The Badlands and the Black Hills

I usually do a separate post for each destination we’ve traveled to, but I felt that Badlands National Park area, Custer State Park area, and Devils Tower area could all be combined into one post about the places to stay and things to see in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming.

First up…

The Badlands

We spent two nights at the Badlands Interior Campground, which is 1 mile south of the Badlands Interior Entrance. There are a handful of RV parks outside the various entrances of the park and they all looked to be about the same quality. Our campground was nothing amazing, but it was a pull through site with full hookups. I popped my head in the restroom at one point to see what it was like and it was old but seemed clean; otherwise, we didn’t use any of the amenities. The one thing we really did not like about this place was that it flooded easily. I know they can’t control the weather, and the weather in June in this part of South Dakota can be pretty crazy, but they seemed to have a real drainage issue. When we moved on to our next city two days later, even though there was still a lot of rain, there was no where near the same amount of standing water. It was so bad that one motorhome needed to be towed while trying to park in their site. There are also two campgrounds within the national park — both first come, first served, though one is undeveloped. I usually take pictures of everywhere we stay, but forgot to here. I’d say this campground, and any of them in the area, really, are decent for a 1-2 night stay.

Address: 900 SD Hwy 377, Interior, SD 57750

Phone: (605) 433-5335

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull Throughs
  • Tent Sites
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Swimming Pool
  • Hotel on Site
  • Picnic Table and Fire Ring
  • Dump Station

The very first thing we did after getting set up at the campground was drive to Wall, SD so we could get something to eat. We ate at Wall Drug, because there’s not a lot to choose from, but we also wanted to check out the place we had been seeing signs for for the last 300 miles. (Seriously, they advertise from one end of South Dakota to the other). We grabbed some burgers that were surprisingly decent and meandered through building after building of souvenirs. Satisfied that we’d seen enough, we headed over to the grocery store to pick up a few things, as the only place to get food in Interior looks like a meth lab fronting as a grocery store.

On our way back to the campground, we stopped at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Visitor Center. The park consists of three sites along I-90 between Badlands and Wall: the Visitor Center, the Delta-01 Launch Control Facility, and the Delta-09 Missile Silo. The launch facility and missile silo are deactivated remnants of the cold war that are representative of the nuclear arms race. Tours are available of the Delta-01 Launch Control Facility, but they book days in advance and we hadn’t planned accordingly. The Delta-09 Missile Silo is open from  8am-3pm. It consists of a Minutemann II (unarmed) missile positioned in the underground silo with a glass window covering it, allowing you to view inside.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Visitor Center
Delta 09 Missile Silo – We showed up at 3:30, not realizing it closed at 3, so this is as close as we got.

The major draw of the area is, of course, Badlands National Park. Whenever we visit a national park, we like to visit the visitor center and take a drive through the park with our dog Max. We’ll stop at overlooks and take some pics, but the main reasons for doing this are so Max gets some fresh air and we’re able to see what we want to focus on in the park. This isn’t always possible due to size and time constraints, but the size of Badlands allows for it. The best overlooks along the Badlands Loop Road are probably Conata Basin Overlook and Yellow Mounds Overlook. Also during our first day of exploring, we drove the Sage Creek Rim Road, which is an often overlooked road due to it being gravel and long — it took about 45 minutes to drive it and then another 45 minutes to get back to our campground. However, if you want to see wildlife, this is the place to do it! We were lucky enough to see oodles of bison, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, turkeys, and a snapping turtle.

Most national parks aren’t very pet friendly, and Badlands is no different. However, we always like to include Max as much as we can, so we’ll bring him along for a ride through the park.

Yellow Mounds Overlook

Bison along the Sage Creek Rim Road
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep along the Sage Creek Rim Road

During our second day, we hiked the 1.5-mile Notch Trail, which the trail guide rated as moderate to strenuous. We’d personally rate it somewhere between easy and moderate, with the log ladder being the most difficult part. It was a nice trail with some great views. After the Notch Trail, we did the Cliff Shelf Trail, rated moderate, which I would agree with due to the number of stairs you need to climb to get to the viewing platform. It’s a nice little half-mile, paved loop trail through junipers in which we saw a beautiful white-tailed doe kicked back and relaxing, chomping on some leaves.

