the dyrt
Shelly S.
Bowling Green, KY
Joined June 2016
Been camping since I was a kid, got the “bug” from my mom;) Military taught me a different kind of camping.Now I’m back on my own with my three amigos
Rustic

I found Malabar Farm in Lucas, OH on my way home from Mom’s house. Never heard of it before and I have been this way for over 20 years now. Louis Bromfield was a conservationist and among many other things (including winning a Pulitzer) he was in the forefront of organic and self-sustaining gardening. This place is amazing! ( and would be an excellent home schoolers camping trip!) Not your typical going hiking kinda campground (there are trails but they are not “major”) you come here to step away from city life and tour a working farm. Ohio countryside at its best. Primitive camping with a gravel parking pad and water, fire ring, picnic table and hitching post. No reservations, this is a first come campground. There’s also a small rentable cabin open year round. Definitely worth a visit and very family oriented events. ( your teenager will roll their eyes at you but probably secretly enjoy the visit)

Wet Weekend

Visited in February and it was a wet sloppy weekend, LOVED IT ! Of course no water sports due to the weather. I saw some fishermen and I know they have paddle boats to rent. I also saw a handicap accessible fishing pavilion. At the campground I ended up with a pull through site . I love the set up of the campground. It is a winding, hilltop, one way road through the campground which adds to the privacy of the sites. There are double sites to pick from and a nice handicap site next to the showerhouse. At the far end there is a playground and one site right behind it. So be careful not to pick it if you don’t want to listen to the raucous noises of children. There are a couple of trails to pick from, two circle the lakes. One connects to the Pinhoute (don’t ask me to pronounce it)and there’s a trail to the Marble mine. The cabins don’t allow pets , they are nice structures with full amenities and decks. The pioneer structures would be cool for a group event. I did not hike to the primitive campsites. Rain, mud and mess aside we had a good time.

Blue, blue, blue, cold, cold, cold

Blue Spring is beautiful and cold! Aside from the over zealous teenagers jumping into the spring it was a nice visit.

This is a primitive camping area and there are a lot of partying people in and around this area plus frequent motorboat traffic. No amenities, many generators. Drive in, pick a spot and set up camp. There are so many areas to visit around the river this would be an excellent base camp or you could use it as a stop off on a float trip.

Eminence, MO is nearby and a good place to refuel and get stuff you need for your adventures. Make sure you get a paper map because phone signal can be iffy.

Moist

Love visiting this area. Big Spring Campgrounds near Van Buren, MO is still being renovated after the flood in 2017.

That being said porta pots are in evidence but they were clean. The showerhouse is crowded and old. The only one for the entire campground and three shower stalls. You have room to spread out in your site, privacy andshade if your on the outer loop. A short walk to the river to wade or swim but there is a good current so be aware and wear water shoes.

Pit stop

Smith Falls State Park in NE is a good stop over while floating on the river. An awesome waterfall to hike to and some interesting roads to drive in on. Not good for RV’s unless you have 4 wheel drive and a high clearance type camper. This is the typical basic campground. There was a group present on a float trip and I learned that this is the highest waterfall in NE, which just goes to show how flat the state is :) Seeiously though it is worth a look.

Saw no snakes

Snake River Area Campground near Valentine, NE is on the Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area.

Can you say sand! And fishing. The nice thing about this entire area is one: you don’t see much of the park employees, it’s pretty much all honor system based. Which means if you occupy an entire campground you can stay up as late or early as you want. You can also be as loud or quiet as you like too. Two: This is definitely a water based vacation. The reservoir offers plenty to do and the campground is shaded and did I mention sandy. Dark at night, like pitch black. Critters are around so secure your food. Picnic tables, pit toilets, fire pits and a trash receptacle.

There is the Niobrara River nearby which is the major attraction of the area for float trips. Valentine, NE has food and fuel plus events throughout the year.

Rude employees

Chewacla State Park near Auburn, Alabama was a nice place with some old architecture and nice mountain bike trails.

At the front gate the employee was so busy talking to his friend, possibly another employee, that he couldn’t be bothered to answer any questions. Then his friend felt the need to tell me make sure my dogs were on leashes in a totally snarky voice/attitude. When I stated my dogs would be leashed she said “yeah that’s what they always say”. That could have ruined the whole visit.

