My neighbors told me the other day that they were heading out on a Friday night to camp at a popular state recreation area in order to “get away from it all” on a nice weekend.
I wanted to tell them that most likely, they were heading an area to where it all will be happening with quite a few people there.
But how do you steer clear of crowds when you’re trying to plan a summer camping getaway with family or friends?
Here’s some advice from our Nebraska state park superintendents, conservation officers and wildlife and fisheries biologists:
Weekdays are it. If possible, forego the weekend period — Friday night through Sunday night is the prime time for most folks to pitch a tent or park an RV. Monday nights are better for overnight stays. Middle of the week nights, Tuesday through Thursday, are the best stretch for camping. Plenty of privacy and quiet relaxation times are present then. Not only are more campsites available for the choosing, so are increased opportunities for fishing, boating, hiking and biking space.
Pass on the party. Keep in mind state park areas with lots of planned activities, functions and attractions draw the most campers, so seek an area that may be more laid back regarding the number of events. Also, be aware of significant celebrations in nearby communities or county fairs that can draw big crowds to campgrounds.
Think small, go wild. Stay at a smaller state recreation area just off the beaten path. Nebraska has 76 areas in its state park system so it should not be difficult to find one to your liking with some advanced recon. And don’t overlook some of our rural state wildlife management areas with their primitive campgrounds either. Some that quickly come to mind are Grove Lake, Pressey and Burchard Lake. Unless otherwise posted or restricted by special area regulations, you should know state wildlife management areas are open to pack it in/pack it out backcountry camping and the use of propane/gas stoves and charcoal grills for outdoor cooking.
Larger parks equal more hideaways. Don’t rule out the larger state parks for camping. Most of the larger state parks are expansive and have many places where you can camp, even backpack or rucksack camp. Indian Cave, Ponca and Fort Robinson are couple examples that have lots of acres available where you can truly escape the hustle and bustle of a contemporary campground.
It is not uncommon to find campgrounds offering RV campsites without any hook-ups.
Living without comfort eliminates traffic. Be willing to give up some of the modern campground amenities or facilities such as shower houses, restrooms, water spigots, picnic tables, etc. and select an area that would have the characteristics of wilderness. Make sure you check regulations, come prepared and bring all the supplies you’ll need for your adventure that some call dispersed camping.
Essentially, dispersed camping is the term given to camping on public land other than in designated campgrounds or campsites. The Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands offer dispersed-type camping. Yes, you’ll be really “roughing it,” but think of the solace.
Look for the calmer waters. Select a public area to camp that does not allow open power boating and associated water sports. Water recreation in summer can bring a crush of individuals and the constant hum of boat motors. Public areas that have camping with no-wake boating or non-powered boating would be suggested.