Lee D.

Pro

West Des Moines, IA

Joined September 2018

Retired in 2017 and my husband and I have been traveling in our camper van about 75% of the time ever since.

Many different camping options

There are two campgrounds at this park (the first state park in Iowa): a primitive one and a “modern” one. The primitive one (Six Pine) only has a pit toilet and each site has a fire grate and a picnic table. The modern campground (South Lake) has 30 amp, 50 amp, and tent sites. The electric sites are very close together (too close for our liking) so we opted for a tent site. We were in a loop with about six sites, and while the site size was generous and spaced a decent distance apart, there was no delineation between sites and no specific place to park your vehicle (and you cannot park on the road). These sites were also decidedly bumpy and not level; it took us about 15 minutes of maneuvering our van around to find a reasonably level spot. 

The restrooms were six separate rooms, each complete with toilet, sink, and shower; they were clean. 

We drove around the park and saw the balanced rock (meh) and I walked the short distance to the mouth of the cave. There was good signage to find the cave but once there, no information about the cave and its safety (or not) was available so I opted not to explore its dark and wet interior! There are seven trails in the park; the East Lake trail was a treat to hike. It hugs the lake for about two miles and while you can veer off onto the Bluebird Trail, I enjoyed hiking out and back for a different view. You can also hike from the South Lake campground to the beach– about a mile but the trail does start and stop, and you have to walk on the road for a bit. You can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats but we did not take advantage of this. We also did not swim so I cannot speak to the quality of the lake (other reviewers took issue with this). There is also a CCC museum, but it was not open while we were there. 

We stayed one night which was sufficient for us. It might have been nice to stay longer if we decided to rent kayaks or hike different trails.

Good for German history buffs

Small, fairly quiet campground (you will hear some road noise) but yikes, the bathrooms are closed from 9 pm- 9 am! If you are not in a self-contained RV, this could be problematic. I was not able to find anyone to ask if this was Covid related and temporary. All campsites are full hookup with 30 and 50 amp and most are shaded, although there is no physical separation between sites. There is a small playground. 

Nearby is a 350-year-old authentic German Hausbarn, brought over from Germany, where you can learn about life in Germany in the 1600s. It is across the street from the beautiful Trinity Lutheran Church and there is a historical farmstead nearby. 

I waffled between 2 and 3 stars but this is not our preferred type of campground. The limited bathroom hours and lack of separation between sites kept my rating at 2 stars. If these issues do not bother you and if you are a history buff, this might be a good place to camp but if not, it might be a good place to stop en-route to somewhere else (as long as you have an iron bladder!)

Quiet, well-kept campground in rural Iowa

We found this campground when we were looking for the mill (which, although it was supposed to be open on the weekends, not only was not open but looked like it had not been open for quite some time, despite information on their website). Located one mile north of the small town of Lime Springs across from the mill on the Iowa River is the park’s 19-site campground, which is in much better shape. There is a path that leads from the mill complex to the campground. 

Each site has a very generous size gravel pad that could easily fit the largest RV and the sites are reasonably spaced apart. Each site has a fire ring, water, and electric. The restroom was dated but appeared clean. There is a nice playground, group picnic shelter, and a boat ramp. Although the campground was very well-kept (which is why I gave it three stars), if you don’t have a boat, I’m not sure what there would be to do here. There were only a couple of occupied sites on a Sunday in August so it was very quiet. No host on-site.

Small campground in a large state park

This is a large state park in the northwest corner of Iowa, surprisingly wooded considering how close to Sioux City it is located. Touted as a year-round park, there is a large network of trails, some of which can be used as equestrian. HOWEVER, the trails are not labeled and there is no (or very fleeting) cell service so that even after looking at the map (located on a board in the park, not a paper one), I wandered aimlessly around the park getting lost. One of the trailheads requires that you tramp directly through Site 12 to access! I explored this trail for approximately a quarter of a mile, but it became very overgrown and because I was not sure where I was going, I ended up turning around.

The campground is divided into three sections

• Sites 1-11 are located on either side of the access road are a bit too close together for our preference and despite the park being so wooded, have no foliage or other visible separation between the sites. These sites all have electric hookups

• Sites 12-14 are at the top of the hill and have the easiest access to the restrooms; they also have electric hookups. In my opinion, Site 14 would be the most desirable. Given that there are only three sites here, there was a surprising number of cars driving past these sites.

