1.1 million stay at state campgrounds in the Adirondacks, breaking record

Canoes, kayaks and guideboats take over a number of sites at Fish Creek Campground before the third and final day of the Adirondack Canoe Classic in 2018. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

State campgrounds in the Adirondack Park brought in more overnight visitors this year than ever before.

More than 1.1 million visitors stayed overnight in state Department of Environmental Conservation-run campgrounds in the park this year, which breaks the 2016 record of 1,017,492 campers, according to DEC Public Information Officer Lori Severino.

DEC campgrounds also broke the 2016 record for the most overnight stays in the Adirondacks this year by more than 10%, from 309,714 nights in 2016 to 342,407 nights in 2021, according to Severino.

The 2020 camping season was cut short because of COVID-19 restrictions. Some campgrounds opened in mid-June of 2020, but many didn’t open to visitors until the end of June.

This year, the camping season returned to its full length, with all 44 DEC campgrounds in the Adirondacks open by May 21.

The DEC also operates eight campgrounds in the Catskills.

DEC, OPRHP campgrounds

Reservations in the park rebounded this year after a shorter season and pandemic-related travel advisories last year led to a 32% drop in reservations compared to 2019. Reservation numbers were up by nearly 45% this year from 2020 with 99,528 reservations, though 2019 still holds the record high of 101,707 reservations, according to Severino. The DEC reported that campers stayed at Adirondack campgrounds for an average of 3.44 nights this year, which is a slight decrease from 3.55 nights in 2020.

Campgrounds across the state operated by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation showed similar record-breaking trends this year, according to a press release from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office. Campsites, cabins, cottages, and yurts at state parks campgrounds were occupied for 787,103 nights this year, surpassing the 2019 record of 684,820 nights by 15%. Total overnight campground stays in the state have risen by nearly 45% over the last decade, according to the release.

The state rolled out a new rewards program this year for campers who stay in state parks. For every dollar a camper spends on overnight accommodations at a state OPRHP or DEC-run campground, the camper earns 10 points. Every 100 points earned will shave a dollar off of the camper’s fees for future stays at state campgrounds.

Most DEC campgrounds are slated to open next year on May 20, including Saranac Lake Islands in Franklin County. Fish Creek in Franklin County is expected to open by April 1 and Wilmington Notch in Essex County is expected to open by May 6.

Privately-owned campgrounds

Data from Campground Owners of New York, a Pittsford-based trade association, shows that privately owned and operated campgrounds in the state had a busy 2021 season, too, and more of the same is expected next year. Many privately-owned campgrounds in the state reported a 10 to 15% increase in business this year compared to 2020, according to a press release from CONY.

Debbie Potter, general manager at North Pole Resorts, a family-run campground resort in Wilmington, confirmed that the upward trend reached the North Pole this year. Potter said that 2020 was a “record-breaking” season at the campground — despite limiting camping to around 60% capacity due to COVID-19 — but that 2021 exceeded those visitor numbers by more than 12%, from 7,227 visitors in 2020 to 8,147 visitors in 2021. She said a lot of new campers came to the resort last year as camping became a safer way to vacation during the pandemic, and those campers returned throughout last season and this year.

“Many rented RVs,” she said, “then bought RVs and came back this year.”

Potter said those new campers filled the void left by Canadians who couldn’t travel because of the border closure. This year, she said the campground saw more campers from across the U.S. as national travel advisories and quarantine requirements lifted.

Labor shortages put a damper on making this season more successful, Potter said, because she didn’t have the staff to accommodate a higher capacity of visitors, and she said the resort had to pay the workers they could find “crazy” amounts of money.

Right now, Potter said reservations for North Pole’s 2022 camping season are “filling up quickly.”


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