Northwest Arkansas parks are prepared to welcome thousands of visitors this weekend.
Brian Doty of Bentonville ties off his boat to a cleat Friday after he and his wife Julie Doty motored around Beaver Lake at Prairie Creek.
Taylor Walts of Centerton stakes down his tent Friday at the Prairie Creek Recreation Area and Campground near Rogers. More Americans are expected to travel this holiday weekend since 2005 and Arkansas state park campgrounds were nearing capacity as of Friday afternoon.
AAA estimates 39.3 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles during this holiday weekend, which started Thursday and ends Monday. This is the largest Memorial Day for travel since 2005. That compares with 38.3 million for the holiday weekend last year and 44 million in 2005.
Meg Matthews, Arkansas Parks and Tourism Department spokeswoman, said Thursday there were still some cabins or camping spaces available at a few state parks for this holiday. But, she said, it's already time for people to start looking at reserving space in parks for Labor Day weekend.
A few spots also remain available at Beaver Lake despite flooding that closed some camping sites and swim beaches.
Park leaders don't expect the high water to cause any significant drop in visitors.
Out of the roughly 680 camping sites along Beaver Lake, 117 are closed because of high water and flooding, but three or four sites are still available.
The Horseshoe Bend and Hickory Creek campgrounds are partly open but could close this weekend because of rainfall. Justin Trammell, the chief ranger of recreation at Beaver Lake, said if those sites get 1 or 2 inches more rain, they may have to move campers away from the shore.
Michael Richards, the lake manager, said the water level was 9 feet higher than normal as of Friday and debris and obstructions are lurking underwater. All boat ramps are open.
Both swim beaches at Horseshoe Bend and ones at Hickory Creek, War Eagle and Lost Bridge South are closed, but Richards said the closings shouldn't impact travelers' enjoyment of the park.
"There are so many other places people can swim at," Richards said.
Richards said boaters will not be able to go under the Arkansas 12 bridge, as there is only about 3 or 4 inches of clearance.
Devil's Den is at capacity for the weekend but that isn't unusual, said Monte Fuller, park superintendent.
"The holiday weekend doesn't really impact us because we're usually at 100 percent capacity every weekend from mid-March to mid-September," Fuller said.
The park has more than 100 campsites and 17 cabins and Fuller is expecting anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 people over Memorial Day weekend.
Park officials also expect to see several hundred additional visitors because it will be the first weekend the park's pool will be open.
More people on the go
AAA pinned its travel projection on continued modest economic growth and relatively low gasoline prices.
Michael Right, a spokesman at AAA's regional office in St. Louis, said Thursday gas prices "are certainly not a deterrent to travel" this year as they have been at times in the past.
"In Arkansas, the statewide average is $2.12," Right said. "That compares to last year ... when it was $2.09." He added that "back in 2008, the price was $3.97 on July 17."
Nationally, the average price Friday for a gallon of regular gasoline was $2.37, which is 6 cents more than last year.
"Overall economic growth has been strong, with unemployment approaching historic lows," AAA said in a news release. "Household net worth has gone up sharply, and consumer sentiment is near a 13-year high."
Of the estimated 39.3 million holiday travelers, about 34.6 million will go by automobiles, AAA said. Projections call for 2.9 million Americans to travel by plane, up about 5.5 percent from 2.75 million last year, and for 1.7 million Americans to use train, bus or other transit.
Right also said more multigenerational travel is expected this year because people are living longer and staying active longer.
Airports and highways
Travelers who are planning to fly should expect to deal with an increase in the volume of passengers this holiday weekend, said Sari Koshetz, regional spokeswoman for the federal Transportation Security Administration.
Koshetz said she doesn't want people to assume the checkpoints at their local airport to be as empty as they usually would be due to the influx of passengers.
She recommends airline travelers arrive to their flight two hours before its scheduled departure and to check their bags for any prohibited items.
"Unfortunately, people still bring prohibited items through checkpoints," Koshetz said. "If that happens, the lane gets frozen until the bag is checked, which can make people late for their flights."
The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department said travelers likely will encounter highway construction zones and delays because of the work and the increased holiday traffic.
Motorists can visit idrivearkansas.com to get information about highway closings.
Weather also could be a problem for Northwest Arkansas.
The region could see more flooding with a high chance of severe weather tonight that could produce large hail, wind up to 80 mph and even tornadoes, said Pete Snyder, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Tulsa, Okla.
He said thunderstorms could continue throughout the weekend.
"It looks like a pretty active system is coming through (Northwest Arkansas)," Snyder said.
Also, law enforcement agencies around the country are joining in a Click It or Ticket seat-belt campaign through June 4. The National Safety Council has estimated 409 people will be killed on roads this holiday weekend -- its highest estimate for the holiday period since 2012.
Sgt. Shannon Jenkins of the Benton County Sheriff's Office said she estimates nearly 50 percent of the people who die from the car accidents she has come across weren't wearing seat belts at the time of impact.
"That one little click you hear can save a life," Jenkins said.
Jenkins encourages people to report any erratic driving if they see it or any debris they may come across.
Jenkins said she wants people to take a moment to take in their surroundings when they get behind the wheel of a car or boat this weekend.
She also urges people to practice good standards and safety procedures when they are out on the water. Boating while under the influence of alcohol could lead to people losing their licenses because it counts as a DWI.
NW News on 05/27/2017
Print Headline: Beaver Lake campsites full this weekend