Monday, January 27, 2014

Top Ten Lists - Public Campgrounds (first five years)

Roger here...

It is time for another segment of our top ten lists from our first five years of living in our motor home.  Campgrounds are the focus of this post.  

As with the other top ten blogs:

1.  We are only ranking the campgrounds we have been in during our five years of living in the motor home.  There are many great places we have not seen.

2.  During the past years we have not been to Montana, Nevada (in the motor home), Canada, most of Idaho or New England.

3.  The rankings are based on our perspective and the things we like.  We tend to like beautiful outdoor settings, hiking, and kayaking.  Family type amenities like swimming pools and playgrounds are nice, but not that important to us.  We tend to find places with electrical hookups; however, some of our favorite places do not have hookups.

4.  The rankings reflect the campground and not necessarily the surrounding area.  Sometimes it is difficult to separate the two.

5.  Our motor home is 36 feet in length.  We can get into many small spaces, but certainly not all of them.  Finding a place in a state park or Corps of Engineers campground is easier for us than in a national park.

We have two lists for this post of public campgrounds:  National, State, County and City Park Campgrounds AND Corps of Engineers Campgrounds

National, State, County and City Campgrounds

 1.  Joshua Tree National Park - Jumbo Rocks Campground

Within a one-day span we exchanged a terrible private
campground in the town of 29 Palms for pristine boondocking in the national park --- 15 miles away.  Our site, nestled in the giant boulders, was amazingly private. We regret not finding it earlier.  

As an added bonus, I found a playground of rocks to climb and explore at the back of the campsite.

2.  Prophetstown State Park - West Lafayette, Indiana

What a perfect place to spend a week!

We have stayed in large, very private, sites nestled in the pine trees and in open sites with amazing views of the tall-grass prairie.

The hiking trails from the campground take you through the prairie to ponds, the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers, with pristine wildlife settings.  This park also has miles of bike paths through six-foot tall grasses --- riding through tunnels of grass.

3.  Taylor Park Colorado -  Lakeview National Forest Service Campground.

An adventure getting in and out of this 9000-foot setting, but oh, what a place to just sit in a chair and gape at the view.  (At that altitude, sitting and gaping at the view was what we did best! - D.)

4.  Cave Creek Recreation Area - Phoenix, Arizona

The spacious sites, desert scenery, and 
hiking trails make this an outstanding camping spot.  We set out the beach umbrella at our site so we could enjoy the view in the shade.  
The sunsets aren't half-bad, either.

5.  Edisto Island State Park - South Carolina

Our site was in the sand between a tidal pool and the beach.

You can see the motor home area in the background of this photo.  We enjoyed walks and idle time on the beach every day.
The tidal area filled with water and completely drained with each tidal cycle.  It was fascinating to watch the young ibises.  

6.  Davis Mountains State Park, Texas

Our spacious site provided great views of the local wildlife:  javelina, deer and amazing birds.

7.  Chalk Lake National Forest Service Campground - near Buena Vista, Colorado.

Camping next to a babbling brook between two 14,000 foot mountains.  Sadly, this was the site of the recent deadly rockslide on the Agnes Vaille trail located across the road.  (We hiked that nearby trail with our dogs every morning.  The rockslide last summer killed five members of a family; only the daughter survived. --  D.)
Our blog entry from Chalk Lake
Denver Post article about the rockslide tragedy

8.  Nehalem Bay State Park, Manzanita, Oregon

A quarter-mile walk through the dunes to the beach.  The quaint town of Manzanita a mile away.
A great place to dig up a big stick in the sand.

9.  St. George Island State Park - Florida Panhandle

Getting to this otherworldly campground in the sand dunes requires crossing
a four-mile bridge from the mainland.  The entire drive to the state park is through snow-white sand dunes.
The nearly-deserted beach extends for miles.
Too many pictures from this park already, but I could not leave out this guy.

10 (tie).  Devil's Tower National Monument, Wyoming.  

This view from our site through the front windshield of the motor home says it all.  A fun walk through a prairie dog village took us to the base of the monument.

10 (tie).  Custer State Park, Custer, South Dakota

This large campground gave us plenty of space to enjoy the scenery  and
wildlife. The bison that wandered right up to the campground fence.  Glad the fence was there :-)

Honorable mentions:

South Beach State Park, Newport, Oregon

Wonderful, dog-friendly beach.  Also, horse-friendly

Monahan Sand Dunes State Park, West Texas

Camping in the dunes.  Sliding on a saucer.

Turkey Run State Park, Marshal, Indiana

Hiking in slot canyons, walking through covered bridges, kayaking on Sugar Creek.

Corps of Engineers Campgrounds

We included this as a special category because there are so many great ones.  They are always clean, spacious and scenic.  We always look for them during our travels.

1.  Franklin Locks, Alva, Florida

This island campground is in the Caloosahatche  River near Fort Myers, Florida.  We walked to the end of the island every evening to watch the avian arrival on this small islet.

Lots of beautiful things to watch moving down the river.

Jaw-dropping sunsets over the water.

2.  Riana Campground on Abiquiu Reservoir, Abiquiu, New Mexico.

This is Georgia O'Keefe country.  The scenery and light in this quiet part of the world make the images pop.  The campsites have such beautiful and relaxing views. 
The Black Mesa reigns over the entire area.
The reservoir is perfect for kayaking....
and soaking your feet.

3.  Minooka Campground on Wilson Lake, Kansas

What an unexpected surprise this was!

Gigantic lakeside sites on a beautiful lake.  

We stayed an extra night and plan to stay much longer the next time we drive through Kansas.

4.  Buckhorn Campground on Black Butte Lake, near Chico, California
We stopped here to visit our friends, Mike and Brenda, and discovered this tranquil lake.
We loved how the light highlighted the different shades of blue in the water.

5.  Piney Grove Campground just off the Natchez Trace, near Tupelo, Mississippi

This is another
place that we hope to revisit.  One night was not enough.  So relaxing.

6.  Ortona Locks Campground, near Lake Okeechobee, Florida,

40 or so miles east of Ft. Myers on the
Caloosahatchee River.  Another tranquil place to watch the river flow by.
7.  Aux Arc Campground, Altus, Arkansas

What a great place to watch the river traffic on the Arkansas River.  Surprisingly, the area is filled with some of the oldest wineries in the country.

8.  Cochiti Reservoir Campground, near Santa Fe, New Mexico

Expansive views near Santa Fe

9.  Bald Ridge Campground, Lake Lanier, Georgia

Views of the lake in a quiet setting, except for the violent storm that happened while we were there...

10.  Enid Lake,  northwest Mississippi.  

As with too many of our Corps of Engineers stops, this was only for one night.  We plan to revisit Enid Lake next summer.

Rend Lake in southern Illinois was another campground that we enjoyed and intend to revisit.

Originally, this post was also to have covered our top ten private campgrounds.  Obviously, it is time to wrap things up.  Next time.