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Holiday weekend kicks off camping season

Dust off the tent and grab a sleeping bag. Break out the frozen hot dogs. Washington’s 84 state parks are open for camping.

The parks are expected to be crowded for Memorial Day weekend, traditionally the opening of the summer camping season.

While drop-in campers are welcome, reservations can be made at half the state’s parks by calling 1-888-CAMPOUT, or online at www.parks.wa.gov.

Thanks to a redesigned Web site, campers can check out park campsite maps, view details about campground scenery and learn about wildlife that inhabits the areas.

“Some of the really great information on there is the general park information, so people can get an idea what the parks look like, what facilities and services the park offers,” said Thuy Luu-Beams, spokeswoman for the state parks. “Online reservations are great, too. It’s been pretty popular, partly because of the convenience of being able to access it 24 hours a day. With reservations, it eases your mind.”

For urban campers who want to stay close to Federal Way, two options include Dash Point State Park and Saltwater State Park.

Reserved sites are still available for Memorial Day at Dash Point, a 398-acre camping park with 3,301 feet of saltwater shoreline. The beach provides unobstructed views of the Sound and opportunities for sealife study, as long as the sealife washes up on the beach.

The park also features 11 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails and 73 picnic tables. The park has 114 tent spaces, 27 utility spaces, one dump station, four restrooms and eight showers.

The area that includes Dash Point State Park has been the subject of three survey expeditions since as early as 1800. The property has been the subject of many names, including Ison Landing, Fairview Beach and Woodstock Beach.

How the area became known as Dash Point is unclear.

In the late 1940s, the McLeod family sold the land to the state with the understanding the property would be used as a park. The park was dedicated in 1962.

Saltwater State Park is an 88-acre camping park off Marine View Drive in Des Moines. It has 1,445 feet of saltwater shoreline on Puget Sound and is a first-come, first-served park, so reservations aren’t available.

The park was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a peace effort to stop the bad feelings between the cities of Tacoma and Seattle. The cities jointly and literally buried a war hatchet under a rock in the park as symbolic of an end to their competition.

Saltwater offers views of the Sound and wildlife-watching opportunities. The park also has an artificial reef, often used for scuba diving and fishing, and offers three trails for hiking and biking.

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