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Camping Up, Visits Down, State Park Revenue Falling Short of Last Year

South Dakota’s state parks are seeing more camping than ever. So said Parks and Recreation Division director Scott Simpson at yesterday’s Game Fish and Parks Commission meeting:

The 396,365 nights that people camped in South Dakota’s state parks and recreation areas through November this year were the most ever.

They were 1% more than the old record of 394,714 covering the full year that was set in 2021, according to Scott Simpson, director for the state Parks and Recreation Division.

“Anytime we’re gaining on this, this is epic,” Simpson told the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission on Thursday. “That was awesome” [Bob Mercer, “Another Banner Year for SD’s State Campgrounds,” KELO-TV].

Camping is up in 11 of our 17 park districts:

Game Fish and Parks Commission, December 2022 Commission Book, 2022.12.08, p. 84.
Game Fish and Parks Commission, December 2022 Commission Book, 2022.12.08, p. 84.

…but visits to state parks are down in 15 of the 17 districts, resulting in a statewide decline of 7%:

GF&P Commission, 2022.12.08, p. 85.
GF&P Commission, 2022.12.08, p. 85.

GF&P lodging revenue is up 10%, but park permit revenue is down 13%. Thus, so far this year, GFP is making 1% less money on its parks than it did in 2021:

GF&P Commission, 2022.12.08, p. 86.
GF&P Commission, 2022.12.08, p. 86.

So help the state out: wax up those cross-country skis and go visit your local state park this December!


  1. larry kurtz 2022-12-09 07:00

    Government ownership of property? South Dakota Earth haters have forgotten that the ground they live on was seized from aboriginal cultures by President Thomas Jefferson through an executive order that even he believed was unconstitutional.

  2. V 2022-12-09 07:09

    State Park stickers make excellent stocking stuffers!!!! Today I’ll get the cross-country skis out but after next week’s storm, the snowshoes.

  3. Grandma 2022-12-09 10:51

    I’m not surprised that our lake is lower than before with people using it. The lake is so low of water and at times it just looks unsafe to swim
    or do anything on it. I think lower lakes have been hard on people coming and enjoying it. No clean feeder water entering the lakes just makes for the lake almost unusable. Now is the time to dredge and clean the lakes up.

  4. roger 2022-12-09 13:40

    I haven’t dug through all of the data, but it seems to me increases to camping fees and increases to the stickers is slowly weeding out the people who just want to use the park without camping….

  5. Mark Anderson 2022-12-09 16:56

    Just put a small bar in each State Park. The state can charge a fee for the bar owner the bar owner will make money. Entrepreneurship works. Ahh, remembering The Drunken Boat on Lake Louise.

  6. Arlo Blundt 2022-12-09 17:09

    I think the drought has much to do with a decline, as per Grandma’s comments. Raising fees is usually absorbed by campers and visitors if the quality of the experience remains high. Low water, muddy beaches, suspect water quality, inaccessible boar ramps all come into play and all are reflective of the drought.We have wonderful state parks and vigilance and funding to preserve the quality of the experience are merited.

  7. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-12-09 17:42

    Good gawd almighty, if you have a house, why the h*ck would you go camping?

  8. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-12-10 20:08

    I’ll follow my previous post with this observation and a question. My father thought it was the heighth (sp?) of vacations to drag his wife and children to lands of biting insects, cranky animals, no facilities, dangerous weather, hot dogs cooked over gathered sticks next to a forest, questionable water sources, and many other inconveniences while we lived in a truck and tents. Granted, he was looney tunes, but no more so than Calvin’s dad. (Calvin and Hobbes.)

    That was considered camping in the 1960s for wypipo.

    My question is, why are the homeless being ostracised and punished for that same behavior now?

  9. cibvet 2022-12-10 23:33

    Bonnie–You need to visit a campground. It is not camping, it is now called glamping. A metal house on wheels, to a reserved campsite,with king and queen beds, electricity, hot water, toilets & showers, TV and internet with satellite connections and of course their cell phones. They can back into a campsite and never leave the unit if they so choose. Then back to the real world with a story of how the “roughed it”camping.

    Glamping definition: a expeditious refuge in nature—without foregoing any of life’s luxuries”

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