MILLINOCKET, Maine — Duffy Akerley didn’t get reservations at his favorite campgrounds in Baxter State Park on Thursday, but you can’t say he didn’t try.

A loyal park camper since 1961, the 67-year-old left his Bar Harbor home early enough to arrive at the park’s Balsam Drive headquarters at 4:20 a.m. Thursday, Opening Day for the park’s campground reservation system. He was 22nd in line but already too late to snag his favorite camping spots, he said.

“People in front of me in line got them,” Akerley said Thursday. “It’s how it goes sometimes.”

Forty-five people were at the headquarters’ back door at 6:45 a.m., despite the cold weather, part of the 85 who eventually made reservations — an average number for the park, which had about 65,000 visitors last year, park Director Jensen Bissell said. Many of the reservation-seekers sat around waiting to make reservations at park headquarters well into the afternoon.

Thursday’s reservations produced about $26,000, he said. The park is an economic engine for the struggling Katahdin region, which since 2008 has lost its two paper mills, in East Millinocket and Millinocket, leaving hundreds jobless.

The Opening Day crowd, park officials said, is a mixture of diehard campers, plus families and representatives from businesses and educational institutions who all have a great need or desire to secure specific days, such as the Fourth of July, in specific spots.

And while reservation-seekers began camping out at the headquarters on Tuesday, the quest for the perfectly timed and placed reservation is more fun than competition, said 40-year-old camper Ryan Linehan, one of the 85 people in line.

Many of the reservation-seekers know each other from previous years in line or as members of the state’s camping community, Linehan said.

“You got it? Did you just steal my Chimney Pond reservation?” Linehan called out playfully to another camper.

“No,” the woman said, with a devilish grin.

“Nice job!” he replied.

“I have had a 100 percent success rate, so I don’t think it’s all that competitive,” said Linehan, who made the journey Thursday from Westport Island in Lincoln County. “It’s more cordial and friendly and fun. You get to see everybody who comes here every year. It’s more about community than competitiveness.”

That’s partly because the park has a rolling reservation system in which reservations for no more than 20 percent of a given campground are filled on a given day in the park’s four-month camping season, which is set to begin May 15 with the opening of Kidney Pond Campground, weather permitting.

No one should assume they cannot get a camping spot because they failed to file an Opening Day reservation, park naturalist Jean Hoekwater said. The only way to be sure is to check the park’s website,, or to call the park at 207-723-5140.

Its rolling reservation system was installed 1o years ago, but people still think they won’t get the reservations they seek if they’re not in line on Opening Day, Hoekwater said.

The system “works for most situations,” she said.