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Nice weekend in the woods near Madison

Note - this review is for the walk-up sites only This is our go-to campground when we decide we want to go camping with short notice. The park itself is neither very popular nor very interesting, so there are usually still sites available for reservation only a few days before your intended camping trip. The park itself isn't that interesting, but it is worth noting that it is located across the road from New Glarus Brewery. The brewery is an easy walk or bike ride from the walk-in campsites.

We have camped at several of the walk-in sites. The sites are all located along the bike trail, and carts are available for transporting your gear which means you can bring more gear than you would bring backpacking. The walk-in sites have a good amount of space between each site, however the sites on the east side of the bike trail get less level the further you get from the parking lot. All sites are shaded and have fire pits and picnic tables. The sites on the west side of the trail are more level but closer to the trail, so you have less privacy from passers-by. Our personal favorite site is #19. It is the closest site to the parking lot on the east side of the trail, but you have to take a short foot-path off the main trail to get to the site and the site itself can't actually be seen from the trail or the parking lot. This makes it very quiet and private, but still not too far from your car. The campgrounds do have a lot of raccoons so it is nice to be within an easy walk of your vehicle if you would prefer to secure your food. Site 19 is also very level and spacious, with plenty of room for at least two good sized tents. You can hear some road noise in all of the walk-in sites due to the highway being near by, but it's buffered a bit by the woods so it is more of a white noise.

The walk-ins have a vault toilet centrally located along the trail, and it has always been clean whenever we've camped there. A water spigot is also located centrally among the walk-in sites. You can take a short hike to the park's ampitheater from the walk-in sites, but they do not have programs very often.


Very friendly people! Campsites a little close to others and sound traveled. Trails were way nice and the scenery was beautiful-lots of deer!

Fall Camping

Easily accessible, very clean and well maintained campground and park. Many sites to chose from for tents. Travel trailers have several sites and Friday most of them rolled in. The trails are well marked and appeal to hikers, mountain biking and winter sports.

Lots of things to do!

Well kept camping sites. Easy drive up style. Picnic tables and fire pits on site. Bathrooms and dumpster close by. River that is walk and drive through!


Got in late and left early so I can’t say much but the view of the lake was incredible and you can see every star in the sky. I was camping alone but they had a last minute opening which was so great!

Nice wooded non electric sites

Good sized wooded sites with trees providing reasonable privacy. Flat area for tents but not all “driveways” are level which, unfortunately, we discovered in site 33. We slept with our heads lower than our feet in our camper van. Except for the handicap accessible sites, all are non electric (Twin Valley, the other campground has these). Bathrooms were clean but a little dated. Didn’t see hooks in the shower stalls. Nice hiking trails, especially Lost Canyon and Stephens Falls. Good cell coverage.

Lots of hiking trails!!!

Spent a few nights a couple yrs ago. We reserved online and arrived late so we were setting up in the dark. We backed up easily into the site and was surrounded in quiet and darkness. There are a ton of hiking trails, a couple lakes/ponds to enjoy, and saw horses on the trails. We were close enough to water faucets, flush toilets and showers, pit toilets, and playgrounds. There was a worry of wild parsnips, so my daughter dressed like it was October and didn't enjoy the hikes as much as i was hoping.

There were a lot of people and everyone was friendly, but it wasn't as quiet and remote as I thought it might be. Lots of people hiking to the waterfall and other trails.

Ranger Review: Nature's Kettle Coffee at Lowden Memorial State Park

As the saying goes, you can’t put your foot in the same river twice. It’s always changing. I discovered that this is so true about Lowden State Park. 

My first trip here was on my own… well, my dog joined me. We spent some quiet time hiking and relaxing earlier in the year. This time is different. This time camping was a communal event that left me feeling like I was at a different place.

