MERRITT RESERVOIR, Neb. - One of the most popular tourist attractions in north-central Nebraska is planning an expansion.

Merritt Reservoir, south of Valentine, is adding 21 new electric campsites, along with a new shower house. After the additions, the recreation area will have 170 campsites.

“We do get really full, so hopefully this will help combat that a little bit,” Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area Park Superintendent Leo Kallhoff said.

Kallhoff said the park has seen a steady increase in campers, especially since the pandemic.

“I’ve talked to people from all over the United States that come here,” Kallhoff said. "I’ve talked to some people who are traveling to South America who stopped at Merritt. It’s a true story."

John Bauer owns the Merritt Trading Post near the reservoir. He’s also noticed the spike in visitors.

“It’s kind of a remote area, and yet sort of the crossroads of the Sandhills too,” Bauer said.

In addition to camping, fishing, and boating, visitors can also hunt or even take part in the large Nebraska Star Party.

“We see people from many, many states during the Nebraska Star Party, even some international visitors,” Bauer said.

Visitors who will soon have more options, thanks to the campground expansion.

“It might be late fall by the time we get it open, but it’s going to be a great addition to the park,” Kallhoff said.