N.C. parks prove popular with visitors

More than a quarter million visitors to North Carolina state parks used a new reservations system in its first full year of operation, with most campers preferring short visits to state parks near their homes, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

By far, the most popular park for camping and picnicking by reservation was Jordan Lake State Recreation Area, which logged 14,124 reservations during the year ending July 30. It was followed by Kerr Lake State Recreation Area (6,162) and Hanging Rock (5,256), Stone Mountain (5,062) and Carolina Beach (4,410) state parks.

The year-end reservations report showed that the state parks system’s online and call center-based system placed 61,484 reservations for campsites, picnic shelters and other amenities.

“The reservations system has been very popular, and we anticipated an important byproduct would be detailed information about our visitors and how they use the parks,” said Lewis Ledford, state parks director. “Over time, that will help us improve visitor service and gain more insight into how state parks contribute to local economies.”

The state parks attracted visitors from 16 nations during the year with Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom contributing the most foreign visitors, but reservations originated in far-flung locations such as Australia, Namibia and Sweden. North Carolinians, of course, were the most frequent visitors, and most state park campgrounds were populated by people from nearby towns, although there were exceptions. For instance, Hammocks Beach and Pilot Mountain state parks most often had campers from the Triangle area. Visitors from Charlotte most often filled Lake James, Morrow Mountain, New River and Stone Mountain state parks.

Reservations for campsites peaked in the months of April, May and June with a smaller but noticeable spike during August. The typical camping trip involved three people staying two nights on a weekend. In total, 123,149 nights of camping were reserved.

State park visitors were most comfortable making reservations in person at a state park (47.6 percent), while 35.9 percent of the reservations were made online and 16.5 percent were made through a call center. Visitors can camp without a reservation if a site is available when they arrive. Reservations can be made up to 48 hours in advance, online at www.ncparks.gov or by calling toll-free 1.877.7 CAMP NC (722.6762).

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