New figures show a record number of campers visited Wisconsin state parks this year.
More than 159,000 campsites were used according to registrations with the state Department of Natural Resources through the first weekend of October. Department section chief Chris Pedretti said that includes more than 388,000 nights of camping in state parks. The numbers beat previous records set in 2012.
The camping numbers include about 5,000 campsites in 54 state parks and southern forests, the Wisconsin State Journal (http://bit.ly/1H2S9VB ) reports. The statistics don’t include the Columbus Day weekend, which Pedretti said is a big weekend for people “out to see fall color.”
“The numbers will go up some more just because of this weather, which is awesome for the end of October,” he said.
State park fee increases that took effect July 28 haven’t dampened camping numbers so far, Pedretti said. Daily and annual admission saw $1 and $3 increases, while camping fees went up $3 to $5 per night for Wisconsin residents and $5 to $8 for out-of-state visitors.
Devil’s Lake State Park supervisor Steve Schmelzer said the park’s 424 campsites have filled each weekend in the summer for many years, but that now he’s seeing more visitors on weekdays and in the spring and fall. The campground south of Baraboo is one of the state’s most popular.
Camping increased in Wisconsin a year after the recession hit.
“People weren’t taking big elaborate vacations anymore,” Schmelzer said. “More were looking at camping.”
Visits to state parks across the United States went up by 12 million to nearly 740 million last year, according to Lewis Ledford, executive director of the National Association of State Park Directors. He said weather makes an impact, and that more people did “staycations” after the recession.
“But I think mostly it’s just the demand to get out and find the space in the out of doors where we get that tonic for the mind, body and the spirit,” Ledford said.