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2012 is off to a hot start for campgrounds in Arkansas.
After flooding closed down 14 campgrounds last year, business is booming this summer. Bull Shoals-White River State Park has seen a 70 percent increase in campers from this time in 2011 which was a down year due to flooding.
If you go back to 2010, camping at Bull Shoals-White River campground is up 20 percent.
Campers say even with fewer campgrounds to choose from, it’s the beauty and bargain of staying in the Natural State that keeps them coming back. “We’re always full, we’re the busiest camping park in the state of Arkansas, right here,” says Park Superintendent Tracy King.
“A person needs to book 6 months to a year ahead of time; the rule is one full year,” says Jimmy Harkreader, who is visiting from Fort Smith, Ark.
But The Bull Shoals-White River campground is trying to bounce back from a down year last year. “Numbers were down last year just simply because the flooding and the threat of flooding here below; this park was totally closed for nine days,” says King.
“It was a little slow last year,” adds Harkreader, who had to evacuate last year when the campground flooded, “The river was up, bank full, we did have to move out a week early for high water.”
But like many campers, he’s still coming back.
“We have tons and tons of repeat campers,” says King. “This park normally stays at 100 percent capacity but because of the heat and the economy it has had an effect; and the price of fuel,” adds Harkreader.
“I’m assuming that more people because of gas prices or whatever are staying closer to home to vacation and that helps us out tremendously,” he said.
Robert Blair is also a repeat camper. “We came down four years ago and enjoyed it and thought we’d come back down and do a little fly fishing,” says Blair.
For him you can’t get more for your money than staying at a campground. “Whole lot more reasonable except your gas gauge kind of goes like this,” says Blair.
And he didn’t follow the “One Full Year” rule. “We didn’t, we’re the spur of the moment type of people,” says Blair.
He see’s what keeps bringing campers back to the Natural State. “The fishing; the trout, the smoke over the water early in the morning there’ll be a fog over it,” says Blair.
“Trout are real aggressive fish; you can catch them by the dozens. You can just catch fish all day most days, it’s relatively inexpensive for families to come camp and you can camp for up to two weeks.”
“We’re camping at $19 a night,” adds Blair.