenda Sargent, regional manager of Private Tower Campground in Sioux Falls. “We couldn’t be better placed than in this area because people go through there. ”

After a record year in 2020, more and more campers are leaving. In South Dakota, 65% of people polled in an AAA poll are planning a trip this summer.

“It was a warmer spring. I think with more and more people getting vaccinated, with the improvement in COVID restrictions, people want to go out and explore. There is a lot of interest in the outdoors, especially in South Dakota, we have so many great places, ”said John Dummer, park manager for the Big Sioux Recreation Area near Sioux Falls.

“I think almost all of the parks are open,” Dummer said. “We are very complete.

Last year was a record for sales of motorhomes and other big ticket items. Some newcomers started out by simply trying out outdoor hobbies. Businesses have responded.

“Last year they started a hobby, and now they’re ready for the next challenge,” said Emily Larson, marketing manager and longtime employee at the Great Outdoor Store in Sioux Falls.

“We’re seeing a lot of climbing gear, kids gear, it’s all starting to sell,” she said.

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