Saturday, December 18, 2021

NYS campgrounds see record season in 2021

frontier town state campgroundOvernight reservations at campgrounds operated by the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) climbed to record highs this year as visitors embraced safe, healthy, and affordable recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through Columbus Day, campsites, cabins, cottages, and yurts at State Parks campgrounds were occupied for 787,103 nights, surpassing the previous 2019 record of 684,820 nights by 15 percent. DEC campgrounds were occupied for 394,401 nights, surpassing the previous 2016 record of 354,521 nights by more than 10 percent.

Over the last decade, as improvements were being made statewide under the NY Parks 2020 capital program, total overnight stays at State Parks campgrounds have risen nearly 45 percent.

State Parks operates 68 State Parks campgrounds, featuring 8,179 campsites, 825 cabins, 18 yurts, and 136 full-service cottages with amenities like power, kitchen, bath, beds, living room, and outdoor living space.

State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “It is gratifying that the public has again given State Parks a vote of confidence. Providing places for safe and healthy recreation has been critical as we continue to emerge from the pandemic, and people obviously enjoy the many improvements made under the NY Parks 2020 initiative. People have many choices today on how to spend their recreational time, and we are grateful that so many are choosing to spend it at our Parks. We intend to keep this progress going.”

DEC operates 52 campgrounds and five day-use areas in the Adirondack and Catskill forest preserves that provide a wide variety of experiences, including island camping, tent and trailer camping, boat launching facilities, hiking trails, beaches and day use areas with picnic tables and grills. The camping season runs through the summer, with some facilities remaining open during fall foliage and hunting season. Under the Adventure NY and other initiatives, DEC continues to make improvements at DEC camping facilities, including several for the 2021 season to provide new showers and comfort stations, power and water systems, and equestrian-specific improvements at the Frontier Town campground.

alger island campground dec photo

In 2021, New York State rolled out a new Loyalty/Reward program for campers where they earn points for every dollar spent on overnight accommodations at all state-owned and -operated campgrounds for both State Parks and the Department of Environmental Conservation. More than 55,800 people have enrolled so far. Campers can start earning points on new reservations as soon as they are enrolled. For more information about the program and to register, visit

Nights Booked at State Parks Campgrounds By Year:

2011- 541,771
2012- 578,428
2013- 583,016
2014- 594,441
2015- 623,991
2016- 650,857
2017- 648,420
2018- 663,953
2019- 684,820
2020- 597,188*
2021- 787,103**

Nights Booked at DEC Campgrounds by Year:

2011 – 311,227
2012 – 333,334
2013 – 323,711
2014 – 326,363
2015 – 346,524
2016 – 354,521
2017 – 347,893
2018 – 349,630
2019 – 352,234
2020 – 284,275*
2021 – 394,401

*Parks campgrounds closed in April, May and beginning of June due to COVID restrictions

** Through October 27th with pending reservations made through December

At top: Frontier Town State Campground. Above: Alger Island Campground (DEC photos)

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Community news stories come from press releases and other notices from organizations, businesses, state agencies and other groups. Submit your contributions to Almanack Editor Melissa Hart at

8 Responses

  1. Todd says:

    So in typical NYS fashion they decided to adjust the campground schedule for 2022 and will be closing additional campgrounds such as Lake Durant on Labor Day instead of its normal Columbus Day closing. These record numbers of campground visits don’t even include our neighbors from Canada who were unable to visit last year. Good luck getting a campsite this season if you didn’t book already

    • Robert White says:

      I already can not get a campsite at the Park I had hoped to camp in this summer.

      Lake Durant, Golden Beach, Browns Tract and others use to be open to free camping after the season ended until the snow fell. The State may not have made any money off that but the local towns did. Some Fall Leaf Peeker People (FLPP) stayed for a few days rather than just passing through.

  2. Peter Leyh says:

    I live in the Adirondack Park, and have been hiking the mountains for years.
    From what I see and hear about the overcrowded trials and campgrounds, it’s clear to me that the following should take place.

