Campers flock to area lakes as holiday travel increases this year

By: Kelly Schlicht Email
By: Kelly Schlicht Email

As Ruth Heimstead and her husband blow up their inflatable raft at Coon Fork Lake campground on Saturday, she says her worries about bacteria on the lake have floated away.

“I was concerned just because i like to go out on the lake but I did call Thursday morning to check to see,” says Heimstead.

Park Ranger Bronson Stelzer says the water at Coon Fork Lake is ok to swim in—And just in time.

“With the recent rainfall we've been getting, there's a lot of runoff, so we did have a little high bacteria levels but now everything's fine and good to go, especially for this weekend with everybody getting out and enjoying the water,” says Stelzer.

Park rangers say as the all clear came out about the bacteria in the lake, more of the empty campsites filled up.

“There's always that chance and I’m glad they came out,” he says about his fears of people staying away from the lake this weekend. “They shut it down during the week but we opened it up Thursday.”

And Heimstead and her friends say their yearly trip wouldn't stay true to its tradition without spending time out on the water.

“One of the reasons we come here is to be able to float out on the lake,” says Trudy Theisen, who’s camping with Heimstead. “It sounds like that's cleared up and we're good to go!”

Katy Christenson says she and her family made the trek to the campground near Augusta to hit the trails.

“Just to get away to enjoy the outdoors, to go biking, to go hiking, maybe canoeing,” she says.

Stelzer says the Christenson’s aren’t the only ones packing this campground this weekend.

“A lot of people are local, from the Eau Claire area. We do get a few people from Minnesota coming in. Our campground is full now. They're all enjoying the weather and getting out on the lake this morning,” he says.

AAA says 35 million Americans are expected to travel more than 50 miles away from home this holiday weekend, up 17 percent from last year.

“Families are cutting back on their bigger trips and not going on far away vacations or extravagant vacations,” says Stelzer. “They’re coming out here and camping instead.”

And though their hometown of Hixton is just under that mark, the Christenson family says they're taking a trip on the fourth for the first time.

“We normally are in Hixton at the Fourth of July celebration,” says Katy.

Christenson says she's surprised at the amount of people on the roads this weekend.

“You see a lot of boats, a lot of campers,” she describes. “Yeah, I think it's pretty busy.”

But Christenson says despite the flock of campers and canoes, it's still tranquil enough to experience all that nature has to offer.

“We're just enjoying the beautiful day,” she says. “We're getting hot, maybe we'll go swimming.”

Park rangers say the campground seemed on par with the usual Fourth of July weekend crowds.

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