• Sites 15-30 are primitive tent sites and located near Cabin#3 (a CCC cabin). 

The bathrooms were clean and (don’t laugh at me), the toilets had lids! Given the current virus situation, this was a nice and welcome surprise! 

There was no camp host and we only saw one ranger during our stay. There is a nice playground, but it is not located anywhere near the campground (it is located closer to two of the cabins). If you are camping with children, please note this. There are three cabins, one that was built by the CCC and a lodge which also looked to be a CCC product, although it did not appear to be open when we were there.

First to Review
OK for passing through

The small town of Ida Grove is known for its castles (!) and as we were driving through town, we saw this campground. It is located right on Hwy 59 so you will definitely hear road noise when staying here. Many sites are shaded but there is no physical separation between the sites. It was very quiet on a Monday morning in August (only about two sites were occupied) and I could not find anyone to speak with. The ladies room was reasonable. There is a path that goes around the campground and two play structures but other than that, I don’t think there would be much to do, making this good for a pass-through overnight stop.

Immaculate Campground

Thanks to feedback received on The Dyrt Forum, we discovered this campground close to our home. This is one of four CoE campgrounds around Saylorville Lake and likely the most popular, probably due to having direct beach access. 

There are two campgrounds at Prairie Flower: North, which has primitive (non-electric) sites, and South, which has more developed sites, all with electric. In the south campground, there are four loops: Aster, Blazingstar, Coneflower, and Dogbane. We stayed in the Coneflower loop, which has a trail leading directly to the beach (a short walk or drive) and there are six sites that have a lake view. The sites are very large, all with concrete pads, with a decent amount of spacing between them. The bathrooms were exceptionally clean; they were cleaned twice daily. 

There is something for everyone here and a great campground for families: hiking trails, a sandy beach with a swimming area, and a nice playground, separated into two age-appropriate sections. Note that you must reserve these sites in advance, and it is easier to do so on the app versus the web (some people including me have seen messages saying these sites are not reservable, which is incorrect). The price ($22/$11 with senior pass) is very reasonable. 

This was our first camping outing in over four months since the pandemic hit and it was a great re-entry to camping and practically in our backyard!

The cave is the star attraction

This is a very small campground- 13 improved sites (nine of these have 50 amp electric and can accommodate all sizes of rigs; four are designed for smaller units and have 30 amp electric) plus five primitive sites, which have communal water only (no electric). There is zero privacy/separation between the improved sites, which would make the unimproved sites possibly more appealing (but further from the restroom and it was pouring when we were there). Improved sites are gravel and include a BBQ, fire ring, and a very large picnic table. Rates are $16 for a primitive site/$29 for an improved site plus a $4.75 processing fee for the first night of your stay. Senior discounts are given. 

The restrooms are functional and clean but basic. There was a leak in the roof from the pouring rain that could pose a slipping hazard. 

There are a large picnic pavilion and two short hiking trails of about a mile each. We hiked the Fossil Mountain trail, which is very rocky. The main draw to this park is the cave. Tours are offered four times daily, January through November. If you camp, you receive a discount on the tour. The tour is worth doing.

Many available activities

After nixing two flooded campgrounds, we arrived here at 5:30 pm on a Saturday in late February hoping there would be an available spot; we were lucky that just a handful were left (out of 109) as there was a bluegrass festival going on! 

The campground is divided into an “old” section and a “new” one. Arriving after hours directs you to the office and the old section, however, the office was closed when we arrived. We flagged down a ranger, who directed us to the first available spot and told us to pay the next morning. The rate of $16 (senior rate) was very reasonable for an electric hook-up, although there was nothing special about the spot. Premium lakefront sites go for $28 (no senior discounts given) and these were nicer. Not all the sites are level but they are generous in size. Laundry is available in both campgrounds.

We drove to the new section the next morning (which is several miles away around the other side of Shadow Lake). Aside from the lakefront sites having closer access to the lake, we could see no appreciable difference between the old and new sections. There is a reasonable separation between the sites, with some trees. The picnic tables in both sections appeared to be very weathered. The restrooms/showers were ok – the soap dispenser was empty, and some very disrespectful campers made one of the two toilets unusable (not the fault of the campground).

