Thousands of people are parking RVs and pitching tents at Iowa’s state parks this weekend. Kevin Szcodronski, chief of state parks buruea for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says the annual “Camper Kickoff Weekend” is still popular – even though the DNR previously offered free campsites over the first weekend in May.

“We’ve eased out of that because of budget situations. It just wasn’t going very well for us,” Szcodronski said. The recession and high gas prices have contributed to an increase in visitors to Iowa’s state parks as people look for cheaper vacation options closer to home.

Szcodronski expects another busy summer this year based on campsite reservations over Memorial Day and Independence Day. “Basically, everything that can be reserved for those major holiday weekends are reserved,” Szcodronski said. One state park is closed this weekend because of flooding along the Missouri River. That’s The Wilson Island Park north of Council Bluffs.

“We’ve also closed a good part of Fairport Recreational Area, which is along the Mississippi River just north of Muscatine,” Szcodronski said. “There’s water on quite a few of the campsites there. There’s just a handful that are still open.”

 Two other state parks have campgrounds that are closed for renovations; Lake Darling in Washington County and Union Grove near Marshalltown.