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Campgrounds, various [Aug. 13th, 2010|11:35 am]
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J and I were chatting in the truck on the way to our current location (a very nice little private campground in northern Indiana) and it occurred to us that we’ve stayed in all six of what we consider the various types of campgrounds in this one loop. We headed out for Indianapolis in mid-July and broke the long drive into two days, stopping midway at a state park just inside the eastern border of Ohio. From there it was off to Indianapolis and a county park just north of the city. We stayed there a week, then drove to St Louis and stayed at a casino park, did some sightseeing and some more rig repairs and headed out to Chanute, again breaking our trip at a state park, this time in Missouri. The campground in Chanute is a city park. From there we headed north to a federal recreation area, a Core of Engineers (COE) park on a lake near Hannibal, MO. And now we’re in a private campground near South Bend, IN.

What’s the difference? Municipal campgrounds tend to be cheap; they often have limited services. Sometimes they’re tiny, as in Chanute which has perhaps 18 short, wide, paved pull-through sites where you are intended to park your vehicle next to your RV. Chanute has water and electric service and a dump station, and that’s about it. White River Campground, the county park we stayed at in Cicero, IN, had been a private park at one time. It had full hookups, paved sites, and a decent amount of space between sites. We had a site that backed onto the river there and it was lovely. They had a game room with some aging arcade games, cheap sodas at the office, and a laundry room (always a plus.) City and county parks can be hidden gems. They’re usually small and inexpensive, and sometimes very attractive too.

State parks are easier to find; the state usually has a parks website which is more or less easy to navigate and more people know about these larger parks. Almost all the state parks we’ve seen so far had large sites. Not so much the parking pad, which is often narrow, but the land around each site is spacious. We can typically see one or two RV’s near us but we have a good sense of privacy at state parks. The exception is state parks in resort areas, which can be as crowded as private campgrounds.

The various state parks we stayed at all had electric service. Water was more hit or miss; it’s about fifty/fifty whether you have water at your site or you have to fill your tanks when you arrive. Our fresh water tank holds enough to serve us for seven days with moderate attention to water usage, so that’s not an issue for us. Our waste tanks fill at about the same rate that the fresh water tank empties, so after a week we’re ready to pull out, empty the waste tanks on the way out of the campground, and refill the fresh water tank at our next stop. Most state parks we’ve stayed at have not had full hookups; I think one place in Florida had sewer ports at the sites.

The few federal campgrounds (COE) that we’ve visited tend to be cheaper than the state parks but more expensive than the municipal parks. We’ve driven through one or two that are cramped but our experience has been that they’re often quite large, with nice parking pads and, like the state parks, either water and electric or electric only services. The ones we’ve visited have all been on man-made lakes (there’s that COE thing again) with beautiful views.

In private campgrounds I expect the sites to be closer together. Usually they are the most expensive camping option, though here at Beaver Ridge the weekly rate is the same or slightly cheaper than the equivalent stay at the nearby state park. Private parks often offer discounts for longer stays, versus state and local campgrounds which usually have a limit (typically 14 days) on stay duration. There’s almost always the option to have full hookups at private parks, with water and electric service as a minimum, and the more expensive the park the more amenities they offer.

Our sixth type of campground is the casino RV park. Strictly speaking it’s another private campground, but it’s got some peculiarities that are unique to the breed. Most if not all of the sites are pull through sites at the casino campgrounds we’ve stayed in. Generally, the sites are long but very narrow, with limited lot space. Casino campgrounds are like parking lots with bits of grass here and there; the better the campground the more grass it has. They often have full hookups, laundry rooms, sometimes cable, and always, always a shuttle to get you to the casino proper. They fall in the lower range of private campgrounds in terms of cost, and they’re usually good for location. The Casino Queen RV park in East St Louis, IL was just over the river from St Louis proper. From our campsite we had a spectacular view of the Arch that I don’t think could be equaled.

For us, the basic requirement for a campground (besides that it be big enough to fit our rig into) is electric service. We can’t boondock (camp without any services) because of the need for internet access, which requires AC power. That’s a good thing for me; I can’t sew without electricity either. The fifthwheel has batteries, 12 volt (DC) lights, and a propane powered fridge and water heater so we could do without electric service -- if we were willing or able to do without the computers, air conditioner, and microwave. We could even run a generator to get AC service for short periods, and if J didn’t have to have 7 by 24 internet access we might. But then again maybe not; I do enjoy my creature comforts.