There are also cabins and a motel, plus a group campsite, but we did not check these out. Activities (again, we did not avail ourselves of any of them) include a sports field, water slide and pool, disc golf, boating (there is a boat launch), and a performing arts center.

Take a Gamble?

We had just left Buccaneer State Park and were headed west when we saw this “campground”. It is not much more than a parking lot but oh, the views of the gulf – you can’t get much closer!

There are 37 sites with level concrete pads, each with electric (30& 50 amp), water & sewer and trash receptacles. Each site has a BBQ and picnic table but there are NO restrooms. Rates are $25-$35 (for water view spots) Sunday– Thursday and $30-$49 for Friday and Saturday. Higher prices (up to $99) on holidays and note that Mardi Gras is considered a holiday! However, if you “join” at the nearby Casino for eligible play, you will get a free night in return. If you bank enough eligible play nights, you can stay for free on future stays. 

Not our preferred kind of camping but might be worth a gamble for a night. Call (228) 469-2777, ext. 0 for more information.

Not our style but appears to be a very nice RV park

If RV parks are your thing, you will likely enjoy staying here. I would rate it a 4 based on friendliness of staff and amenities but lower on location and layout (parking lot style). This is simply because of the fact that we travel in our campervan and only wish to spend a limited amount of time IN our van as opposed to larger RVs that are more conducive to staying inside.

Rates vary from $35/night full gravel back-in during the winter to $55/night for a premium pull-through in the summer. Weekly rates are also available. Military and Good Sam discounts are also given. 

Amenities include a heated pool, community room, dog park, gym (new equipment was being delivered the day I visited) and new laundry appliances due to be delivered. This RV park is located on the road to Dauphin Island, about eight miles away. I don’t think you would be on your way to/from anywhere so it is not likely you would stay here as a stopover but if you were coming with a group or escaping the winter, this might be a nice place for you.

Great for families in the summer

When we took our kids camping when they were young, they were lucky if there was a small playground at the state parks where we camped; they would have loved this place which is exactly why we wouldn’t come near here during the summer months! (Funny how our perspective has changed now that our kids are grown!) For families, this could be a reasonably priced getaway: camping, playground, disc golf, pool, and waterpark - all in one place. Note, however, that there is an additional charge for both the pool and the waterpark. 

This is a very large campground with 276 sites. I’m not sure if we lucked out (or if I was advised by another reviewer) but we reserved in the Treasure Cove loop, farthest from the entrance. This loop appeared to be the only one with relative privacy/separation between the sites. All the others looked like they had RVs stacked up on top of each other. Sites include a bbq, fire pit, and picnic table. There is also a “premium” section by the waterpark overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. These are right on the road, but the road did not seem to be heavily trafficked (this might be different in the summer months). The cost for these sites is higher and they are not reservable. Beware that some of these sites are on pavement with no separation (and no view of the Gulf), while others are on the grassy area with a view of the Gulf. Since they are not reservable, you would be able to select one to your liking. There is, however, zero shade in these sites and there are no tables or grills and they may be unavailable during certain times of the year. There is also a primitive loop and it is exactly that. No restrooms or other facilities (although you could walk to one of the other loops) and no visible delineation of sites. 

The bathrooms are reasonable. We drove past miles and miles of white sandy beach before reaching this campground, so I was eagerly looking forward to a long walk on the beach but near the campground, I was disappointed that there was no beach; the water came right up to the road (although there was a concrete sidewalk of sorts). I am not sure if this is because of hurricane erosion or by design. 

Because we were not here with kids in the summer to enjoy the waterpark, there was not much for us to do so we were happy we had only reserved one night here.

Great for history buffs

This park/campground is about 8 miles west of the town of Port Gibson, near a nuclear reactor (yes, you heard that right). This park is not on the way to anywhere (except the nuclear reactor) and we were apprehensive as we followed the GPS directions but upon arrival, we were pleasantly surprised by a park filled with history. Unfortunately for us, the campground was full as the nearby reactor was being refueled and all the employees were either camped out along the road or in the park. Also, the Mississippi River had risen to the road, coming very close to flooding the park. For future reference, the camping fees are very reasonable ($25 or $23 for 62 and older) for a FHU site. There is also an area for tents, although I did not ask the fee for this. There are two camping areas – an upper and lower campground and one small bathhouse that is located in the Upper Campground (one toilet and sink and two shower stalls). I would think one night here would be enough, but if you are a history buff, this destination should be on your list. 

