Published May 12, 2010, 09:58 PM

Happy campers

Camping season opens Friday at North Dakota state parks, and a forecast for sunny weather has park managers optimistic. “Last year, we had a record year of 10,000 plus nights of camping,” said Henry Duray of Grahams Island State Park near Devils Lake “We were operating at capacity every day of the week in June and July. If the weather holds up, we could see a repeat of that.”

Camping season opens Friday at North Dakota state parks, and a forecast for sunny weather has park managers optimistic.

“Last year, we had a record year of 10,000 plus nights of camping,” said Henry Duray of Grahams Island State Park near Devils Lake “We were operating at capacity every day of the week in June and July. If the weather holds up, we could see a repeat of that.”

Here’s a breakdown of area state parks:

- Grahams Island State Park: Duray said, so far, the ever-rising Devils Lake has not caused problems with access.

“Another foot higher and we’d have some major concerns,” Duray said. “We’ve had to reroute a couple areas of our hiking and walking trails. The access road to Black Tiger Bay is a little marginal.”

Duray said 80 percent to 90 percent of the park’s summer business comes from fishing and reports say good fishing should continue. About 100 of the park’s 140 campsites have water and electricity.

- Icelandic State Park near Cavalier, N.D.: “It was so warm in April, people were wishing the water was on,” said Dennis Clark, assistant manager.

Clark said admittance fees are $25 annually or $5 per vehicle daily; the annual pass is $20 for people age 65 and over. Icelandic State Park has 149 “modern” campsites with electricity, 13 “primitive” sites without power or water. Modern sites are $20 nightly with a pass, $25 without. Primitive sites are $12 nightly with a pass, $16 without.

Clark said that after July 6, the road into the campground over Renwick Dam will be closed for renovation work on the drainage system. He said the parks will have signs directing campers to the new route.

“The boat ramps and swimming beach won’t be affected,” Clark said. “There’s been a rumor that we would drain the lake. That’s not true.”

Both Grahams Island and Icelandic State Park reserve 50 percent of their campsites up to 90 days in advance; the rest are first come, first served. To reserve campsites at any North Dakota State Park, call (800) 807-4723.

- Turtle River State Park near Arvilla, N.D.: Landscaping crews have been putting the finishing touches this week, according to Steve Crandall, park manager. There are 125 campsites, 72 for recreational vehicles and 53 sites without electricity for tents.

“We just finished cleaning up the south campground, sites 1-36,” Crandall said. “The outlets were upgraded to 50 amps and water hydrants were put in last fall.”

Entrance fees at Turtle River State Park are $25 annually or $5 per vehicle daily. Campsites with electricity are $20 a night, $12 for those without power.

Admittance is free Memorial Day and June 19 for Turtle Fest. The park will host National Trails Day the first weekend in June and the Dick King Classic Swing Band on the Fourth of July.

Two new events this year will be Art in the Park on July 24 and Birthday Bash on Aug. 21; last year, the park celebrated its 75th anniversary. “We’re going to make it more of a kids’ day with games and events,” Crandall said.

There also will be a couple of big construction projects this summer, Crandall said.

Industrial Builders will construct a bridge in CCC Memorial Picnic area for better access to trails in the southwest end of the park. New asphalt will be laid on the main park road from U.S. Highway 2 to the maintenance area.

Northwestern Minnesota

Most Minnesota state parks have been open for camping since May 1. All will waive the vehicle permit requirement on June 12. Links to Minnesota State Parks may be found at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Lance Crandall, Lake Bronson State Park manager, said about 200 volunteers helped get the Lake Bronson, Hayes Lake and Old Mill state parks ready during Green Touch Volunteer Day, which was held May 1.

“The only repair work being done is the swimming pool at Old Mill State Park, which should be finished by the Memorial Day weekend opening,” Crandall said.

- Red River State Recreation Area, East Grand Forks: Reservations are gone for Canada’s Victoria Day weekend, May 21–22, said Gladwin Lynne, manager.

“There are a few left for Memorial Day,” Lynne said.

There are 98 campsites, 70 with water and electricity, “and we’ll be adding 15 more this summer,” Lynne said.

The $5 entrance fee will be waived when the RRSRA holds an open house June 12. There will be a “Shine and Show” car show for Model Ts and muscle cars, woodcarvers and music by The Rangers.

Lynne said there also will be interpretive programs and hikes for kids every other Saturday, a program called “I Can Camp” for first-time campers on July 29 and a Labor Day concert from The Pembina Trail.

- Lake Bronson State Park, two miles east of Lake Bronson, Minn., has 157 campsites, 35 with electricity at its Lakeside and Two Rivers sites. Rental at Lakeside is $20 a night with electricity, $16 without. At Two Rivers, the rates are $16 and $12 respectively. Lake Bronson’s major summer attraction will be the International Wood Carvers Festival the weekend of Aug. 7-8.

- Hayes Lake State Park, south and east of Roseau, Minn., has 35 campsites, 18 with electricity. Rates are $16 a night for sites with power, $12 without. Hayes Days will be celebrated Aug. 7.

- Old Mill State Park, west of Newfolden, Minn., has 25 campsites, 10 with electricity at the same rates as Hayes Lake State Park. Grinding Day will be Old Mill’s big feature on Aug. 29.

- Zippel Bay State Park, north of Williams, Minn., on Lake of the Woods, has 57 rustic campsites. Susan Olin, assistant manager, said a highlight from the summer schedule will be a night on the beach for the second annual Meteor Shower Party on Aug. 12.

- Itasca State Park, south of Bagley, Minn., lists 223 campsites on the DNR Website, 100 with electricity.

Monthly rates

The debut of monthly camping at Hayes Lake State Park and Old Mill State Park last year was a hit with overnight park visitors, who wanted to avoid hauling camping units back and forth between home and the parks, officials said.

Pete Harrison, assistant park manager at Lake Bronson, said feedback was very positive, so several campsites will continue to be available for extended stays.

Hayes Lake State Park will offer monthly camping in a total of nine campsites, all of which include electric hook-ups. The monthly rate is $200 in May and $250 for June, July or August. To reserve a monthly campsite, call the park at (218) 425-7504.

Old Mill State Park will offer monthly camping in a total of five campsites, all of which feature electric and water hook-ups. The $200 monthly rate is available only for June, July or August.

Lake Bronson State Park manages Old Mill’s monthly reservations at (218) 754-2200.

For reservations at any Minnesota state park, call (866) 857-2757.

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1262; (800) 477-6572, ext. 262; or send e-mail to jjohnson2@gfherald.com.

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