Minnesota's state parks weren't immune from the recent heavy rains and flooding. Some trails are waterlogged, some campsites closed, but with the first major full-summer camping holiday approaching, reservation numbers predict a very busy weekend.
The Fourth of July weekend marks the start of peak camping season. As the water rose to flood stage in nearly half of Minnesota's 87 counties last month, there were worries all the water could shorten the park season. But flooding hasn't dissuaded outdoor enthusiasts, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says.
"People love their Minnesota state parks," said Minnesota State Parks spokeswoman Pat Arndt.
Last year at this time, all but 288 of the state's roughly 3,500 reservable campsites were taken. This year only 273 are open. Partly that's due to diminished availability.
Arndt said holiday camping numbers have little to do with flooding. The main factor, she said, is simply where in the week the holiday falls. Last year, the Fourth fell on a Thursday. This year it's on a Friday, which brings in more visitors for a long holiday weekend.
Heading into the weekend, Blue Mounds State Park and Fort Snelling, the state's most visited park, are closed because of high water and water damage. Lac qui Parle, Fort Ridgely and Upper Sioux Agency parks have also closed some sites. Trails at a number of other parks are flooded. Overall, flooding has closed 148 sites.
Voyageurs, Minnesota's only national park, was hit hard by flooding. It sits on the Canadian border in the Rainy River basin, where water rose to record levels last month and is still at flood stage.
Park docks sank beneath flood waters as Rainy Lake climbed. Rangers closed campsites and trails as archaeological sites eroded. Wednesday an alert on the park website warned that 31 of 51 reservable sites were closed.
The park is better off than it sounds, said Voyageurs spokeswoman Tawnya Schoewe.
"When it first started," she said, "the flooding was really scary if you watched the news. Now people are getting used to it."
The majority of the park's reservable sites are closed, but they're mainly near the water. The 225 first-come first-serve sites are on higher ground and nearly all open.
Voyageurs is a very large park. Schoewe said it's very hard to keep track of visitors, so she's not sure yet how the year is going. Based upon the number of calls inquiring after camping prospects, she said it seems to be going well.