Notch Trail – The ladder was the only difficult part of the trail and it’s more difficult going down than it is going up.
Notch Trail

 

The Cliff Shelf Trail involves a lot of stairs.
White-tailed doe along the Cliff Shelf Trail

It’s important to note that June is the rainiest month in the Badlands. And we’re not just talking rain, but thunder, lightning, and hail as well. Always keep an eye on the weather as there was a flash flood warning the entire time we were there.

Custer State Park

We originally had planned to be in the Badlands for five nights instead of the two we ended up spending. About a week prior, we decided to change our plans and spend the other three nights in the Custer State Park area — and we’re so glad we did! While we weren’t able to get a spot at a campground within Custer, we found a nice place right outside. Southern Hills RV Park & Campground in Hermosa is a good home base to explore the area. It’s a very well kept park and our site was a nice, level pull through with full hookups. Bonus: When it poured rain, it seemed to drain well and dry up fairly quickly. If we had our choice of campgrounds within the park (which can be reserved up to a year in advance), we would choose Game Lodge Campground due to its great location and layout. I guess we’ll have to plan ahead next time!

Address: 24549 Highway 79, Hermosa, SD 57744

Phone: (605) 939-7609

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull Throughs
  • Level Sites
  • Bathrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Picnic Table
Site 2 at Southern Hills was very spacious and level!
These three giant presidential busts sit at the entrance to Southern Hills. I don’t know why they’re there, but I do know they make finding the driveway to the RV park easier.

After we got settled in to Southern Hills, we drove into Custer SP to Legion Lake Lodge for a late lunch. While the service was a bit slow, the food was good and the view from the outdoor seating is phenomenal. After lunch, we walked the trail around Legion Lake, which has a swimming beach and canoes and kayaks for rent. After the walk, we had to get back to the Airstream to do some work, but returned to the park after dinner with Max in tow to drive the Wildlife Loop Road. Custer SP is home to all sorts of wildlife, including elk, coyotes, burros, mountain goats, and even a few mountain lions, as well as the animals we saw on our drive which were bison, white-tailed deer, prairie dogs, and pronghorns (antelope).

Legion Lake
A white-tailed deer and her babe along the Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park
A bison (with a tiny hitchhiker on its back) along the Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park
A male pronghorn along the Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park
Even without the wildlife, the views along Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park are pretty nice

On our second day near Custer State Park, as it was a rainy morning, we chose to visit Wind Cave National Park. Wind Cave lies at the southern border of Custer SP in Hot Springs. It is the third longest cave system in the United States behind Mammoth Cave and nearby Jewel Cave. There are various cave tours available, but they are all first come, first served, so arrive early to beat the crowds. We took the Natural Entrance Cave Tour, which lasted about 1.25 hours. I’m not sure if any of the other tours are more exciting, as this one was just okay. As I mentioned, it was raining, so we didn’t explore anything above ground in the park. Instead, we headed into Hot Springs to get some lunch (nothing to write home about) and then headed over to The Mammoth Site, which is also in Hot Springs. The Mammoth Site is an active paleontological excavation site with the greatest concentration of mammoth remains in the world. We waited in a line that was out the door and seemed to be making no progress until we decided to opt out and return home. Some days you’re feelin’ it, and some days you’re not — and we just weren’t feeling it that day. One thing to note about The Mammoth Site is that dogs are allowed inside as long as they are being held or in carriers. We returned to Custer SP before dinner so that Travis could get a run in on one of the trails. I explored the Visitor Center and the State Game Lodge and then meandered along one of the trails until meeting up with Travis to return home for the evening.

