Big crowds and good fun were reported at campgrounds across Nebraska over the Labor Day weekend.
Three of four campgrounds at the Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area near Ogallala were filled to the brim, Park Superintendent Colby Johnson said Sunday. The only thing Johnson said he could wish for was a little cooler weather; temperatures soared to nearly 100 degrees the past couple of days before milder weather Sunday.
“The forecast is for temperatures closer to 90 than 100 today, so that will help,” Johnson said. “Otherwise, everyone is having an excellent time and there are no major issues.
“People are friendly and courteous and enjoying lots of water sports.”
Johnson said the recreation area is poised to exceed a million visitors for 2013 but probably will not break last year's record attendance of 1.15 million.
“We had 764,000 visitors through July, so just average figures for August should get us right at a million,” he said. “But the record is probably safe.”
At Niobrara State Park in the northeast part of the state, Superintendent Mark Rettig said he had only one of 96 campsites available Sunday morning. The park's 20 cabins were full.
“It's been a terrific weekend,” Rettig said. “People are taking advantage of all our recreational activities, including hiking, fishing, trail rides, the swimming pool and our Buffalo Cookout.”
The report was much the same at Louisville State Recreation Area near Omaha, where Superintendent Pat Bogenreif reported that all 237 camping pads with electrical service were full. People were taking advantage of the low levels on the nearby Platte River for tubing, he said.
“We want to remind people that Louisville has an excellent fall season ahead, with the park open for camping through October,” Bogenreif said. “Some of the best, most laid-back camping is available every fall.”
Attendance numbers at Nebraska state parks fell slightly this year compared with last summer, but still were robust.
Even with below-average temperatures in June and a shorter camping season, attendance remains high at the parks, said Jim Fuller, an assistant division manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “We've been full all the time these last couple of months,” he said.
This summer's camping season began in April — a month later than last year's March start, but consistent with past years, Fuller said. Camping continued until November last year.
Attendance this year at Mahoney State Park near Ashland is at about 550,000, which is slightly lower than last summer's total, according to Superintendent Brian Schmidt. “Everything we do here is weather-related. When the weather warmed up, our crowds got larger,” he said.
The park enlarged about 10 cabins for this camping season. “Our new cabins have been a great feature for us this summer,” Schmidt said. “They are very appealing to the eye and add room enough for two additional people to stay. We wanted to make it as family-oriented as possible.”
Branched Oak State Recreation Area near Raymond will have at least as many visitors as last summer, Superintendent Tom Morrison said.
For all but one weekend in August, the park's 400-plus campsites have been sold out, resulting in an attendance already at last summer's total of about 750,000 people, he said.