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Minnesota state parks report increase in reservations for 2012

Eager to get outdoors to enjoy Minnesota's scenic beauty, more campers have booked overnight stays at Minnesota state parks for Memorial Weekend 2012 than they did a year ago, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

A total of 2,924 cabin and campsite stays are booked for Saturday, May 26, up 4 percent from the 2,809 reservations made for the Saturday night of Memorial Weekend in 2011.

Likewise, reservations are up 4 percent for arrival dates between Memorial Day and Labor Day 2012. As of May 17, the total reservations made for that time period in 2012 were 33,372, compared with 32,014 reservations made by May 17 in 2011, and 31,948 reservations made by that same date in 2010.

Even with a higher percentage of the reservable sites reserved this year than in the past, there are still plenty of places to camp, according to the DNR. Up to one-third of the campsites at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

For reservation information, visit www.mndnr.gov (dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/can_camp.html) or call 866-857-2757 (TTY: 952-936-4008) between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily.

For day and overnight visitors alike, many free naturalist-led programs are planned for the holiday weekend, from Archery in the Park at Temperance River State Park to an outdoor photography workshop at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park to a fossil field trip at Whitewater State Park, and much more. Also this weekend, interpreters will lead the first public tours of the mine and physics lab at Soudan Underground Mine State Park since a fire on March 17, 2011, required the park to suspend its popular tours for more than a year.

For more information, check the online calendar of events at www.mndnr.gov/parks or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 (888-646-6367 toll-free or 800-657-3929 TTY) between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Visitors can also pick up a free catalog of spring and summer programs and special events at all Minnesota state parks and recreation areas this weekend.

State park facts and figures:

Total number of Minnesota state parks and recreation areas: 75

Oldest: Itasca State Park (established in 1891).

Newest: La Salle Lake State Recreation Area (acquired fall 2011).

Largest: St. Croix State Park (31,775 acres).

Smallest: Franz Jevne State Park (118 acres).

Total visits to Minnesota state parks and recreation area (calendar year):

2011: 7,568,774 (1).

2010: 9,524,489.

2009: 9,169,502.

2008: 8,336,075.

Total overnight visits to Minnesota state parks and recreation areas (calendar year):

2011: 747,8771

2010: 1,052,696.

2009: 1,022,479.

2008: 930,318.

Top three state parks for overnight visits:(2)

1. Itasca State Park (107,200 overnight stays).

2. Whitewater State Park (52,429 overnight stays).

3. St. Croix State Park (50,579 overnight stays).

Top three state parks for overall visits: (2)

1. Fort Snelling State Park (911,435 visits).

2. Gooseberry Falls State Park (630,269 visits).

3. Itasca State Park (550,599 visits).

Overnight accommodations at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas:

Total number of cabins and campsites: 4,825.

Total number of unreservable (first-come, first-served) sites: 1,385.

Total number of camper cabins: 79.

Return to the economy:

Day visitors: $26.23/person/day.

Overnight visitors: $23.16/person/day.

(1) Minnesota state parks were closed for three weeks in July 2011 due to the government shutdown. In addition, St. Croix State Park was closed for two months due to a severe windstorm that occurred July 1, 2011, and Soudan Underground Mine State Park was unable to conduct its popular underground mine tours due to a fire that occurred in March 17, 2011.

(2) Based on 2010 data.

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