LAKE DEVILS – Grahams Island State Park in northern North Dakota near Devils Lake hosted a record number of campers over the summer. The park set campground attendance and reservation records in 2020 and now the park’s camping reservations are up 3% from last year.
From 2019 to 2020, Grahams Island State Park saw a 20% increase in camping bookings, according to Ryan Nelson, deputy park manager. In 2020, the park had 14,376 occupied overnight stays in its nearly 190 campsites. So far this year, the park has booked 14,814 occupied nights. Nelson said the number of visitors who did not book overnight stays similarly increased.
Nelson believes that North Dakota State Parks have seen a system-wide increase in visitor numbers over the past two years, but he recognizes that Grahams Island has something special – the biggest natural body of water in the state.
“We’ve seen an increased number of people drawn to Devils Lake in particular just because it’s world class fishing, and we’re really trying to respond to this core group that runs the state park and the area,” he said. Nelson said.
For anglers, the park has a four-lane boat launch and a fish cleaning station. He also sells bait, tackle and ice on site.
Suzie Kenner, executive director of Devils Lake Tourism, said resorts, hotels and restaurants in town had constant traffic over the summer, but campgrounds saw a noticeable increase in traffic. popularity over the past two summers. Grahams Island Campground has always been busy on weekends, but this year more campsites were also occupied during the week.
“Back when COVID hit a year and a half or two years ago, there was a huge increase in motorhome sales, boat sales, that sort of thing,” Kenner said. “People always wanted to go out and do things and explore, but didn’t necessarily feel comfortable in high-populated areas. “
Kenner said many of the visitors to the area this summer have been these new RV and boat owners.
“That being said, we also had to release content on how to be a good camper,” Kenner said. “It was just kind of an interesting tour where we got to spread information on how to put out your campfire before going to bed and how to be good neighbors with noise and keep your pets on a leash. “
Grahams Island State Park campgrounds are open year-round, but campgrounds offer full service, with running water and washrooms open from mid-May through September. Campgrounds have different levels of amenities. Primitive camping allows for a classic tent camping experience, while modern campsites are equipped with water and electricity. The so-called “modern plus” campsites have water, electricity and sewerage.
“Our primitive campground, surprisingly, is just as busy as our modern campground,” Nelson said.
This past fall and winter, with the Canadian border closed to non-essential traffic, Kenner said Devils Lake has seen an influx of new visitors who had never been to the area before but needed help. ‘another location for a hunting or ice fishing trip.
“I hope we can keep these travelers year after year and bring them back. But now, with the Canadian border reopening, it will be interesting to see who decides to return to Canada, ”said Kenner.
She said winter tourism is particularly dependent on weather conditions.
Nelson said the park’s biggest winter draws are cross-country skiing and ice fishing. Once enough snow has fallen, park staff begin cleaning the cross-country ski trails. Ice conditions on the lake generally improve as winter progresses, and Nelson said early season ice fishermen often stay in campgrounds and take portable fishing houses out. the lake, while later in the season more fishermen stay in larger fishing houses on the lake.