Campground review: Driving in to Lowden State Park is pretty straightforward. You go to Oregon, Illinois, and then head north a couple miles. The entrance involves driving past half of the campground and discovering that the camp host is waiting to sign you in. She found our reservation and directed us to a spot right around the corner. A crowd of waves greeted us as we pulled our teardrop camper past a small gathering of folk. These were fellow teardrop campers, Tearjerkers - the Land of Lincoln subgroup. We are spending the weekend here to share some time and stories with each other. Little People (or Little Campers) Unite!

The camp host already had my name clothes pinned to the post our site. We were nestled between a beautiful homemade teardrop camper and a super large camper that dwarfed both of ours together. This site is conveniently placed near the shower house (I didn’t even visit the showers or flushing toilets on our last trip). Water and garbage are just a few steps away. Our solar was enough but there is an electric hook up right at the end of the pull-in. A few minutes of setting up and I walked over to join in the Tearjerker dinner of finger food - I must admit that the jalapeño hummus I brought was very good. There was more than enough room at our president’s campsite for our growing group. After everyone arrived, we filled up over 20 campsites (look at the pictures to see a variety of campers and vehicles). A roaring campfire lit up the night with stories, laughter and connection. Lowden State Park asks you to notify them of larger groups. Our group had campsites all centered around this site. This location became our evening, breakfast and dinner site for the weekend. 40+ people gathered together for a breakfast of scrambled eggs and donuts. Our dinner was a potluck of vegetarian side dishes and barbecued chicken or roast beef. I was impressed by the way the resources and space at Lowden accommodated our large group. 

The Tearjerkers are a group of people who all own teardrop campers. They range from store bought to homemade (kits or your own design). The group is friendly. I loved the way everybody walked around to see each other's teardrops. We shared ideas for the next add-on and talked about how we built different features. Each state has their own sub-group which organizes events. You can stay within your own state or stop at a gathering as you pass through other areas.

My dog and I went out hiking early in the morning. To our joy, we found Black Hawk’s statue was uncovered. They are renovating it to preserve it for the future. We could still see cracks and chips but the uncovered Black Hawk cut a regal image looking out over the Rock River. Even with the recent rain, the damp trails were well taken care of and gave my dog an outlet for her energy. 

A group of families filled in an area on the other side of the campground. The children raced each other around their loop and then sped over to the playground. Lowden is large enough to accommodate a few groups of people along with all the individual campers. 

I was left with such a pleasant experience of Lowden. Camping with a friendly group certainly made this campground a more enriching experience.

Nature’s Kettle Coffee (product review): As a Dyrt Ranger, I sometimes am gifted products to try out and review. This trip I came supplied with some coffee. Normally I use a pour over system where the grounds sit in a cone on top of my cup and I slowly pour the hot water in. With an unstable cone atop my cup, I will admit to having knocked over the coffee in the process of pouring the water in. I was excited to see what the Kettle System would be like. 

Nature’s Kettle comes in a reusable kettle to contain the water, grounds and coffee. While 2 cups of water was heating on my Jetboil, I looked the system over. It is a very straightforward set up. The top opens up like a ziplock bag. Coffee grounds are pre-measured in an individual cloth bag. I loved this feature! The side of me that strives for easy cleanup solutions was happy that I didn’t have to worry about loose grounds. The bag of grounds goes in the top of the kettle. Super simple. The water was ready so I slowly poured it in. The coffee steeped for a minute while I heated up the other 2 cups of water. When all 4 cups were poured in the bottom part of the kettle was full. I poured it all into a 32 ounce cup and then poured it over the grounds and into the kettle a second time. This gave me a cup of coffee that was full of flavor and depth - not quite up to french press coffee but so much better than instant. Check out the video to see me making the coffee. It really is a simple and clever process. 

I was able to make about 32 ounces of coffee in the double pour through method. This gave me plenty of coffee for breakfast and to have on reserve through the rest of the day. I poured it out of the kettle to put in an insulated cup. This kept the coffee warm and let me clean out the kettle. Cleaning up was a breeze thanks to the contained grounds. Just rinse out the kettle and it’s ready to go for tomorrow. 

