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SD state parks set records for visitors, camping

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outdoors Mitchell, 57301
The Daily Republic
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Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

PIERRE (AP) — Visitation and camping in South Dakota's state parks reached all-time highs in 2013 for the second year in a row.

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The biggest draws were Custer State Park in the Black Hills, and Lewis and Clark Recreation Area near Yankton, the state Department of Game, Fish and Parks said Wednesday. The two parks also set their own records for number of visitors, at 1.9 million and 1.2 million, respectively.

Both parks are major draws for out-of-state visitors. Visitation there made up nearly 40 percent of the 7.8 million park visitors statewide last year.

Camping numbers also increased across the state, up 3.2 percent from 2012.

"A lot of people took to the outdoors in 2013," State Parks Director Doug Hofer said in a statement. "Plus, it was a great year for fishing, which boosted use especially at the Missouri River parks."

South Dakota's newest park, Good Earth State Park at Blood Run, near Sioux Falls, officially became a state park last July. It attracted more than 20,000 visitors in its first year.

"For 20,000 people to visit the park, without any facilities or services yet, indicates a bright future," Hofer said.

Blood Run was designated a national historic landmark in 1970. The area along the Big Sioux River was used by thousands of Oneota Indians into the early 1700s. Archaeologists believe that Blood Run, a term coined by European explorers because of the nearby creek's reddish-colored water, was used as early as 6,500 B.C. The area includes a large oak forest, rolling hills, flood plains, riverside bluffs and burial mounds.

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