Posts Tagged ‘South Dakota’

This week’s National Park Getaway comes ranger-recommended by a 10-year veteran of the National Park Service who sees Missouri National Recreational River as one of America’s greatest waterways.

Missouri National Recreational River protects 98 miles of relatively natural, free-flowing river in South Dakota and Nebraska and portions of two tributaries – 20 miles of the lower Niobrara River and eight miles of Verdigre Creek. The two sections of the mighty Missouri that Congress designated as Wild and Scenic flow fast and wide through sandstone and chalk bluffs where willows and cottonwoods, black oak and walnut trees flourish. Wildlife is abundant. Bald eagles, piping plovers and least terns are among those often seen along this significant flyway for migratory birds.

Visitors can find outstanding conditions for paddling, hiking, camping and fishing. In summer, ranger programs focus on the natural world, recreational opportunities and the historical connections of Plains Indian tribes, Lewis and Clark and steamboat captains such as Grant Marsh.

Paddlers can float downstream along the Wild and Scenic River portions of the “Big Muddy” starting from the Fort Randall or Gavins Point dams. Start your journey by reading this week’s National Park Getaway article at

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – When Ray Aljets built the campground that later became Jellystone Park Camp-Resort 23 years ago, most of his business was east-west traffic, particularly families from Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis who traveled westward to visit the Black Hills.

Today, however, 65 to 70 percent of the Jellystone Park’s business is families who live within 100 miles of the park.

“We still get the east-west traffic,” said Aljets’ son, Bruce, who now runs the park with his wife, Donna, and their children, Ray and Christina. “But now most of our business is local.”

South Dakota Jellystone Park Camp-Resort

Jellystone Park Camp-Resort

Business is strong, too. Last year, for example, the park surpassed its 2010 revenues by 11 percent, and this year looks to be just as strong as last year, if not stronger, Bruce Aljets said, adding that his park opens for the camping season on April 1st.

But the dynamics are different.

Fuel costs are higher than they used to be, which encourages people to visit campgrounds that are closer to home. Today’s families also have a harder time getting away for extended periods of time.

Both parents usually work and often have a harder time getting their vacations to coincide. Kids also have more sporting activities available to them in the summer than they used to, all of which encourages families to camp closer to home.

The good news, Bruce Aljets said, is that camping is as popular as ever, with one caveat. “People don’t want to rough it,” he said. “They want the comforts of home when they camp. Even tent campers want Wi-Fi so they can watch Netflix movies.”

As a result, Aljets provides his guests with cabins with house-like amenities, including cable TV and Wi-Fi service and hot showers. The campground also has a jumping pillow, pedal cart rentals, a heated swimming pool and spa, an indoor theatre and a miniature golf course. And for those who don’t have a tent or RV, the park provides a dozen rental cabins.

Aljets’ Jellystone Park also has an activities director and provides organized family activities from May through the end of October that are designed to appeal to all ages, including Mother’s Day and Father’s Day weekend events; Mardi Gras and Christmas in July celebrations; and Bruce’s favorite, the “Messy Weekend” July 27th to 30th, which includes a chocolate pudding Slip N Slide, bobbing for worms and other messy activities.

Late summer and fall activities include a corn maze and Halloween-themed weekend events, including costume and campsite decorating contests.

A complete listing of activities and themed weekends is available at


Record rainfall, flooding, rising gasoline prices, a slow economy and, to top it off, a season of seemingly never-ending storms are all being blamed for what has been a slow start to the tourist season in South Dakota.

Renelle Watt, owner of Lazy J RV Park & Campground, said the business is off to its worst season in the 20 years she has owned the business, just south of Rapid City. Watt estimated that revenue is down as much as 40 percent from past years.

“They’re just not here this year,” Watt said. “It’s very frustrating. It rained all May and June. We had a good Fourth of July weekend, but it was still down from last year.”

Newly released visitor statistics for Mount Rushmore, which generally indicate tourism strength for the entire region, provide some insight into the industry.

In May, the start of the season, 199,523 people visited the memorial, a 15 percent decrease year-over-year, according to a National Park Service database. June saw 506,968 visitors, down from 587,844 last year, or 13.8 percent.

Full Story…

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