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Demand jumps for state park campsites
Sandy beaches and the cool Stanislaus River make Caswell State Park located six miles south of Manteca at the end of Austin Road, a popular destination during warm weekends.
Regardless of rising gas prices and the recent recession, families appear to be on the move for the Memorial Day Weekend.

But those added elements have made other places their target destination, and the length of the trips that people are taking is also extending rather than shortening.

According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, there was a 25 percent increase in the number of nights reserved for the 2009 Memorial Day Weekend over those made last year – with the number increasing in the final days leading up to the weekend getaway.

The total number of nights reserved falls just about 7,000 away from capacity for the entire state park camping system – with many popular places filling up months before.

While popular camping destinations like Yosemite have reservations filling up months before holiday weekends, a handful of first-come, first-served campgrounds exist for those who plan on getting up there early – allowing for breathtaking views of the valley floor and the majestic granite structures that encircle it.

And the most popular destinations in the California park system – the coastal camping areas that run from the Sonoma Coast all the way down to Mexico – are once again the choice of families who have booked their weekends months in advance.

Not every campsite in California however needs a reservation.

Of the 15,000 available for this holiday weekend, only 11,000 of them can be reserved – allowing for the same early-arriving guests to be able to enjoy the weekend.

California State Park staffers don’t ask people why they’re choosing the parks over other activities that are traditionally popular, but some believe that the rise in the number of nights reserved this year is due to tightened family budgets and the value that weekend camping provides over other vacations that require expensive hotel stays or steep admission prices.

Locally, Caswell Memorial State Park offers campgrounds along the Stanislaus River, and day use begins at 8 a.m. for those just looking to spend a morning or the afternoon enjoying the freedom that the outdoors provide – from swimming and rafting to fishing and camping.

Dozens of state parks are accessible within a two-hour drive up into the foothills. A complete list can be viewed by visiting