A Map of the Wind Cave Cave System
The ranger is standing next to the cave’s only known natural opening. In order to equalize the atmospheric pressure inside the cave, sometimes air blows out of this opening and sometimes it’s sucked in. Either way, it can reach speeds of up to 70mph, which is how the cave got its name.
Interior of the Cave
It’s very difficult to get good pictures inside a cave, but this photo is of the boxwork formations that are found throughout Wind Cave. Wind Cave is home to about 95% of the world’s discovered boxwork formations.
The Visitor Center is beautiful and informative, though no gift shop. Gift shops can be found in each of the lodges.
The State Game Lodge was the ‘Summer White House’ of President Calvin Cooldige
Grace Coolidge Creek

On our third and last full day in the area, we once more headed into Custer SP to the Sylvan Lake area in order to do the hike up to Black Elk Peak, which is South Dakota’s highest point at 7242 feet. We hiked trail #9, which is a 6.6-mile roundtrip trail that’s rated moderate to strenuous. We both felt it was the hardest trail we had ever hiked and thought it leaned more towards the strenuous end of the spectrum. There’s a gain of 1470 feet and you can definitely feel it. Black Elk Peak is actually located in the Black Hills National Forest, and there’s a sign on the trail that indicates when you cross into the forest. A stone fire tower at the peak provides excellent views of the surrounding landscape. When reading reviews of the trail, some people noted it took up to six hours to complete the roundtrip hike, but we needed to get back to work as soon as possible, so we booked it to the top and back in just under three. Before leaving the park, we stopped at Sylvan Lake Lodge for lunch. We ended up getting our food to go, as we really needed to get back to the trailer for work. I had an excellent burger and Travis had an equally excellent chicken sandwich. Once back at the trailer, Travis got to work while I drove into Box Elder to Americas Mailbox (our mail forwarding service) where I picked up our mail and packages that had been collecting for a few weeks. On my back to Southern Hills, I gassed up the truck and drove it through a car wash in preparation for our morning departure to Devils Tower.

If the 6.6-mile roundtrip hike isn’t your thing, there are views like this along Trail 9 that aren’t too far from the trailhead in Sylvan Lake.
There’s a good mix of sun and shade along the hike, but be prepared with sunscreen and water as the most difficult part of the hike (towards the peak) is out of the woods and in direct sun.
Black Elk Peak is actually in the Black Hills National Forest, not Custer State Park, and there’s a sign marking where you cross into the Forest. You also must register, so they know who’s out there and where you went.
Views!
More views!
There’s the fire tower signifying we made it to the top!
But you have to climb a lot of uneven stone stairs to get there — my calves were definitely burning!
Handkerchiefs from Previous Hikers

There are more sites to see that we didn’t get around to this trip. We didn’t drive the infamous Needles Highway in Custer SP, which I’m bummed about, but we just never found the time. If we had known what Wind Cave NP was going to be like, we probably would have used that time to do the drive instead. Of course, there’s also Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Crazy Horse Memorial. We visited Mount Rushmore last September when we were in Rapid City/Box Elder getting our drivers licenses and things set up with Americas Mailbox. Crazy Horse, along with Jewel Cave National Monument, will have to wait until our next trip. And we never made it into Rapid City (except to get groceries at Safeway), which was another small disappointment as we had really enjoyed downtown Rapid City on our previous visit. We will definitely return to Custer State Park!

Devils Tower

Devils Tower was declared the first National Monument in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt. It’s 867 feet tall from summit to base. If you want to stay at Devils Tower for a night or two, there are basically two options. The Belle Fourche Campground is a first come, first served campground within the boundaries of the park. There are no hookups, but water is available as well as bathrooms. The second option is the Devils Tower KOA, which sits right outside the entrance to the monument. We chose the latter, because everywhere we’ve been so far this summer has been super hot and we didn’t want to have to worry about generator restrictions in order to use our A/C — we wanted hookups! As far as KOAs go, this one is pretty nice. We didn’t use their restrooms or laundry, but did take a dip in the pool (it was freezing) and got some ice cream from the onsite store. There’s also another store across the street that sells similar items, and both stores have prepared food available for purchase. The Devils Tower post office is basically right in the KOA’s parking lot and every night at 8pm, the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind is played at the campground.

Address: 60 Highway 110, Devils Tower, WY 82714

Phone: (307) 467-5395

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull Throughs
  • Cabins
  • Tent Sites
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Swimming Pool
  • Playground
  • Community Fire Ring
  • Propane Fill
  • Cafe/Gift Shop/Store
While most sites at the Devils Tower KOA have tower views, our site (51) didn’t because of a tree — a tree that we were very thankful for later as it was extremely hot and the shade if provided was helpful.

