The Memorial Day weekend in Iowa is traditionally the kickoff to the summer camping season. Kevin Szcodronski is chief of the State Parks Bureau for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. He says the number of visitors to Iowa’s 87 state parks has been steadily rising over recent years and they’re not just stopping by on weekends.

“We are seeing, with the price of gasoline and the hard economic times, people are staying closer to home,” Szcodronski says. “We’re probably even getting a little bit busier during the weekdays.” The DNR reported “total camping guest days” in Iowa State Parks at 709,595 in 2012. That was up from 684,417 in 2011.

Szcodronski says the parks can get crowded, but for most people, that doesn’t seem to tarnish the experience. “There’s still something magical about going into a park and a beautiful scenic backdrop,” Szcodronski says. “Even though you’re with a lot of other people in those campgrounds or picnic areas, people just seem to be more relaxed and tolerant of one another. They just go in the mode that ‘hey, we’re going enjoy ourselves and we’re going to enjoy meeting other people who are doing the same thing we are. It just seems to work and be very popular.”

Many Iowans find the great outdoors provide relief from a nearly constant connection to TVs, computers, and other electronic devices. Only a couple of Iowa’s state park campgrounds have wi-fi access and Szcodronski says there hasn’t been a big public outcry for more. “We want people to get away from that for a little while…and not be tied to a computer,” Szcodronski says. “While we hear it and people think (wi-fi) would be highly demanded, I think the progress with the smart phones and the tablets have really kind of dampened that because people can stay connected if they can get reception with their phone.”