By MIKE CORN
The unofficial end of the camping season proved to be a bang-up weekend for area lakes, state park managers reported.
Rains in July and prior to the start of Labor Day weekend helped encourage campers to visit lakes, said Troy Brown, regional parks supervisor for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
"We had a really good weekend," Brown said of state parks in the western third of the state. "Weather was fairly decent. It actually turned out pretty good."
It was especially good at camping sites with utility outlets, he said.
Some lakes had strong use of primitive sites, where visitors can pitch tents, but other areas weren't so fortunate.
Cedar Bluff Reservoir, Brown said after talking with park manager Chris Smith, had its best weekend yet for the year.
All of the utility sites were in use, and primitive sites were also popular.
"Primitive camping has been down this year," Brown said of area lakes. "I guess people are getting used to having utility sites."
During the Labor Day weekend, however, Cedar Bluff's primitive campsites were anywhere from 80 percent to 90 percent utilized.
"Chris (Smith) was very pleased with how things worked out," Brown said.
While weather cooperated for the most part, there were locations affected by rains, and that sent some people heading for home a bit earlier than planned.
Although it's not in his territory, Lake Wilson was among the sites affected by the rain.
Webster Reservoir had a small shower, but it didn't cause any dramatic effect.
What did boost Webster was a round of heavy rains last week well before the start of the weekend, sending water levels about 1.68 feet higher.
"That was really good," Brown said of the water level boost at Webster.
Prairie Dog State Park at Keith Sebelius Reservoir didn't get the inflow, but its utility sites were still full. Brown said primitive camping sites were only 10 percent to 15 percent full.
Utility and primitive camping was strong at both Scott State Lake and Meade State Park.
At Scott State Lake, utility sites were filled up and primitive sites were nearly full. Meade's utility sites were 95 percent full and the primitive sites were nearly bursting at the seams.
"Cedar Bluff and Scott were the big ones I'd say, out west that is," he said of lakes in the region. "Chris said it was the best weekend of the year."
While he's not absolutely sure of the reason, Brown is confident the Cedar Bluff boost is a result of higher water levels.
"Anytime it gets a good shot of water, they hear about it and it brings people out," Brown said of how quickly word spreads when water levels in Cedar Bluff rise. "It's almost a resurgence of people coming out. It's like everyone thinks, 'My gosh, it's full.' "
The lake isn't full, but water levels jumped nearly 6 feet after heavy rains fell in the Smoky Hill River drainage area upstream of Cedar Bluff. Currently, the lake is 21.5 feet below its designed operating level.
"You drive across the dam and look at the amount of water out there," Brown said.
Cedar Bluff still contains nearly 3,300 acres of water, nearly twice the size of Webster Reservoir.
Cabins at area lakes also were full during the weekend, but that's becoming common as people are using cabins more and more.