‘Busiest camping season’: Travelers choose outdoor recreation close to home amid COVID-19 pandemic

As the 2020 summer of COVID-19 winds down, Shane Bertsch has seen something he would not have anticipated six months ago:

Packed campgrounds and crowded hiking trails.

“This has been the busiest camping season we’ve had in the nearly 20 years I’ve been here,” said Bertsch, district park supervisor at the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area near Yankton, South Dakota, where he has been employed since March 2001.

The area, which is open year-round, flanks the Missouri River near Gavins Point Dam and offers camping, fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, biking, equestrian trails, disc golf and more. The Missouri River separates South Dakota and Nebraska.

Bertsch cites an unusual source for the flurry of camping and other outdoor pursuits: “I think it stems from COVID. People have just been anxious to get out.”

“We’ve also gotten a lot of use on our hiking and biking trails,” he added. “I’ve seen more people use our hiking trails than I ever have before. And we’ve seen some beach traffic.”

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