As gas prices reach record highs, many are worried about the effect on travel plans, specifically in relation to camping in South Dakota.
According to a report, Sioux Falls area campsites are thriving this summer, thanks to the construction boosting traffic at extended-stay campsites and gas prices causing people to explore locally.
Mary Arlington, executive director for the SD Campground Owners Association, has visited every campground across the state this summer. She says the outlook is positive.
“I feel very confident in this season,” she said. “It may not be quite as good as last year, but it’s better than 2019, which is very telling.”
While there have been numerous cancellations because of the high cost of gas, this doesn’t cause many concerns for campground owners in Eastern South Dakota.
Ray Lajets, the general manager at Jellystone Park in Brandon, said the business had slowed slightly from the previous year. However, this year’s numbers are closer to 2020–which is still better than pre-pandemic camping numbers.
“We’re doing well,” he said. “People are still camping, but they’re just staying closer to home.”
Arlington reported that one South Dakota campground owner had 12 cancellations in one morning, but another eight reservations were made the same day. Most cancellations come from people from far-away states like Florida or Maine.
In the meantime, more and more people are opting to travel closer to home, leaving Midwesterners to reroute their travel plans and make reservations nearby.
The construction boom near Sioux Falls is also incredibly beneficial to local campsites.
“We’ve had a lot of construction and foreman workers staying at the campground that have been here long term,” said Brenda Sargent, regional manager for Tower Campgrounds.
Around 50-55% of the sites at Tower Campground are extended stays. Sargent stated that construction workers working at the Amazon plant and those building windmills in Minnesota last year accounted for most of those long-term stays.
“We like to make sure we have designated spots for extended stay campers,” she said. “Construction workers demand full year, but we have full-time RV’ers who stay as well. Last winter was phenomenal, and going into summer has been good.”
Tower has stayed booked out at least a month in advance or more. Sargent insists on the need to make reservations in advance.
Even with the soaring gas prices, Sergeant says, “camping is still a wonderful option for your vacation compared to staying in a hotel…[and it’s] a good experience.”
This story originally appeared on Argus Leader.