Ely Lake Campground is a County campground in Allegan Michigan. All of the sites are rustic. Here are the bullet points:
- There are no bathrooms, just pit toilets.
- There is no electricity.
- There is a hand pump for water, although I would recommend bringing your own drinking water because the water from the hand pump is very discolored.
- Each site has a fire pit and a picnic table.
- They don't sell firewood, but you can by some in town on your way in.
- There is a beach.
- You can make reservations online ahead of time, or show up and find an empty site (but bring cash or check to pay because its a drop box).
- They have equestrian trails and sites.
First the positives: It is a beautiful rustic campground. We stayed on the side with sites 49-73 (specifically site 50) which has larger more secluded sites than the other side of the Lake. The Lake is for non-motorized recreational use so it is mostly used for kayaking and canoeing and fishing. There is about a 1 mile trail that you can walk around the exterior of the Lake, however it is ill defined in some places so just keep your eyes peeled for yellow markers on the trees (which are everywhere so you wont get lost).
This place also attracts a lot of equestrian campers and they have trails specifically for horseback riding. So if you have kids that love horses, you may see some on the weekends.
The negatives: It is a wonderful experience until about 10:30 PM on Friday and Saturday night. This place attracts a rowdy crowd and in the evenings (apparently there is no where else for the locals to have a rager). There is loud music , people yelling, fireworks going off and… not very much sleep. And I am not just talking about a few people with their music on -- it was someone blasting their sub-woofer with electronic dance music until 4:45 AM. It was really disappointing because otherwise the experience was positive. Luckily my kids are all deep sleepers so I was the only one who had to sit up all night.
They clean the bathrooms daily from what I can tell, but otherwise the campground is not maintained. There was trash around our site, and when you walk the trail about the lake you will see cigarette packets and beer bottles occasionally. Also along the trail were two massive hornet nests that really should have been removed by park management - but it's clear they don't ever maintain the trail.
If you're willing to overlook some garbage, and if the party people stay away you could have a wonderful camping trip. Allegan County has a beautiful natural resource here, but sadly it seems like it is being squandered, and wont last.