Campground near Utah-Arizona border turns to online reservations as popularity grows

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ST. GEORGE — Reservations for a campground along the Virgin River, just south of the Utah-Arizona border, are going live for the first time as officials deal with the same popularity issues as the outdoor spaces of Utah and the West.

Bureau of Land Management officials announced Monday that Virgin River Canyon Campground is moving to an online reservation system for some of its campgrounds starting Saturday for locations June 1 or later.

The campground is located off the nearly 30-mile stretch of I-15 in Arizona, about 20 miles southwest of St. George. It is a popular spot for picnics, hiking, and nature viewing, in addition to camping.

“The recent increase in visitors to public lands has made it harder to get a campsite in popular recreation areas like these,” said Lorraine Christian, Arizona field office manager. Strip, in a statement. “We are delighted to offer this benefit to the public, as the ability to book in advance will give visitors peace of mind knowing their vacation plans are in place in advance.”

Eighteen multi-day sites in the Upper Loop – allowing stays of up to 14 days – will be part of the new advanced booking system. The 37 lower loop campgrounds will also be available online. There will still be over 50 campsites in the upper loop that will remain on a first-come, first-served basis on June 1 and later.

The campground includes paved access, drinking water, flush toilets and vehicle parking. Some of the campgrounds include RV sites, barbecue pits, picnic tables, and shade structures.

Overnight camping costs $8 per night at the campground for up to two vehicles, while day-use fees are $2 per vehicle per day. In addition to the new reservation system, visitors can pay by mobile device, debit or credit using a new scanning device through the Recreation.gov mobile app. Visitors can also continue to pay by the cash envelope method if they prefer.

Monday’s advance booking announcement comes after the campground went through a phase of recent upgrades before it reopens earlier this month. The project included the renovation of toilets, the upgrading of water and electricity systems, the resurfacing of roads and the inclusion of sites more conducive to people with disabilities.

It joins some popular outdoor recreation areas in the region with new reservation systems. There is a new permit lottery system in place for Angels Landing at Zion National Park which started earlier this month, while the BLM also switched to a mobile geofencing system in March for the wave at the Utah-Arizona border.

The National Park Service announced earlier this year that a record 297.1 million visitors came to outdoor sites just inside the lands it manages in 2021. That’s an increase of more than 60 million from 2020. The BLM has yet to release its 2021 land statistics report, but reported more than 73 million visitors to its lands in fiscal year 2020.

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Carter Williams is an award-winning journalist who covers general news, the outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a transplant from Utah via Rochester, New York.

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