Driving through the then-shallow floodwaters at a Pierre, S.D.-area state park, it was difficult to tell where the park — and that parking lot — ended and the river started.
It all seemed to flow together.
But supposedly, early on, one of these Pierre-area state parks was being used as a sort of displaced housing for those who couldn’t find temporary housing during the epic Missouri River flood of 2011. Soon after, though, those few people at the park, too, reportedly were displaced.
Yes, displaced from displaced housing. And that housing was tents.
It was a tough time for the area’s people, parks, sites, attractions — everything, really. And it wasn’t just Pierre. The impact of the flood was far-reaching in South Dakota.
Which makes this news all the more exceptional.
Recently, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department reported record visitation and camping numbers at its state parks in 2015.
In a release announcing those numbers, the SDGFP made no mention of the flood. And you only had to look at the 2014 visitation and camping numbers, record-setting at the time, to know that, on the outdoors front, the flood has been a thing of the past for a while.
Still, after what the state and its natural resources endured in 2011, it’s good to see South Dakota’s state parks thriving.
According to the SDGFP, in 2015, park visitation was up 4 percent over that record-setting 2014. Likewise, the number of camping nights broke 2014’s record by 9 percent, with an additional 25,000 nights of camping.
SDGFP officials attribute those numbers to an ongoing shift in the way people use the parks — visiting during shoulder seasons and weekdays and visiting lesser-used parks — as well as the continued push to introduce more people to the parks.
Interestingly, at the same time the flood hit in South Dakota in 2011, a government shutdown in Minnesota forced closure of, among other things, the state parks.
But that only lasted for about a month and is a distant memory as Minnesota celebrates 125 years of state parks and trails in 2016.
Always popular at Minnesota state parks, camping will play a big role in that celebration, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced last week that it’s already taking reservations for the few campsites that offer long-term stays.
Visitors may stay for a month or even a full season at nine state park campsites, with reservations due by Sunday, Jan. 31:
- Myre-Big Island State Park, Albert Lea. May 6 to Labor Day (Sept. 5) at four campsites, three with electric hook-ups.
- Lac qui Parle State Park, Montevideo. May 6 to Labor Day at two electric campsites and three with a full hook-up to water, sewer and electricity.
- Upper Sioux Agency State Park, Granite Falls. May 6 to Labor Day at two campsites, both with electric hook-ups.
- Big Stone Lake State Park, Ortonville. May 6 to Labor Day at two sites with an electric hook-up.
- Kilen Woods State Park, near Lakefield. May 27 to Labor Day at three sites with electric hook-ups.
- Rice Lake State Park, Owatonna. May 6 to Labor Day at three campsites, two with electric hook-ups.
- Lake Bronson State Park, near Hallock. May 8 to Labor Day at 10 sites with electric hook-ups.
- Hayes Lake State Park, south of Roseau. May 8 to Labor Day at seven sites with electric hook-ups.
- Old Mill State Park, near Warren. May 22 to Labor Day at seven sites with electricity and water.
For more information, go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/extended_stay.html.