Nature’s Kettle Coffee hit on a good system. Pouring the coffee through a second time produces a cup of coffee that makes your morning perk right up.

Nature's Kettle Coffee info: Click Here

Tearjerkers (Teardrop Camper Group) info: Click Here

Lowden State Park info: Click Here

An unexpexted gem

With the rain and the proliferation of mosquitoes, we were wandering around southern Wisconsin without a plan when we stumbled across this county park. 50 sites, many with electric and very reasonably priced ($25 for electric/$18 non which includes a $2 senior discount). Spaces are generous in size although no privacy between them. Bathrooms are very large and clean. Showers but didn’t use so can’t comment on their condition. Dishwashing sink! Adjacent to the Lake Farm SRA and several multi-use trails. Note that it is in the flight path of the airport so you will hear planes.

Sites 15 & 16

Only stayed one night, we were in the area to visit New Glarus Brewery and do a river float trip in Albany (though we couldn’t do the float trip because the water level was too high).

I enjoyed our night here but I don’t think I would return to this campground. We were at sites 15 & 16 which is right off a county highway. I was surprised how close it was to the road, and it’s not just a road in the state park, it’s a highway with thru traffic. Also the smell of the vault toilets was almost unbearable, I would avoid campsite next to/directly across from the toilets…there some trails that if we’d had more time I would have loved to explore.

If I return I would be interested in checking out the walk in or group campsites.


The campground was very pretty, clean, and friendly staff. The bath houses were clean, the outhouses were not bad. Nice walking paths. Grills on the fire pits. I recommend not camping on the downside of the tent Hills. If there is rain you will be washed out.

quiet primitive sites

visited in fall 2017. not very busy. clean pit toilets. aid the street is the lowden state park main camping area so close to showers and a little camp store and hot dog vendor.

Clean and Modern

Campsites, trails and facilities were immaculate. Staff was friendly. drive in and hike in sites available. great for families; trails have info markers to educate hikers on geology and flora of area. Drive in campsites had fire rings and picnic tables, vault toilets available.

Just outside of Madison WI

Small campground, but you play disc golf and lovely trails! So close to get away from the city.

Great, clean park

Cleanest IL State Park I had been to. nice camp sites not too close together. Loved driving through the fjords. On-site restaurant was nice, cabins were clean and cozy.


I liked it, nice size sites, bathrooms clean. showers are individual not stalls with curtains which was cool. it rained all week before we arrived the site we were on could have used some more gravel as it was little muddy for the first day. nice beach for the kids. overall was a good weekend.

Onsite Dog Park

This Campground has nice wooded sites, a dog park that is fully fenced, and lots of activities including movies on weekends. They have a nice disc golf course to a beautiful view of the lake and a short drive to Highcliff State Park for walking! Don’t forget to stop at frogs for ice cream

Beautiful Lake

Pick Up the activity book for kids it is a great adventure lots to do at the lake!!!

not a bad little campground

but definitely not my favorite. we decided to stop and ch cknit out for a night because it looked like a cute location. nice if you like being around people as there are permanent rv sites and lots of friendly people who like to talk. my son had fun in the water and on all the water toys.

Family Friendly

Perfect for a family get away - showers, flush toilets, lots of hiking (but trails aren't very challenging), swimming area and boat launch, playground. Basically a little bit of everything that makes it family friendly. Peak season reservations are a definite (weeks to months in advance for weekends). Picnic table and fire ring standard at all campsites.

Beware of raccoons at this campground they are BOLD!