    – Expand the parking lots

    – Create new trails, on those mountains that have the acreage to handle it, there’s a tremendous amount of land out there, we need to make it available! It can be done, without effecting the forever wild forests. An intelligent and workable plan could certainly be worked out!

    -The idea that was posed a few years ago, about using “parking meters”, at all the trail heads was excellent. I definitely believe that most people would make a donation for every hike they would go on.
    The funds collected, would most certainly off set the costs of trail maintenance!?

    – Unfortunately many students don’t want to work in the summer, but would rather stay home and work on their computer or smart phone. Develop volunteer programs and incentives where these students both High School and College would be able to earn special credits toward their degrees. They could do trail maintenance, be trail guides, greeters at all the trail heads, traffic control at the parking lots, assist Park Rangers and many other creative jobs!

    Let’s make the Adirondacks a fun and pleasurable place to enjoy!

    • JB says:

      Peter Leyh, sincerely, I must say that I disagree with the “distribute the impacts” mentality that is currently running amok. Not only is it contrary to environmental design principles (CLUSTER human impacts) and wildlands best management practices (REGULATE access), it is not in the best interests of the majority of the residents of the state which owns the forest preserve itself. Creating more trails to combat overuse is effectively the same thing as creating more highways to fight traffic congestion–a stratagem that urban planners have known for decades to exacerbate rather than ameliorate overuse via a phenomenon known as “induced demand” (an effectively limitless population will always fill a limited space). This has been demonstrated plainly in the comments above: they continue to build more campgrounds, and yet finding a campsite gets more and more difficult. That is not in the best interests of the people of our state, nor the waters that we depend upon and the Forever Wild forests that we have come to love (the impacts of recreation upon ecosystems are demonstrable). The DEC currently has more campground and trail network expansions slated than I have ever seen, and the post-Cuomo APA is poised to do nothing to impede them.

      Recently, while reading a DEC overview of the numerous proposed trail network expansions, I encountered the following phrase: “new trails are known to increase property values and business revenue”. That kind of language is commonplace in the many new DEC development proposals. So my question is: Cui bono? Who benefits? The stakeholders who benefit from recreation expansionism are the self-perpetuating bureaucracies of overreaching governments and the constellation of businesses of a Dutch Diseased recreation economy who wield outsized influence over the fates of their neighbors and the interests of the public at large. Property owners and the concerned public have and will continue to be the voices in the wilderness against “crony conservation”. I only hope that their voices are heard again.

  3. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “Creating more trails to combat overuse is effectively the same thing as creating more highways to fight traffic congestion…”

    > You are so on key with your response to the prior post JB! These were my thoughts too as I was reading it. I have a great idea! Lets create more forests! Instead of turning what remains of open space to a parceled-out wasteland of look-alike homes, or shopping centers, or…. why don’t we plant trees and create more forests! There’s an idea! But there’s no money in woods, unless you’re in the logging industry.

    “new trails are known to increase property values and business revenue”.

    > There was a 7-mile loop in a water management area northeast of Tampa where I used to live some eons ago which hardly a soul knew about back in the day. I had the whole place to myself generally when I went out there to either walk or ride my bike. It was so uncrowded that I sometimes would take all of my clothes off and go around that loop in my birthday suit not expecting anybody to catch me in the act. Nowadays….impossible to do such! Where once were the thick of trees throughout that loop, now are sections where the trees are thinned and tiled rooftops and expensive homes are an eyesore.

    Back then it was common to see bobcat, fox, turkey, quail, sparrow hawks, deer, gopher tortoise, a lizard with a blue stripe which I saw nowhere else, and so much more. It was a natural paradise! Black bears were seen out there and I swear I saw a panther on a few occasions.  I photographed over a hundred species of flowers around that loop, and many species of butterflies came with them. A large swath of that trail was dirt at one time, and there were minor dirt paths leading off of the main road….which are now all paved and lead to major development projects…..

    After those homes went up, and when all of those new homeowners moved-in, all’s they had to do was literally walk out their back doors to have access to this trail, and that 7-mile loop became the Grand Central Station of Tampa. How convenient! Surely there were whisperings from the developers of the benefits of buying these new homes….the trail behind.