The town of Grand Gulf boasted nearly 1,000 residents by the mid-1800s but then yellow fever, a tornado, and massive floods reduced the population to 158 by the time the Civil War arrived in the area. Features include a church, mill, old cemetery, observation tower, gun emplacements, rifle pits.

Direct beach access

It is all in your perspective, but we prefer a bit of privacy and separation with foliage between sites, and if you do as well, I would recommend you choose a tent site. Most back up to the wooded bird sanctuary (watch out for bird poop!) However, if these sites were full they would not have much privacy, but we were the only ones for the first night and there was only one other camper in this loop the second night. The RV sites have zero privacy, however! Some of these sites back directly on to the road. It seemed to me that there are many returnee snowbirds who stay here so they don’t seem to mind. When we were there, there was a snowbird arts and crafts display. If you do choose an RV site, I would recommend Site 15-21. BUT, you do not have the option of reserving a specific site; it is assigned to you upon arrival. After reading other reviews, I dreaded the laborious check-in process, but it did not take very long. Also, driving up to the window to let them know you were leaving is all there was to the check-out process. 

The bathhouse was immaculate, regardless of the time of day. There is a sign prohibiting pets from being in the bathhouse, but some disregarded this rule. In fact, there almost seemed to be as many dogs as people here! The laundry room looked nice and had a television but has limited hours(closed at 8 pm). 

There is an approximately mile-long walkable beach with access directly from the campground; if you head east, you will get to Fort Gaines and if you head west, you will eventually reach private property and cannot go any further on the beach. There were nice sunsets for the two nights we were there. The Mobile Bay ferry terminal is also directly across the street from the campground; yes, you will hear the whistle!

A small town with shops and restaurants is about two miles away and there is a wide bike/pedestrian path. Although we enjoyed our time here, I likely would not return as there are nicer beaches and other places to explore!

Camping?

We were camping in another nearby (fee) US Army Corp of Engineers campground and decided to check this unreviewed free campground out. The website indicates there is camping here but I saw no evidence of any place where you could pitch a tent or even park a vehicle. Absolutely no services. Lots of felled trees and swampy land and a decrepit covered bridge that was not photo worthy at all. Perhaps navigation brought us to the wrong place but there were signs for the park. Glad we didn’t decide to plan on staying here!

Nice small campground

If you can’t get into Fort Clinch State Park, this small (40 site) campground is a good option as long as you don’t have a large RV. Our 17-foot campervan did just fine, but the sites are not very large and there are some low hanging branches. Some sites are more private than others. IMO, the best site is#38, a pull-through with no neighbors on either side or behind. Sadly, it was empty when we were there! 

Check-in is across the street from the campground. The ranger who checked us in was very helpful and explained everything we needed to know. The roads and pads are dirt so they can get muddy when it rains (didn’t rain when we were there but the puddles suggested it had done so recently). Also, the roads are narrow and there are no signs indicating they are one-way so if two vehicles meet, one of them will need to pull over! Again, this would be challenging or impossible for large RVs. 

The restrooms were clean (with HOT water!) and there were two of them for the campground which was more than sufficient. Appeared there were multiple hosts.  

There is a very walkable beach with access across the road from the campground – about a half-mile walk to get to the access point; I enjoyed a morning walk and didn’t see a soul. If you have a kayak, you can launch it from the campground.

Very reasonable price($27) for a water and electric site.

Umm, not for us but ok, I guess

I wasn’t able to find out much information about this 25-site campground as the owner was not in the office when we visited. It is located not far from Interstate 10, but I would not recommend trying to find it after dark. 

The campground is on a dirt road and there were puddles from recent rain, although it was not difficult to navigate in our van. It did appear that some of the“campers” were long term residents. 

The website indicates there is a pool, but I did not see one. The website also indicates the following information (although I could not confirm it): cash only, pets are ok, 30/50 amp electric plus one FHU site, restrooms/showers/laundry. 

