Economy conducive to a busy camping season |

Economy conducive to a busy camping season

Susan Wood, Tribune staff writer

Looming war, high gasoline prices and the allure of Tahoe’s cool summer days and nights may make campground and day use availability harder to come by as vacationers choose rustic jaunts.

A record number of California campground reservations made Feb. 1 have Lake Tahoe state parks officials on both sides of the border gearing up for a busy summer.

California parks reservationists book July campsites in January and August’s in February. On the first day of the month, the 10,700 reservations made in one day topped the previous record by 3,700.

“If someone comes to me and asks ‘should I reserve,’ the answer is yes. They book up fast,” said John Knott, California Parks superintendent for the Sierra District.

The district saw the same high demand following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“After 9-11, we saw a significant number of people coming into Tahoe,” Knott said.

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July 4, which falls on a Friday this year, has already sold out at Tahoe state parks on the California side.

His crew manages D.L. Bliss, Emerald Bay (Eagle Point), Sugar Pine Point and Grover Hot Springs parks. Donner Memorial is unavailable this year because of construction.

Still available but requiring a reservation now is the boat-in campground at Emerald Bay. These sites were once available on a first-come, first-served basis.

California park reservations may be made by calling 800-444-7275, with some summer availability left.

It appears the Silver State is experiencing the same level of interest at the lake.

“They’ll book early, filling up on the weekdays, too,” Nevada Parks Superintendent Brad Kosch said. “And I understand bookings for Sand Harbor’s (facilities) are up.”

Lake Tahoe state parks on the Nevada side — including Spooner, Cave Rock and the proposed Van Sickle flanking El Dorado and Douglas counties — offer day-use only.

Nevada has 24 state parks, some located in far-flung places.

Allen Newberry, Nevada parks chief of operations, has noticed more people traveling shorter distances to get to their campsites and staying longer.

“What we’re finding is we’re getting a lot more local use,” he said.

And more people cart their mountain bikes to sites — especially with the Tahoe Rim Trail open.

Newberry attributes the trend in part to the state’s tourism advertising campaign that targets those seeking adventure and a taste of the wild.

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at