    After all of those people moved-in that paradise went the way all things eventually go once humans get a foothold….to ruin! It’s a crying shame what they did to that area, which was part of a greenway which eventually led to the green swamp. Most of them flowers disappeared and never came back….is how I learned how sensitive flowers are. The sparrow hawks disappeared, and just about all of what I used to see out there became greatly reduced in number, if not simply vanished….. Eventually they added new roads or paved dirt trails to accommodate the crowds, added new parking areas (paved), then they started charging a fee for access to park you car. The woods got crowded and I saw the big changes to them, the trails considerably more worn from the all-terrain bicycles that came with the new homeowners, etc….

    You cannot convince politicians who are bed partners with developers the value of other living species. They are blind to any ‘thing’ past economy. To this day, even though I am a thousand miles removed from that once-haven, I still am saddened, when thinking about it, at what they did to it! It’s just a crying shame! This can happen anywhere as nothing is safe or sacred anymore when it comes to the needs of the human animal.

    • JB says:

      Charlie, thanks for the solidarity and enlightenment. Florida is the notorious example of what can happen without land protections and regulations. I just spoke with someone who recently returned from there, and it was endless development after development like you described, with little patches of the former ecosystem remaining between. Certainly, you would not want to be running around au naturel (believe me, back in the day, I would have probably been right there doing the same)!

      The only other thing that I would add is that native trees can usually recolonize a clearing without the need to plant nursery trees, and the best course of action that we can take to regrow forests is usually to just leave the land alone. People tend to weaponize “nature’s resilience” to justify its destruction, but the argument completely falls apart upon closer examination–especially when we talk about the development. Once you cut down the forest, at least we can entertain the possibility of regeneration (although probably never to its former glory); but when we build things upon the landscape and then utilize them, the timescales to get back to square one grow exponentially. Trail networks are just backyards that are many miles long, serving as an ingress for the element of danger into sensitive landscapes and a rift that simultaneously splits that landscape into fragments.

      When DEC plans trail systems on forest preserve, they need to begin with the question: what is the absolute minimum trail infrastructure that we need to prevent visitors from blazing their own mess of ad hoc paths? In every parcel, abiding by the law of minimums will always leave the vast majority inaccessible, as it should be. In some particularly inaccesible parcels, there should be no trails at all. But, to make things really easy, here is my recommended guideline for DEC’s UMPs: “One trail is (often) better than none. Less is better than more. Many is worse than nothing.”

      • Joan Grabe says:

        I am sitting on Sanibel Island on the Gulf Coast of Florida reading the comments from JB and Charlie Stehlin. Sanibel is the polar opposite, a Sanctuary island designated by law. Half the island is the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, a lot of the remaining land is owned by the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation. I have been a fortunate owner here since 1980, It is rather magical – crossing over the 3 mile causeway is enough to lower my stress level. W are very protective of this island, we regulate our developers, our signage, we rehabilitate injured wildlife at CROW, our local Congregational church shares it’s building with the local synagogue, we are fiercely protective of our local waters, both locally and in Tallahassee and our beaches are famous world wide and accessible to all. The shelling is pretty amazing too !
        We see alligators all the time, sometimes when walking our dog on our street and just the other night, while we were barbecuing on our porch ( 13 feet above ground ) at least 3 coyotes passed between our house and our neighbor’s making a hideous racket. I see bobcats frequently too. Florida is not paradise by any means but a large part of this state is pretty much how I first saw it in the late 60s.

        • JB says:

          Joan, I have heard that Sanibel is nice. In textbooks about sprawl, Central Florida seems to be the go-to example. As per Charlie’s point, sprawl is so out of control around Tampa, largely owing to a rejection of urban planning and the construction of the Suncoast Parkway. That kind of thing seems to be a pattern in the state. Certainly, there are large areas that have escaped wholesale development due to natural features or conservation. But as Florida’s population continues to explode, the groups working to conserve lands in South Florida, for example, have their work cut out for them.

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