There is a small lake and fishing is available, but no boat launch (lake would be too small for boats). Other than that, there really is nothing to do here.

A nice little hideaway

This campground on Route 98 just east of Navarre Beach was renamed to The Hideaway Camping Retreat with new owners about 8 months ago. It was obvious that Jeanie the owner takes pride in the campground as she showed me around. Numerous improvements have already been made and there are more plans for the future. One planned improvement is to build decks on the four premium waterfront sites (#37, 45, 46, and 47). 

The bathhouse is very clean and nicely decorated, unique to campgrounds I have seen. There are a community fire pit, hammocks and a small beach that allows pets. Also a very nice laundry room– I wouldn’t mind doing my laundry there! 

What sets this campground apart is the numerous trees on the property. I visited on a cool, cloudy day in February, but I imagine the shade from the trees would be very welcome in the summer. Also, unlike many other RV parks, the sites are not lined up in a row like dominoes. Some sites have more separation than others.

Rates, while a bit pricey, are not out of line for Florida RV parks. Rates are based on the type of site and season and range from $45 for a tent site in fall/winter to $125 for a premium waterfront site on a holiday for spring/summer (March 1-September 15). 

Note that it could be challenging to find as the traffic can be fierce on 98 and the sign is small but I guess that’s what makes it a hideaway!

Seasonal five-star rating!

My seasonal five-star rating is based on being here in the offseason. There is just something about having a campsite right on the water that is so peaceful. However, in the summer, I would imagine the water would be clogged with boats zooming around, and we would not find it so peaceful or enjoyable (but many others would). 

There are four sections to this 130-site campground: Mallard Point, Oakwood, Creek View, and River Chase. The only sites that are reservable are in the Oakwood and Creek View Sections. Only Mallard Point and Oakwood were open when we were there; I’m not sure if it was because of flooding or just low occupancy. Based on Elaine H’s review, we had reserved Site 50 in the Oakwood section for two nights and we were not disappointed. We were right on the water, which gave us a little concern after the host said the water was expected to rise (some of the sites had some water) but we didn’t have a problem. Not much separation/privacy between sites but most people were in RVs (didn’t see any tents). Each site has a large picnic table, fire ring, lantern hook, and food prep table. 

Bathrooms were very clean AND heated, which was nice as the temperatures dipped below freezing at the end of February. Each section has laundry facilities ($1.50 each for wash/dry) The map showed two dump stations, one at the very end of the campground and one located in the Oakwood section but again, only the one in Oakwood was open when we were there. Sadly, no recycling. 

There are two very short nature trails but no other hiking trails. There is a fenced-in dog park. If you are not a boater, there is not much to do but again, it was very peaceful at the end of February.

Nestled in among the big boys!

This campground is geared toward large RVs. Although I am sure you could pitch a tent, we did not see any while there. Each site is a FHU and therefore, the campground is pricier than other state parks ($40 plus a $5 park pass). The driveways are very long, and our small camper van looked lost among all the larger rigs! There are also 11 fully equipped cottages; four of them allow pets. Reasonably priced laundry facilities ($1.25 each for washer and dryer). We were in the section with the new bathhouse – four individual units, each with toilet, sink, and shower. 

Our first night, the noseeums were pretty pesky but the temperature dropped about 20 degrees the second night and voila - they were gone! I imagine they would be relentless in the summer months!

We chose this campground since it was just a 20-minute drive to the ferry to Cumberland Island. Although we did not avail ourselves of these options, fishing and private boats are other activities that can be enjoyed at this park. The day-use area has an outdoor “gym” and mini-golf. You could walk there from the campground, but it is about a mile away.

Don't waste your time like we did!

We were camped at another Army Corps of Engineers (fee) campground and decided to check out this unreviewed one further south. The website indicated that there was camping at this free site but although there was a loop at the end of the road, we could find no evidence of a place to pitch a tent or even park a vehicle (or even that you would want to). Absolutely no services, not even a porta-potty. In the middle of nowhere - no gas stations, grocery stores, or any other type of amenity. Lots of felled trees and swampy land. Only saw a decrepit covered bridge that was not even photo-worthy. Perhaps we were in the wrong place but signs indicated we were at the park so I dunno?