4 Million Californians expected to travel on Memorial Day weekend

sjansen@mercedsunstar.comMay 27, 2013 

— A travel survey by AAA estimates that just over 4 million Californians plan on traveling 50 miles or more this Memorial Day weekend.

While that number is a slight decrease of just more than 2 percent from last year, that still means there will be some crowded freeways and airports.

"Despite the diminished tailwind for travel plans among Californians this Memorial Day weekend, many are still caving into pent-up desires to leave town as the official summer travel season begins," AAA Northern California spokeswoman Cynthia Harris said.

With the demand for gas high this weekend, drivers can expect to pay more at the pump.

The average regular gas price in Merced is $4.04 a gallon, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report. That's 9 cents more than a month ago, but almost 30 cents less than the cost for gas last year.

Memorial Day weekend is always a busy time for campgrounds throughout the region.

It's estimated that 10,000 to 12,000 people will make their way to Yosemite National Park each day this weekend, according to park spokesman Scott Gediman.

All campsites that require reservations in Yosemite have been reserved 5 months in advance. However, Gediman says there are between 100 and 200 sites that will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

"It varies depending on how many campsites we're able to open at this time of the year," Gediman said. "We're working to get the grounds cleared and the water systems turned on. There will be limited availability. The sooner you get here the better the chances."

All roads into the park are expected to be open. Gediman advises travelers to avoid making the trip to Yosemite during the middle of the day. The park's roads are the busiest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., he warned.

Campers without reservations looking to head to Lake McClure or Lake McSwain are also encouraged to arrive early.

Merced Irrigation District senior ranger Jim Williams says all the reserved campsites in the six parks have been taken. There will be between 100 and 150 sites available on a first-come, first-served basis.

It's expected that all the sites at both lakes will be filled this weekend.

"If people are looking to fish, and they don't have a boat, Lake McSwain is the place to go," Williams said. "We stock the lake. We rent boats. There's a nice marina area where you can have lunch. We recommend you get there early on Thursday night or Friday morning."

Campsites are open from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Williams said reservations for July 4 are going fast. For the first time, there will be a fireworks show at Lake McClure on July 5.

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