I attempted to have an enjoyable time exploring the trails and area and soon forgot about the evil female at the front gate. I really like the old bridges along the roadway and trails. I missed the falls :( The original CCC cabins are renovated and still in use.

The lake is pieceful due in part to only non-motorized vehicles permitted. There is a nice beach area with sand and pavilion.

The campground has an old showerhouse but it was in good repair. Not totally creepy at night. The sites are level and shady and depending on which site you get mostly private. The tent area sits between the two RV loops.

Bring your netting

White Oak Creek Campground, is in Alabama…..I obviously missed the State Sign when I crossed the border;)

This was a quiet, low populated area when we traveled through. I should say low people populated, the bug population was booming! Gnats and mosquitoes, I can see why the frog population is so high.

The lake had several signs denoting the presence of alligators. I didn’t see any, but there in lies the problem! I’ve seen to many National Geographic shows where the unsuspecting gnu gets grabbed while try to quench its thirst. So my dogs were not happy with me because they were not permitted in the water. There were people in the beach area and their kids were playing in the water. There were plenty of people out fishing too.

The campground was shaded and I liked the double spots available for people traveling together. Some sites definitely had more privacy then others. When you don’t reserve ahead you get what’s left if anything. The facilities were not new but they were clean and the park was well maintained. This would be a water recreation style camping trip but you could walk or bike the road.

Seclusion and history

Old Stone Fork State Park in TN is my idea of good camping. It’s a good family campground too.

No big thrills and tourist attractions. You can”unplug” and pry your kids away from the electronics. Pre-historical sites and the river trail is very technical and scenic. You can stay at the top for an easy hike or crawl down to the river and follow the trail through the tree roots and rocks. There are informational plaques along the way and a small store/museum at the trailhead.

The campground has good shade and space between sites. The usual picnic table and fire ring. A few of the sites can become water logged if there’s a good downpour. Bike riding to explore the park is quite common so watch your speed when driving in.

We stayed here overnight and had a relaxing , quiet time after exploring the river area. It just has that old feel to it, like Duck River has been there forever and will be there long after us.

Backcountry camping

Green River is located in Mammoth Cave National Forest near Brownsville, Ky off I65.

This NF is within 30 minutes of my residence and I visit often. You can backcountry camp but first you have to check in at the main area. Then you are pretty free to camp where you want within the guidelines. There are some sites already out there , if you choose to make your own follow “bug protocols”! I messed up and got to suffer through chiggers for a week after our adventure, not fun.

Mammoth offers the cave and Green River of course but many people don’t realize how extensive and unique the hiking areas are. Get a good map and pack your bag you can hike, bike or horseback to several secluded areas that offer a backcountry feel, good for practicing for longer duration hikes. Once you cross the Green River by ferry you are in a whole other world that is not crowded with tourists (usually;)

We set up in chigger central and explored the area which had several small rivulets and a nice little pond that reminded me of some horror movie or other (lol) I saw a family of four and a couple hiking through but otherwise the area was mine.

All about your neighbors

Round Springs in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways of MO is one of the smaller campground areas but it still has some options.

Single or group sites with nearby put in to the Current River make it ideal. Unfortunately the party climate of the area can make it less then ideal depending on who you get in the site next to or across from you. I love this area but it’s popularity takes away from the charm. Some people don’t respect their fellow campers and realize everyone wants to have a good time. Not much problem with wildlife the crowds keep them away but raccoons are still prevalent so store your food properly ;) Saw some deer but that was about it. People also use generators in the non-electric sites so you may be unfortunate enough to be next to them.

That being said it’s still possible to find some areas that are less populated and popular but still interesting to explore.Or if you are going to party, you will be in like company. Plenty to hike, float and explore in the immediate area!

The past and the present

Alley Spring near Eminence, in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways of MO is in my opinion one of the best areas in this region.

There was a flood in 2017 which is a good and bad thing. Unfortunately MO has cut funding to the parks so prior to the flood the maintenance had dropped off considerably, many facilities had been closed and are no longer used due to the neglect. Since the flood there has been and is a lot of renovations going on. It’s not there yet. Some areas are still closed.

