Camping figures out
Yellowknifers make up majority of campers

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 01/99) - The more than 100 campsites in the Yellowknife area were busy this past summer.

According to recent statistics released by the Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development (RWED), 3,775 groups used area campgrounds.

The statistics were compiled through exit surveys completed by visitors.

About 7,215 people used Yellowknife's campgrounds in 1999.

"Yellowknife is very different from the rest of the market in the sense that most of the (campers) are residents," said Robin Reilly, who is the director of parks and tourism.

"Attendance is generally going up so more people are coming into territorial parks."

As campgrounds have become more popular, they have improved facilities as well.

That means RWED has been involved in capital upgrades for things like more showers, better picnic areas and more electrical hook ups.

"Because the facilities are improved, we're also charging more. It's about $12 as a kind of minimum per night and $15 for the upscale market," Reilly said.

"If you go back five years it would have been $5 or $8 or $10."

Reilly said what boosted Yellowknife's camper numbers is its comparatively dense population.

"Five years ago half the people who went to territorial parks would have been residents, particularly around Yellowknife," Reilly said.

"Now only a quarter of the campers are NWT residents, so though the numbers of campers are totally increasing, what is really increasing is the tourist numbers."

Five places of origin accounted for 75 per cent of all camping parties in the NWT as a whole.

In descending order the parties came from the NWT with 25 per cent, Alberta with 25 per cent, British Columbia with 14 per cent, Ontario with six per cent and Germany with five per cent.

Tenting was the most popular style of camping, followed by camper trailers, camper trucks and motorhomes.

"It used to be that people would roll in late in the day and leave early in the morning, but now a number of the trails are better, the scenic lookouts are better, the showers are better, picnic shelters are better so people are staying longer and going to parks as destinations," Reilly said.

"Our facilities are now quite a lot better than those in northern Alberta and northern British Columbia, so it's interesting that people are surprised when they come here."

Reilly said campers experience northern Alberta and northern British Columbia and they presume that the further north they go the worse it's going to get.

"The question is are we exceeding their expectations because they didn't expect much or are they genuinely getting a high quality product," he said.

"We think from some of their anecdotal information that they're getting a high quality product but it's true that they're not expecting much either."