MITCHELL | Unfavorable weather at South Dakota state park campsites may end a decade-long increase in campers.
Bob Schneider, an assistant director of the Division of Parks and Recreation with the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks, told The Daily Republic that state parts have seen about 210,300 nights of camping so far this year, down 2 percent from last year's 213,800 nights.
Blizzards early in the camping season and heavy rains this summer have likely contributed to the decrease, Schneider said.
"The 2 percent decrease is actually pretty good considering the long winter and heavy rains we have experienced this year," said Schneider, who has been with the state parks system for 32 years. "We're not far off from last year's average."
The total number of nights camping reached 342,000 nights last year.
About 75 percent of campers are South Dakota residents, while 25 percent are from out-of-state, said Katie Ceroll, the South Dakota State Parks director.
"Since we have been continually increasing in camping until this year, there is a demand to try and add certain things while maintaining what we already have in our campsites," she said.
State parks have constructed new restrooms in comfort stations and added heaters to camping cabins to attract more winter visitors.
South Dakota has 13 state parks, 43 recreation areas, five nature areas and 69 lakeside use areas.