Alley Spring is somewhere in the midst of renovation. Still excellent area to camp in with mostly private sites. There are a few that aren’t so great but if you reserve ahead and stay out of the inner area you should be pretty happy with your location.

The nearby rental place for the river will come to you for pickup, there are some nice trails to explore and supposedly wild horses in the area. I’ve not seen them yet.

The spring is beautiful! Tranquility comes to mind when you see it. The trail that climbs above the spring to the overlook is moderate and unfortunately the overlook itself is damaged so you don’t get quite the same view as before. The trail also meanders around the mill and spring, if your lucky you will see the adorable muskrat that resides in the area.

There are pavilions for get together sand a small store with interesting things to see and a cold drink at the end of your journey.

Aqua central!

Van Buren, MO is in the midst of to the Ozark National Scenic Riverway. This whole area is party central for water lovers that spend their vacation time either motoring, floating or sitting along the Current River and the several natural springs that feed into it. 

Big Spring State Park is nearby with plenty of camping options. The campground is still under renovation due to the 2017 flood. There is a showerhouse used by all that is a bit cryptic and bug infested. There is one flush toilet in the first campground loop, the other two loops have porta pots. Picnic table, fire ring and lantern hook on semi-private, mostly level sites. Some have more shade then others. Also a group site is available. 

Skyline Drive is the scenic roadway through the Mark Twain National Forest in this area of the state. There are several areas that people camp on the Current River sand bars. If your looking to commune with nature it is possible even with the crowd, they stick mostly to the river.

Eminence, MO is the crossroads to several of the springs and Current River areas. Food , fuel and shopping.

Definitely a destination camping area.

Closed

Unfortunately PowderMill is closed due to the flood damage in 2017. The limited funding for repairs of the area has caused several sites to be left to the elements and they are slowly being reclaimed by nature…maybe not a horrible thing ;)

There are still several areas to choose from that are currently being rebuilt/reclaimed.

Bring your fishing gear

At Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area near Valentine, NE you have some choices to make. There are Merritt Main, Willow Cove , Lone Tree, Cottonwood , Pines, Cedar Bay , Beeds and Board Campgrounds to choose from. Each has sites near the Reservoir or further back in the scrub that have fire rings and picnic tables. Some have electric options, showers and boatramps. All have at least a pit toilet and dumpster. (And sand)

The state employees were a little scarce when I visited and the weather was not real inviting. I decided to not float on the Reservoir due to the low temperatures, but it would seem that the Nebraskans are a little hardier and used to the cold temperatures then me because there were a few out on the water fishing.

This area would be ideal for a large group get together and out in the middle of nowhere so any noise shouldn’t be an issue. I heard coyotes and it was pitch black at night, had the sky been clear the stars would have been amazing.

Valentine, NE is nearby for resupply and entertainment and there are some other recreation areas that offer hiking and of course floating on the Niobrara River.

Here to fish

Merritt Reservoir Main Area Campground in Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area, NE is one of many camping options throughout the area.

This is the largest of the campgrounds in the State Recreation Area. There is a fish cleaning area nearby with camper dumpsite. A pit toilet and dumpster are available and each site has a fire ring and picnic table. In addition there is A LOT of sand;) If you are a fisherman this area is ideal for you! If your looking for hiking and land past times not so much.

About 30 minutes down the road is Valentine, NE for your food, fuel and supply needs. Otherwise this area is dark and quiet at night…..except for the wildlife of course.Bring your stargazing gear for additional entertainment and don’t forget lots of bug repellent:)

First to Review
Needs some work

Trace State Park near Tupelo, MS. Once you get into Tupelo the signage directing you to the park is easy to find and follow.

The road in is in terrible shape, the lake is missing, the levy being worked on. They have horse, ATV and mountain bike trails which are in okay shape but could use some TLC. There are rental cabins and the store is limited to souvenir type merchandise and disc’s.

The staff at the park were very helpful and the facilities, which included a showerhouse/multipurpose room and screened porch were very well taken care of. I definitely liked the large shower stalls!

The sites are spacious, including a fire area, picnic table, electric hookup, water and sewer hook up. You have some privacy and depending on your site sparse to full shade.

There is Disc golf, fishing, and currently limited water sports.We used the multipurpose room and a nearby site that had more then enough room for all of us to sit around the fire.