The Visitor Center is open from 8am-7pm, but Devils Tower itself is accessible 24 hours a day. Being right at the entrance afforded me the opportunity to get up to the monument at 7:45am before crowds started rolling in. I walked the 1.3-mile paved Tower Trail and only saw three other parties. This trail, which circles the base of the tower, is the most popular trail and gets quite busy for most of the day. Travis ran it at about 5:45pm and it was still pretty populated. Climbing the tower is allowed; though climbers must register with a ranger before and after their climb.

Dog aren’t allow anywhere except the parking lot and one gravel road, which is where we took this picture.

Besides Devils Tower, there is nothing else in this area. Most visitors seem to make it a day trip, but if you want to or need to spend the night, one night is plenty. There is a gas station about a 10-minute drive up the road in Hulett.

All in all, we really enjoyed our time in the Badlands and Black Hills. We will definitely return Custer State Park, but one visit to Badlands National Park and Devils Tower National Monument is enough.

Arrowwood Cedar Shore Campground – Oacoma, SD

We spent four nights at the campground at the Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center at Cedar Shores. The campground sits on the Missouri River in the small town of Oacoma, which is across the river from the larger city of Chamberlain. The 44 sites are all full hookup with cable, with a picnic table and fire ring at each. The best sites along the river were taken by what appeared to be seasonal campers, which is what most of the campground seemed to be. Those staying at the campground have access to the neighboring resort’s amenities, including the pool and fitness center, though six cardio machines don’t make for a ‘fitness center’ — but it was better than nothing. Our site (#36) was the most unlevel site we’ve ever had. Besides the 1.5″-2″ lip to get on the concrete pad, the site had a huge incline from front to back, and wasn’t close to being level from side to side either — definitely one of the more challenging sites to get in to.

Address: 1500 Shoreline Drive, Oacoma, SD 57365

Phone: (605) 734-5273

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull Throughs
  • Cable TV
  • Picnic Table and Fire Ring
  • Bathrooms
  • Laundry
  • Playground
  • Basketball Court
Our very unlevel site. We put as many levelers as would fit under the fully retracted jack and then we extended the jack as high as it would go and we were just barely level.

There really isn’t a lot to see and do in the area, but we made the best of the time we spent there even though it seemed to rain almost nonstop.

A definite must see is the Dignity of Earth and Sky Statue at the I-90 Lewis & Clark Info Center in Chamberlain. Besides being a rest stop, there’s also a little museum dedicated to the time Lewis & Clark spent in the area. The 50-foot statue was erected in 2016 and bares a plaque with words from the sculptor, Dale Claude Lamphere, that reads, “Standing at a crossroads, Dignity echoes the interaction of earth, sky, and people. She brings to light the beauty and promise of the indigenous peoples and cultures that still thrive on this land. My intent is to have the sculpture stand as an enduring symbol of our shared belief that all here are sacred, and in a sacred place.” It’s location along I-90 makes it a perfect pitstop if driving east to west or west to east across South Dakota.

We also visited the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center, which is a nice little (free) museum that is a tribute to the Lakota Sioux people. It’s small, but informative, and gives a good glimpse into the lifestyle, both past and present, of the Lakota people. The museum can be found in Chamberlain as well.

This display referenced the close bond between a warrior and his horse, which made the difference between success in the hunt or life and death in battle. The warrior shown here is modeled after “Wind in His Hair” from Dances with Wolves. The actor wore this outfit in the film.

The last sites to see in Chamberlain are the South Dakota Hall of Fame and the adjacent South Dakota’s Veterans Park. Over 700 of South Dakota’s best and brightest have been inducted in one of 15 different categories. Notable inductees include: Tom Brokaw, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and George McGovern. Both facilities are also located right off I-90, and though we didn’t stop, the Veterans Park looks like a fantastic memorial complete with a handful of military vehicles and planes as well as a picnic area.

