More than a million people have been to Saskatchewan's 36 provincial parks since May, easily beating the visitation record set in 2020.
"The amount of people that came to our parks across the province has just been phenomenal," Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Laura Ross said in an interview on Friday.
Some people liked the parks so much, they stayed overnight. More than 400,000 camping nights were spent in the parks so far this year, surpassing a record set in 2016.
Good Spirit Provincial Park, Buffalo Pound Provincial Park and Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park are among the most popular parks in the province.
Echo Valley Provincial Park, nestled in between Pasqua Lake and Echo Lake, is known for its grassy areas with beaches. There are also hiking trails for various experience levels.
"We noticed that Echo Valley was accessed by more visitors and campers than normal," said Tanya Lawson, park manager for Echo Valley Provincial Park. "We noticed really high activity on the beaches this summer and we had such nice weather."
Rebecca Alao, an avid camper and hiker, lives in Regina and loves visiting the parks. Her favourites include Lac La Ronge Provincial Park and Narrow Hills Provincial Park.
"They were busier this year than last," said Alao. "I would say I met more people on camping sites this year."
Alao is planning to visit more parks in the future.
Although the peak camping season is over, the parks are still open and many campsites are still available with reduced services.
Anyone interested in camping this winter can go online in early November and use the new Camp-Easy reservation system to book campsites. Reservations will be available at Echo Valley, Cypress Hills and The Resort at Cypress Hills. Kenosee Inn and Madge Lake Retreats will also have accommodations available.
Winter activities offered in the parks include Christmas tree cutting in Cypress Hills, a Festival of Lights tour in Pike Lake and Candle Lake, and Skate the Park at Echo Valley. There is also snowshoeing, tobogganing, hiking and more at Buffalo Pound, Moose Mountain, Great Blue Heron and Duck Mountain provincial parks.
Ross said she expects people will enjoy the parks in the coming months, but she declined to give an estimate as to what the grand total will be for the 12-month-period.