Tupelo, Mississippi is nearby with Elvis’s birthplace. In addition there are several recreation areas to visit on the Natchez Trace with historical information and trails to explore.

Little Canyon

Providence Canyon State Outdoor Recreation Area is called Georgia’s “little Grand Canyon”. 

There is no regular campground but there are 6 backcountry campsites and three pioneer group sites. We visited the pioneer site #3 with enclosed pavilion , grill, picnic tables and restroom facilities. Excellent for large group outings. Reservations online can be for specific pioneer sites. If you reserve a backcountry site it is not specific. 

The Canyon offers a lot to explore. Realize you will have sand in everything by the time your done ;). 

The Canyon was created by bad farming practices in the 1800 but it now offers some picturesque views. While your hiking the rim you will see some of the “refuse” left on old homesteads, (ie rusted vehicles).

Some of the canyons open up into barren “valleys” others have a LOT of vegetation. 

There’s not much nearby so make sure you pack what you need the first time. Bug spray is a must and mosquito screen or netting. 

I completed the Canyon Climbers Club this year and this was one of the four canyons to hike. https://gastateparks.org/CanyonClimbersClub

Bring your money ;)

Stone Mountain Park is a reflection of the Atlanta, GA area. In other words you pay for everything you do , from entering the park to traveling to the top of the mountain. 

You pay upon entering for parking. If you are camping you still pay for parking when you arrive but get a voucher for the duration of your stay.

This campground has many rules so ensure you review them. Pets are allowed, alcohol is not. Guests are permitted but if they are not part of your original group you have to pay for them to stay overnight. You can not camp in your vehicle. You can not swim in the lake, there is a pool. And so on.

All that being said it is a nice, large campground. Depending on the loop your in you may have more privacy then in others. The sites are not necessarily level if you get in the “tiered” areas BUT you have more privacy. There are some excellent choices for picturesque views of the lake and Stone Mountain. Every camping combination you may need from no electric to full hookup. 

In my opinion this is very similar to Yogi or KOA, etc. If that’s the type vacation your looking for. https://www.stonemountainpark.com/Activities

Check out everything they offer and have your credit card ready ;)

Dogs are permitted on the trails around the mountain but not permitted on the trail to the top. I was not aware of this until we got there so we didn’t get to do a picture on top. We did enjoy the trails and lake.

The weather was perfect for camping, cool in the evening, great for campfire gatherings;) The Country Living Fair was on the event calendar so it was a little busy in the park.

Definitely a destination campground and so close to Atlanta you’ll probably want to visit there too.

Busy, busy, busy

Echo Bluff State Park in Ozark National Scenic Riverways near Eminence, MO is a brand new “old camp”. 

Opened in 2016 the history is rather interesting. From 1929 until the 1980s, Camp Zoe was a children’s summer camp, founded by Russell S. and Margaret McMahan Louis County teachers. There is one of the structures still on site with plaques and information. More recently, it was home to music festivals — and an open-air drug market. I didn’t find any plaques in relation to that. However when the government gained control of the land in a court proceeding it was decided to bring more business into Shannon County by opening a very nice campground for people not wanting to rough it. 

And “BAM” you have very pricey accommodations from lodge rooms, to cabins and two story condos. The campground is pretty nice too but lacking in shade and privacy. There are walk-in (uphill) sites and nice wagons provided to transport your gear. Not my favorite style of camping. Completely full and busy, which is why it got a 4 instead of 5 star. This may be your type of camping and you would say a 5 star. Reserve ahead, I mean way ahead.

There is a huge pavilion that can be reserved that overlooks the area. It has a large fire pit and mega size grill, one of the trails meanders below the pavilion. This would be a nice venue for an extended family get together.

This is a very nice, new, recreation creation. The playground was given two thumbs up by my granddaughter. Then the river, which you can see from the lodge and playground was given 12 paws and 2 thumbs by dogs and grandkids alike. Crystal clear ice cold water that you can walk across to the sheer wall of rock. Bring your water shoes, the rocks aren’t fun to walk on.

A very cool feature , if you are lucky , you will see the wild horses that roam the area. They are not for petting, so use caution. 

Aside from the abundance of people we enjoyed Echo Bluff SP.