Conclusion: The Chamberlain/Oacoma area is more of a drive by situation, but if you’re looking for a place to stop for a night, you’ll find a few things to do to occupy your time. You’ll also find gas stations, a small grocery store, a car wash, and other such services that a traveler might need.

Lake Mitchell Campground – Mitchell, SD

Lake Mitchell Campground is a city-run campground on Lake Mitchell in Mitchell, South Dakota. Many of the sites are pretty shallow and difficult to get in to, so I’d recommend perusing the satellite view on Google Maps to figure out what works best. While there were full hookups at our site (site 30), the water hookup was too far back for our hose to reach. We only stayed two nights, so we just filled our water cans a couple of times and filled the fresh water tank. We didn’t utilize any of the amenities, so I can’t comment on their quality.

Address: 2601 N. Main Street, Mitchell, SD 57301

Phone: (605) 995-8450

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Picnic Table and Fire Ring
  • Tent Sites
  • Lake Access
  • Camp Host
Site 30 had two concrete pads, both with hookups, so the trailer could have been parked on either one. Unfortunately, this meant we had to choose between opening our door right into our neighbor or having a sewer hookup in the middle of our site. We chose the sewer hookup.
The view of Lake Mitchell from the tent sites was very nice.
Unfortunately, the lake is having an algae issue that seems to be a longterm problem.

There’s not a whole lot to do in Mitchell, except visit the Corn Palace. They were removing last years designs while we there, so the Corn Palace was minus some corn.

If we ever drive through this part of South Dakota again, we’ll probably avoid Mitchell altogether, as the campground was just okay and there’s not much to see or do.

Big Sioux Recreation Area – Brandon, SD

Big Sioux Recreation Area in Brandon, South Dakota is part of the State Park system and lies on the banks of the Big Sioux River. South Dakota’s largest city, Sioux Falls, is a short drive. The campground is very basic but well kept. The sites are large and as there weren’t a lot of people staying there, it was a pretty quiet five days. The showers in the bathrooms are pretty decent, with good water pressure and hot water, although it takes a bit to warm up. The sites are electric only, but there’s a dump station and water fill as you enter/exit the campground. My only complaint is the amount of ants — they crawled everywhere, including all over the trailer; although they never made it inside as far as we can tell. The nightly rate is $21, but there is also a daily park entrance fee of $6 and a reservation fee for nonresidents of $8. As we had purchased a South Dakota parks pass at the last place we stayed, Hartford Beach State Park, and are South Dakota residents, we only paid the $21/night fee.

Address: 410 West Park Street, Brandon, SD 57005

Phone Number: (605) 582-7243

Amenities:

  • Electric Hookup
  • Dump Station
  • Water Fill
  • Picnic Table and Fire Ring
  • Bathrooms with Showers
  • Firewood
  • Campground Host
  • Tent Sites
  • Playground
Site 13E
The mature, green trees made for a peaceful setting.

The park itself has trails for hiking, biking, horse riding and snowshoeing. There’s also disc golf, two canoe launches, a playground and archery.

We hiked the Valley of the Giants Trail, which is supposed to be 1.5-mile hike, but we took a wrong turn at a fork in the path and had to backtrack a bit. Some of the state’s largest trees reside along this trail.

The suspension bridge seen in the header photo is at the beginning of the Prairie Vista Trail and crosses the Big Sioux River to provide access to the Horse Trail Trailhead and Archery Range.

While in the area, of course we had to visit Falls Park in Sioux Falls. The area surrounding the park is not so great, but the park itself is beautiful. We visited on an overcast, sprinkle-filled day, so the full beauty of the park is hard to determine from the pictures. The park is 123 acres and home to some of the city’s first buildings. The Queen Bee Mill used to operate here along the banks of the Big Sioux River, but all that remains now are ruins from the original 7-story building that was the victim of a fire. The 1908-built hydroelectric plant now functions as the Falls Overlook Cafe, where we had a fantastically delicious lunch. There’s also a visitor center and gift shop with a 50-foot viewing tower that is free to access.

The Falls of Sioux Falls
The Visitor Center, Gift Shop and Viewing Tower
The Falls Overlook Cafe — Great view with equally great food!

