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Campground attendant Chelsea Biehl, left, checks in Dudley Nelson Tuesday afternoon at Snake Creek Recreation Area near Platte. Dudley and his wife, Nancy, are from Scotland and went to Snake Creek to rent a cabin and enjoy some fishing. (Jordan Steffen/Republic)

Business booming at SD parks, rec areas

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PIERRE -- Helped by a surge of early interest at Custer State Park, South Dakota's system of state parks and recreation areas generated nearly 5 percent more revenue through June than they did for the first six months of last year.

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Sales of annual entrance stickers for vehicles were off somewhat overall, as were daily entrance permits for people and vehicles.

But daily entrance permits at Custer State Park were up by a third -- 43,271 this year vs. 32,223 at this point last year -- and passes for the Mickelson Trail in the Black Hills likewise were in greater demand this spring.

Camping permits statewide also saw an increase of 9 percent. Most campgrounds were slightly up or down from last year in nights booked, but double-digit increases also were noted at many parks and recreation areas.

Those seeing much more activity included Pickerel Lake, Richmond Lake, Lake Thompson, Lake Herman, Buryanek, Palisades, Lake Vermillion, Union Grove, North Point, Pease Creek, Whetstone Bay, Farm Island, Oahe Downstream, Cow Creek, Angostura and Custer.

Good fishing on the Missouri River, especially Lake Oahe, helped attract many more campers to sites along the corridor of reservoirs, according to Doug Hofer, director for the state Division of Parks and Recreation.

Cooler weather cut into daily visitation in many places, but not at South Dakota's crown jewel. "Custer is just having a phenomenal spring," he said.

The camping and visitation counts don't reflect the July 4 crush. All 4,420 camping units statewide were booked and used, according to Hofer.

"Everybody stayed all weekend," he said.

Revenue from all park activities totaled $7,089,720 through June 30. The similar period last year generated $6,765,687.

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