Alaskans rush to fill campgrounds on Memorial Day weekend

Published: May. 26, 2017 at 9:32 PM AKDT
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Rain or shine, Alaskans are expected to be filling campgrounds this weekend.

The Memorial Day weekend is considered the official opening for Alaska State Park campgrounds, with dozens of rangers and camp hosts beginning their seasonal jobs.

By Friday evening, campgrounds like Eklutna Lake and Eagle River were hitting capacity, with some residents saying they took an early weekend to secure a spot.

“They fill up pretty quick,” said Teri Stover, who arrived at 8:35 .a.m. to grab her campsite at Eagle River Campground.

For many campers, this extended weekend in May is the start of the summer.

“We're just trying to test out and make sure everything's working before we start heading further out,” said Raul Deano, noting most of his camping trips are planned in the Kenai Peninsula.

“We finished school, the kids are out, the husbands off the for the summer and this is sort of a nice starter camping,” said Melinda Rathkopf, who lives just a few miles away from the Eagle River Campground.

Further up the road system, state officials celebrated the opening of the newest addition to the state park system, the K’esugi Ken Campgrounds in Denali State Park. It’s debut on Memorial Day weekend comes with plenty of competition, as at least a half dozen popular campgrounds in the Chugach National Forest opened for the first time of the season as well.

“Memorial Day weekend is a big weekend for campers,” said Chugach National Forest public affairs officer Alicia King. “Almost all of our campgrounds are open.”

King said online reservations over the next few weekends are filling up fast, meaning more people are getting out in the wild, with more potential for wildfires.

“Our fire danger on the Chugach National Forest is moderate right now, and we do ask that people take cautions because despite that it seems moist and it is raining, that necessarily doesn't mean that it's going to subdue a fire.”

According to King, 90 percent of National Forest wildfires are human caused and 50 percent are from campers not fully extinguishing their campfires.