DEVILS LAKE, ND – Grahams Island State Park in northern North Dakota near Devils Lake saw record numbers of campers over the summer. The park set camping attendance and booking records in 2020 and now the park’s camping bookings are up 3% over last year.

From 2019 to 2020, Grahams Island State Park saw a 20% increase in camping bookings, according to Ryan Nelson, the park’s assistant superintendent. In 2020, the park had 14,376 occupied nights in its nearly 190 campsites. So far this year, the park has booked 14,814 occupied nights. Nelson said the number of visitors who had not booked overnight stays had similarly increased.

Nelson thinks North Dakota state parks have seen a system-wide increase in visitors over the past two years, but he acknowledges that Graham Island has something special: the larger plan of natural water of the State.

“We’ve seen an increased number of people drawn to Devils Lake specifically just because it’s a world-class fishery, and we’re really trying to cater to that core group that drives the state park and the area,” Nelson said.

For anglers, the park has a four-lane boat launch and fish cleaning station. He also sells bait, tackle and ice on site.

Suzie Kenner, executive director of Devils Lake Tourism, said the town’s resorts, hotels and restaurants had steady 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 busy during the week.

“Back when COVID hit a year and a half or two years ago, there was a huge uptick in motorhome sales, boat sales, that sort of thing,” Kenner said. “People still wanted to get out and do things and explore, but didn’t necessarily feel comfortable in crowded areas.”

Kenner said many of the visitors to the area this summer were these new RV and boat owners.

“That being said, we also had to post content about how to be a good camper,” Kenner said. “It was just kind of an interesting ride where we had to spread information about how to put out your campfire before you go to bed and how to be nice neighbors to noise and keep your pets on a leash. “

Grahams Island State Park campgrounds are open year-round, but the campsites offer full service, with running water and open bathrooms, from mid-May through September. Campgrounds have different levels of amenities. A primitive campsite allows for a classic tent camping experience, while modern campsites have water and electricity. The so-called “modern plus” campsites have water, electricity and mains drainage.

“Our primitive campground, surprisingly, is just as busy as our modern campground,” Nelson said.

Last fall and winter, when the Canadian border was closed to non-essential traffic, Kenner said Devils Lake saw an influx of new visitors who had never been to the area before but needed another location for a hunting or ice fishing trip.

“Hopefully we will be able to keep these travelers going year after year and bring them back. But now that the Canadian border is reopened, it will be interesting to see who decides to return to Canada,” Kenner said.

She said winter tourism is particularly dependent on weather conditions.

Nelson said the park’s biggest draws in the winter are cross-country skiing and ice fishing. Once enough snow has fallen, park staff begin grooming the cross-country ski trails. Ice conditions on the lake generally improve as winter progresses, and Nelson said early-season ice anglers often stay in campgrounds and take portable fishing houses on the lake, while later in the season more anglers stay in larger fishing houses on the lake.


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