State park reservation system reopens with record-setting results
The number of camping and lodging reservations made between 8 a.m. and midnight yesterday was a new record high, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). On Tuesday, July 26, the first day the reservation system was open following the government shutdown, some 4,140 reservations were made for a total of 11,489 nights of camping and lodging.
"We had 162 reservations in the first five minutes," said Bill Anderson, reservation system manager for the DNR's Division of Parks and Trails. "It was by far the busiest day in the history of our reservation system. The previous all-time high was 1,761 reservations on June 2, 2008, the date when Minnesota state parks began allowing reservations a full year in advance (up from the previous policy of 90 days in advance maximum).
Approximately three-fourths of the reservations made yesterday were for overnight stays in 2011, the rest were for 2012. The highest number of reservations were for Itasca (379 reservations), Lake Carlos (278), Wild River (169), Sibley (167) and Bear Head Lake (160) state parks. Others with more than 100 reservations included Temperance River, Tettegouche, Jay Cooke, Gooseberry Falls, Forestville/Mystery Cave, Whitewater, Split Rock Lighthouse, William O'Brien, McCarthy Beach and Father Hennepin state parks.
All but two of the 74 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas have reopened following the shutdown. Camden and St. Croix state parks remain closed due to extensive storm damage.
Standard campsites can be reserved for $12 to $20 a night (plus $5 for electric hook-ups), not including vehicle permits, which are required to enter Minnesota state parks. Vehicle permits are $5 for one night or $25 for a 12-month permit providing unlimited access to all 74 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas.
Due to the high call volume the reservation system has been experiencing since yesterday, the DNR recommends making reservations online at stayatmnparks.com, if possible. For those who prefer to speak with an operator, reservations can be made at 866-857-2757.
"Reservations are recommended but not essential," Anderson said. "Up to thirty percent of campsites at Minnesota state parks are nonreservable and available to campers on a first-come, first-served basis."