WENATCHEE — The clock is ticking for those looking to book a stay at a state park this year: reservations are up and officials expect busy summer akin to 2020.
“We like to advise people to try to plan ahead and book early,” said state Parks and Recreation Commission spokeswoman Toni Droscher in an email Wednesday. “The reality is, camping at state parks is gaining in popularity, and we only have a finite amount of spaces. And we have fewer first-come, first-served campsites.”
During the past 12 months there have been 382,500 reservations created statewide, which amounts to a 44% increase from the previous 12 months, she said.
In the Wenatchee Valley, Lincoln Rock State Park and Wenatchee Confluence State Park have seen increases over that period, too: 28% at Lincoln and 9% at Confluence.
“Based on what we are seeing happening on our reservation system, we anticipate this summer will be similar to last summer in terms of being busier than previous years,” Droscher said.
She added recreationists could consider staying at parks midweek or during shoulder seasons, like fall or spring, or staying at less popular parks.
As a whole, visitorship at state parks in 2020 was consistent with the previous two years: less than 2019, but more than 2018. In 2020, there were 37.5 million day-use and overnight campers; in 2019, there were 38.4 million; and in 2018 there were 37.4 million.
However, there was a COVID-19-related anomaly. The parks were closed in April for day use and camping and then closed only for camping in May.
The result: 3.4 million people visited the state parks in April and May 2020, a decrease of 3.3 million from its previous two-year average of 6.7 million, according to data provided by state parks.
The data also shows what appears to be a bounce-back for the parks from July through October when day-use and camping visitation were higher than normal.
July through October averaged 17.5 million visits statewide in 2018 and 2019, but was up to 19.9 million in 2020, the data showed.
Digging deeper into the July through October months, Chelan County’s most popular state park, Lake Wenatchee, saw almost 85,000 more visitors in 2020 compared to 2019, but 25,000 less than in 2018.
The second most popular park, Wenatchee Confluence, had its highest number of visitors in 2020 with 210,614 compared to 180,677 in 2019 and 146,380 in 2018.