PIERRE, S.D. – This year marks 100 years of state parks in South Dakota, and the Department of Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) is kicking off the summer celebration this weekend with freebies and activities.
May 17-19 is the department’s annual Open House and Free Fishing Weekend, which grants free park entrance and free fishing statewide for both residents and nonresidents. Fishing regulations and limits as well as camping fees still apply.
In addition, to help visitors kick-off the first summer weekend in style, parks are hosting a variety of free events, from bike rides to archery classes to anniversary celebrations. Take advantage of the free fishing weekend at a fishing program or borrow a fishing pole from one of 24 parks and venture out on your own.
“Open House and Free Fishing Weekend is a time-honored tradition in South Dakota,” said State Parks Director Scott Simpson. “It’s a great opportunity for folks to shake off the cobwebs, check out the parks, and participate in their favorite outdoor activity. With the long winter we had, we all deserve some quality time in the outdoors.”
Simpson challenges park visitors to use the free weekend to participate in several statewide promotions and contests celebrating 100 years of state parks.
The 100 Years Scavenger Hunt challenges visitors to find the five 100 Year markers placed in each of the 30 participating parks. Visitors take a selfie with each marker and submit the photos online to enter the drawing for that park’s prize package, which ranges from kayaks to hiking packages to camping gear. Clues are posted online and on posters at the parks. The contest runs now through early August.
The Jr. Naturalist Program encourages youth age 7-18 to learn about the rich natural and cultural history of South Dakota and be physically active in the outdoors. Three levels offer increasing challenges and awards. This year, all participants will also earn a special edition 100 Year patch and certificate.
The department’s popular Go Fourth program will also have a 100 Year bonus. Earlier this year, GFP and the SD Department of Health distributed a free family daily park entrance license to every fourth grade student in South Dakota. This year, kids who redeem their passes will also be entered into a drawing for one of four tent-camping packages, including an 8-man tent, sleeping bags, camping chairs, a cooler, and more. One drawing will be held each month from June through Sept.
Camping reservations are still available for Open House Weekend in many parks. Make reservations online at campsd.com or by calling 1.800.710.2267.
Visit gfp.sd.gov for a list of upcoming events and to learn more about the 100 Years promotions.