Silver Falls Park camping visits up

March 2023 Posted in Outdoor Life
North Falls along the Trail of Ten Falls in Silver Falls State Park. Park.       James Day

North Falls along the Trail of Ten Falls in Silver Falls State Park. Park. James Day

By James Day

Public use of state parks continues to rebound from the pandemic, a new state report shows, with camping visits at Silver Falls approaching pre-COVID levels.

Overall, Oregon State Parks experienced its second busiest camping and day-use year in history in 2022, the report says. Visitors logged 2.97 million camper nights, just 1.8 percent less than the record-breaking 2021 total. A total of 52 million day-use visits were recorded, down just 2.7% from the 2021 record.

Silver Falls State Park reported 71,828 camping visits in 2022, more than 20,000 more than during the 2020 COVID year, although still not as high as the 2018 figure of 79,167. Similar post-pandemic gains are present in the day-use figures as well. The main day-use facility near South Falls attracted 1,102,096 visits in 2022, well above the 877,044 in 2020. At North Falls the day use figure of 236,600 is 40,000 ahead of 2020.

Detroit Lake, Silver Falls, Willamette Mission and North Santiam are grouped in the valley region of Oregon State Parks. The valley area showed the healthiest increases in usage, with a 7.78 percent increase in camping and a 4 percent increase in day use. The coastal and mountain regions either showed declines or were flat.

Coastal facilities, however, turned in the best camping totals, led by Fort Stevens (318,740), South Beach (215,768), Nehalem Bay (194,829), Jessie M. Honeyman (179,306) and Beverly Beach (170,673).

Two parks surpassed 2 million visitors, Yaquina Bay (2,383,854) and the Valley of the Rogue (2,149,928). Silver Falls State Park was among the seven sites at more than 1 million with its total of 1,338,696, which includes both the South Falls and North Falls day use areas.

At Detroit Lake, camping visits hit 93,100, the park’s best showing since a 96,466 figure in 2019. In addition to the pandemic, Detroit-area recreation sites also struggled amid the recovery efforts from the 2020 Labor Day wildfires. Recreation is a big economic driver in the Detroit area, with businesses producing 60 percent of their revenue in August alone.

Detroit State Recreation Area had 158,064 day-use visits in 2022, down significantly from 204,404 in 2021. That 2022 number, however, marks a healthy increase from 2020, the peak of the pandemic-fire impact, when just 149,016 visited the recreation area.

North Santiam State Recreation Area in Lyons, which transitioned last year to operations by Marion County, received essentially no visitors or camping use in 2021 and 2022 because of the fires. The park has now resumed operations for picnicking, camping and boat launching.

Willamette Mission has 1,666 camping visits, a dramatic increase from the 56 in the COVID year. Day use visits were at 316,224, a healthy increase from the 263,056 in the COVID year.

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