Isolated but not

The thick brush between campsites allowed this area to feel isolated, but without having to be far from civilization. Vault toilets only at this site (within the South Unit of the state forest their are other camp grounds with flush toilets and showers). Mix of RV and tent sites and adjacent group campsite with separate entrance. Picnic table and fire pit standard at all sites. Firewood can be purchased at contact station or from the campground host. This campground is at the far south end of the state forest and a little more remote than some of the parts of the park that are farther north. Lots of hiking, biking, skiing, and horse trails throughout the state forest which runs about 20 mi north to south (with a designated scenic drive from one end to the other). Site is walking distance to the beach on rice lake. Ice age trail runs right through the campground too, but the majority of the forest's trails are a short drive away. During peak season the sites are $20/night, plus state park vehicle access fee (currently $8/day for WI license plates, $11/day for out of state - but annual pass is usually the way to go for camping).

Campground map:

One of my all time favorites

So much to do and not crazy prices. Creek tubing/kayaking is so much fun. Lots of activities and fun.

Fun family friendly camping

This is a very nice and clean campground with themed weekends and even a lake…the only reason I gave this campground 4 stars and not 5 is because they put the weekend campers near the train tracks the run right by the campground and the train goes barreling through there blasting it’s horn at all hours of the night!

First to Review
Very family friendly

This is the second KOA I’ve stayed at and is by far the better one of the two, the staff was super friendly and there was a lot of activities for the kids to do. My family and I will definitely be back here!

Ranger Review: Matador Transit Tote Bag at Timber Lake Resort

Campground Review

Although it is a beautiful location, our site, 124 it was situated next to the lake. And across the lake was Timberlake playhouse where they had live music several times throughout the day. To the other side of us was the live music at the resort, which was impressive considering. If you like that kind of thing. It was way too loud for me to enjoy this particular campground. Most of the sites had concrete pads and overall it was well-maintained. To me there is just nothing wilderness like about this place. The fishing was less than par. My son enjoyed the pool and some of the activities, it was Lego weekend.

Product Review

What I really appreciated was the opportunity to use a couple items we received from Matador. The one thing I really enjoyed using was the Matador transit tote bag. That little thing was easy to pack in my bag and when I needed to use it I packed a Ton of stuff in it. It was incredibly durable and able to hold all of the stuff I needed for my puppy one day. And then I would give it a thumbs up for being puppy proof as well. She could not tear through that thing if she wanted to. I’m excited to use other Matador gear, but I can tell you that this tote will go with me everywhere, on every trip camping or not. It’s lightweight, durable, and a great looking tote. Overall it packs a lot of stuff into it. I can attest that 4 beach towels, suntan lotion, and a frisbee all fit comfortably in there.

Hidden Gem

Great waterfront sites on the Crawfish river.

Great for bike camping

Great place to camp with lits of things to do: boating, biking, nature board walks, dear, goose and bird watching and a nature center. The Maple Fest blue grass festival is the best. A group campground for tents and another one for campers. I bike camp there every year. Lots of great music all day and good musicians singing by the camp fire all night. Reservations may be necessary for summer weekends. As of this year some of the tent sites wont allow pit fires. Best to check and see if the site allows a pit fire before setting up your tent. Wood is avaliable so you wont have to bring your own.

Excellent location

Excellent campground on lake Mendota. Great for family camping . Lots of places to eat near by if you dont want to cook and still want to be outside. I like kayaking from Olbrich park and spending a night or two. If the weather takes a turn for the worse or your kids get sick you can go home.


It's a pretty state park with clean, nice bathrooms & showers on the electric loop. Tent loop only has pit toilets. We stayed on the tent loop, where the sites were very large and mostly shaded. The lake has had algae issues for quite some time, so there was no swimming or boating. There is a kid's fishing pond, but we didn't see anyone catch a thing, so not sure if it's actually stocked or not. The road through the park is hilly and in poor condition. I've heard great things about this park, but it feels as if it's fallen victim to the state's financial problems.

Beautiful park with tons of trails

Though the campsites are pretty close together, the park itself is HUGE. so many trails to choose from and tons are areas to dip in the water. all around beautiful spot