By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Higher water levels and the desire to stay closer to home have been putting a smile on Troy Brown's face of late.

Throughout northwest Kansas, visitation at state parks -- for the most part -- climbed during the recent Memorial Day weekend.

Statewide, more than 430,000 people visited 25 state parks.

In northwest Kansas, there were thousands as well.

"I still think the economy, not being the best, is probably helping us," said Brown, regional parks supervisor for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

Sate parks have had something of resurgence ever since gas prices hit almost $4 a gallon, continuing to ride that peak as the economy soured.

Many people have decided to forego the long, expensive vacations and have gone camping instead.

A few of the sites had slightly lower visitation numbers, Brown said, but remain at historically high levels.

Scott State Lake, for example, only had 8,340 visitors this Memorial Day weekend, compared to 8,950 in 2009. But that's up from 5,800 in 2008.

It's the same at Prairie Dog State Park at Keith Sebelius Reservoir outside of Norton. There, they had 8,445 visitors, down about 300 from last year. But in 2008, only 7,300 visited.

Cedar Bluff and Webster both had higher visitation numbers -- about 10,000 at each state park.

Water levels at Webster, continuing to remain above conservation levels, have boosted interest in the lake, Brown said.

"Cedar Bluff is up almost 4 feet ... and that has really helped," he said of the lake.

The busiest state park in the area Brown covers was Lovewell. There, almost 20,000 people turned out.

There were a few alcohol problems, but Brown said the lakes were relatively calm as many families came out to camp.