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Some campgrounds are seeing a different mix of visitors than normal

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Posted at 5:48 PM, May 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-23 13:18:21-04

GREAT FALLS — The unofficial start of summer is here with Memorial Day, but for campground owners, the uncertainty brought by COVID-19 has changed their outlook on the weekend and the rest of the summer. Many spots are filled at Great Falls KOA, but owner Brandi Boatright said it’s not a Memorial Day crowd.

“We do appear full, which we're very grateful for. There's a couple of big projects going on in town that require temporary workers,” Boatright said. “There's that type of thing, who stay month to month and so we've been able to fill those spots, which has been great. And we hope they stay for maybe a little bit longer, but we really like the overnight guests, because they're here to have a good time.”

Boatright relies on travelers from Canada and people heading to Glacier National Park, but many of her summer reservations have canceled. Luckily, Great Falls KOA has recently been able to open its communal bathrooms, which allows for cabin rentals and tent use, and hopefully, a wider range of customers.

We're just doing that all that we can to say stay open and to keep people safe, and we feel like camping is a great solution to keep yourselves entertained,” Boatright said. “And we can help with that.”

Out of town, Prewett Creek RV Park & Campground near Craig is busy, but instead of the usual out-of-state and international travelers looking for world-class fishing and recreation, it’s overwhelmingly locals right now.

“Our park is normally out of state tourism,” owner JoJo Lynch said. “I think we'll have to be more diligent about locals coming in and utilizing our resources that we've never had to really experience before.”

Lynch has had to turn people away this week. The park is nearly full with RVs, but tent camping isn’t open.

“We’re a small RV park and we just aren’t able to maintain our facilities more than what we have in the past,” she said.

As out-of-state travelers look to escape to Montana in phase 2, she expects the combination of tourists, locals and restrictions on facilities to cause a space shortage in her area.