Pierre SD – Campground owners around South Dakota are seeing earlier reservations being made for spring and summer guests, according to the South Dakota Campground Owners Association.
“That’s not to say it’s too late to make your plans but, if you’re considering the cool air of the Black Hills or the wide-open rivers, lakes, and byways for your 2021 camping trip, now is an ideal time to get those plans in place. There’s still a little flexibility at the campgrounds,” says Mary Arlington, the association’s executive director.
The Black Hills typically has the highest demand. Dan and Vicki Riggs report that their Broken Arrow Horse & RV Campground in Custer is seeing more reservations being made than is typical for January and February.
Arlington explains, “The pandemic made people realize that camping was a great way to vacation while making it easy to stay physically distanced. RV sales skyrocketed, the outdoors beckoned, and people came! Not only is the pandemic still around but many who discovered the outdoors in 2020 are coming back for more.”
Jen & Bill Paterson, owners of Big Pine Campground in Custer, say, “I could have filled my campground three times over in 2020, and this summer is looking to be a repeat of that already.”
Tyler Burr, manager at Elkhorn Ridge Resort in Spearfish says, “We have seen an incredible number of reservations come in for the upcoming summer, including family reunions and weddings! It’s looking to be a very fun and busy season.”
Chris’ Campground in Spearfish has been serving guests for generations, often also introducing the etiquette of camping and hiking to the newcomers. Co-owner Lanna Christensen explains, “2020 brought in a lot of first-time campers. Many made return reservations for 2021, and some excitedly told us they’re going to go explore more of our gorgeous country.”
Her husband Bryce says, “All around the Black Hills, and even over at Devils Tower National Monument, there are hiking trails available for all levels of agility. With a few minutes of explanation on proper trail etiquette, a new avid hiker is born. The same is true for camping etiquette and creating returning guests. We can’t even begin to count how many guests we’ve served through the decades.”
Lanna noted this about 2021: “Tent reservations are really down. It seems everyone is wanting RV sites.”
For the travelers who aren’t tied to an actual office or a physical school, Arlington has seen specials and deals posted for spring and early summer campsites. She adds, “The more flexible your vacation timeline is, the more likely the perfect South Dakota vacation can be planned.”
EASTERN SOUTH DAKOTA
She adds, “Don’t overlook the rest of the huge state!” The lakes along the Missouri River offer fabulous camping mixed with boating and fishing. D&S Campground is near one such lake, Oahe, north of Pierre and south of Mobridge. “Even our seasonal reservations are up,” reports owner Larry Gillies.
The Sioux Falls KOA is seeing a large uptick in reservations, according to its owner Alan Spencer. “Many of them seem to be coming from first-time or new RVers. This is very exciting to hear!”
The Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park™ of Sioux Falls has lined up many events and activities for their guests. The River of the Double Bend Campground in Trent is gearing up for river kayaking and canoeing.
When asked about availability, no one reported being fully filled yet for 2021. Some noted that holiday weekends are nearing capacity. Most shared that mid-week reservations have the most availability, especially for those coming with groups of friends and extended family.
The 90-day reservation window for booking campsites at most state parks is just starting to open for the summer season.
According to Scott Simpson, Director of Parks and Recreation for the state of South Dakota, “All indicators show that people are ready for another outdoors-oriented summer. Traffic on our website has been active, so people are studying their options. Park staff are gearing up to not only welcome the visitors but to also help inform the newcomers about being great stewards of nature. Many of our guests are from urban areas, seeing nature with new eyes. We’re eager to show them the way.”
Arlington sums it up with, “The best time to plan for a summer vacation is when we’re experiencing winter’s cabin fever.”
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