‘Let’s Camp, America! Weekend’ is May 4-6 at Indiana State Park properties

Learn to pitch a tent, build a fire, cook outdoors and more during Let’s Camp America! Weekend at Indiana State Parks, May 4-6.

Let’s Camp America! Weekend is a nationwide initiative of the National Association of State Parks Directors.

The weekend is a chance for beginners to learn basic camping skills, and for experienced campers to get their equipment out for a spring weekend. Activities will take place at all 32 Indiana State Parks properties and on social media. The weekend celebrates all forms of camping, including tents, trailers, recreational vehicles and camper cabins. This year it also includes some family cabin options.

The weekend concludes with free admission for everyone — campers and day-users alike — on Sunday, May 6, in honor of Visit Indiana Week, sponsored by the Indiana Office of Tourism Development. DNR’s State Forest Recreation Areas and ORV sites at Redbird and Interlake will also offer free admission on May 6.

The 32 properties owned and managed by Indiana State Parks offer a combined 7,700 campsites and more than 150 cabins, and nearly 700 miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails.

Each state park and state reservoir property will offer the usual educational talks and hikes with interpreters, along with a special camping or outdoor skills program sometime during the weekend. Programs are listed at calendar.dnr.IN.gov, and also will be posted later at stateparks.IN.gov/3282.htm. Topics vary from s’more-making to fire building.

“We really want to celebrate the joy of camping with family and friends, whether you’re a seasoned veteran or new to the activity,” said Ginger Murphy, Indiana State Parks deputy director. “We have lots of folks who camp after Labor Day in the fall, but not as many who camp in the spring. The bugs aren’t bad, and the fishing and wildflower watching are both good. We encourage Hoosiers to start a new spring camping tradition.”

“Camping 101” programs at select properties offer 12 families who have never camped at a state park the opportunity to do so for free that Friday and Saturday. Participants will also receive free guidance with campsite set up as needed, and the use of essential gear for up to four people, including sleeping bags, pillows, a cooler, camp chairs, lantern and firewood, plus free gate admission for the weekend and a free one-day pass for future use.

“Camping 101” tent-camping programs will be at Whitewater Memorial, Summit Lake, Potato Creek and Versailles state parks. Space is limited to three families at each of the four parks, and advance reservations are required.

If sleeping in a tent isn’t for you, Mississinewa Lake and Shakamak State Park will host “Camping 101” programs with their camper cabins. These cabins are basically “four-walled camping” structures with simple bunks, a table and an outdoor fire ring. Three cabins at each property are being held for first-time campers. Participating families at Mississinewa and Shakamak will also receive use of the camping gear listed above, along with free gate admission for the weekend and a free one-day pass for future use.

In addition, two family cabins at Lincoln, Chain O’Lakes and Harmonie state parks are available for first-time cabin users at half price. Family cabins provide a living/dining area, kitchen with some pots and pans, room to sleep up to six in beds/sleeper sofas, and indoor restrooms and showers. Bedding and any personal items must be provided by cabin users. For more complete information on cabins, visit camp.IN.gov.

For all “Camping 101” programs, participants must bring their own food, and submit an equipment deposit of $25 for tent camping and $30 for camper cabins. The deposit will be returned after the campsite or camper cabins are used and gear is left in good condition.

To reserve a “Camping 101” site for either tent-camping, camper-cabin, or family cabin use, contact Christie Sorrels at csorrels@dnr.IN.gov. Sites will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis, and will include a check of our camping and cabin reservation system to make sure those who seek a reservation haven’t camped or stayed in a cabin with us before.

The weekend also includes these social media elements and giveaways on the Indiana State Parks Facebook page at facebook.com/INdnrstateparksandreservoirrs for all campers to enjoy:

-Share a photo of your favorite camping gadget on the page using the hashtag #myfavcampgadget2018. You can do this whether or not you are camping during the weekend. Selected favorites will win a 2018 annual pass or camping gift card.

-Post your campsite photo, camping selfie or scenic spring image from the weekend. Use the hashtag #LetsCampAmericaFunPix. Selected favorites will receive a 2018 annual pass or a camping gift card.

-Participate in the ongoing Indiana State Parks Spring Photo Contest with scenic park photos, selfies of your park activities or spring wildflower pictures and post them with the hashtag #INStateParksSpringPix. The contest ends on May 12.

Any campers during this weekend can complete the Let’s Camp America State Parks Scavenger Hunt posted at stateparks.IN.gov/3282.htm and return it as indicated on the form to be entered in a drawing for a 2018 annual pass or camping gift card. (There’s even a rainy day version if the weekend is wet and you need to stay in the tent or camper.) There are also lots of great ideas for outdoor activities in the Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights at childrenplayoutdoors.IN.gov.

In addition, if you make and keep a regular camping reservation on your own for the weekend, you’ll be entered in a drawing for one of two $50 camping gift cards to be presented for future use, or for an outdoor prize package donated by REI, an outdoor retail partner of Indiana State Parks.

“Anytime you camp at an Indiana State Park or one of our big lakes, you are surrounded by acres of open space for hiking, fishing, playing, relaxing and making great memories,” said Dan Bortner, Indiana State Parks director. “So ‘Let’s Camp, Hoosiers!”

SOURCE: News release from Indiana Department of Natural Resources