We went to downtown Sioux Falls for dinner one rainy, gloomy night. The downtown area is VERY nice — clean and well kept with great shops and restaurants. We ate at Crawfords Bar & Grill, where the food was delicious, the cocktails on point, and the decor a blend of rustic and vintage. Due to the rain, we went for a very short, post-dinner walk and were able to enjoy a few of the more than 50 sculptures that are part of the Sioux Falls SculptureWalk. If the weather had been better while we were in the area (and we were able to work less), we definitely would have spent more time downtown.

Hartford Beach SP – Corona, SD

Hartford Beach State Park is located on Big Stone Lake in Corona, South Dakota. There are two campgrounds, West Campground and East Campground, within the park, and we stayed in the larger East Campground. East Campground has 57 sites, all with electric hookup. As you drive into the campground, there’s a dump station with water fill. The sites are spacious with plenty of green space. We had a tree line along one side as well as the back of our site (33E), making it feel pretty private. Sites 62E, 61E, 59E and 57E are very spread out with a lot of room between them and the even numbered sites from 66E to 76E have a peak view of the lake. Although we didn’t use them, the bathrooms and showers are nice. All South Dakota State Park “Prime” Campgrounds are $21/night, plus a $6 daily park entrance license fee. The annual park license costs $30, which is the route we took, seeing as we’ll be staying at a few more SD State Parks in the upcoming weeks. If reservations are made online, there is a $7.70 reservation fee for non-residents (all phone reservations are $2), so a weekend for a non-resident can get a little pricey.

Address: 13672 Hartford Beach Road, Corona, SD 57227

Phone Number: (605) 432-6374

Amenities:

  • Electric Hookup
  • Dump Station
  • Water Fill
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Vault Toilets
  • Playground
  • Cabins (Open Year-Round)
  • Picnic Table
  • Fire Ring
We had a nice tree line both along one side and along the back of site 33E.
Looking from front to back of site 33E.

The park’s amenities include a boat ramp, beach, fish cleaning station, fishing pole checkout, disc golf course, playground, picnic shelters and hiking trails.

Many campers were there to take advantage of fishing on the lake.
The disc golf course was both beautiful and challenging.
Hole 3 had a nice view of the lake. Equipment is available at the park entrance station.

If we’re ever in the area again, we’ll definitely revisit Hartford Beach State Park!

Bunker Hills Campground – Coon Rapids, MN

Bunker Hills Campground is within Bunker Hills Regional Park in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. We stayed here a little short of a week so that we could visit a customer in the neighboring city of Anoka. The park had a really great feeling about it — the light always seemed magical, we ran into deer and turkey on a regular basis, and it has a really great trail system. The campground itself has restrooms with showers, which were pretty decent, even if there’s no temperature control and the water pressure could be a tad bit better. The sites are large and private with picnic tables and fire rings. There are three loops — one with 30 amp/water hookups (where we stayed), one with 50 amp/water hookups, and one with more 50 amp sites, tent sites and a couple of cabins. There is also a visitor’s center right as you enter the campground with a dump station nearby.

The park the campground is located in also has a lot to offer: A nice, paved trail system; golf course with restaurant (good food); playgrounds; picnic pavilions; restrooms; horse stables; archery range; disc golf course; and water park, which didn’t open until the day we left.

The nightly rate is $28, which is reasonable, but there was an $8 reservation fee as well as a daily access fee of $6 (or $30 for an annual pass), so if you aren’t staying long, it might not be very cost effective.

Address: 13101 County Parkway B, Coon Rapids, MN 55433

Phone: (763) 324-3330

Amenities:

  • Electric and Water Hookups
  • Visitor Center
  • Campground Hosts
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Dump Station
  • Playground
  • Dumpster with Recycling
  • Group Campsites
  • Tent Sites
  • Cabins
Magical light!
We loved the trails and took advantage of them to walk Max and to get some running in.
Again with that light!
Bunker Lake – The boardwalk (in the header photo) crosses the lake as part of the great trail system.

Minneapolis Southwest KOA

We decided to stay at the Minneapolis Southwest KOA on somewhat short notice. We had previously been staying at Minneopa State Park in Mankato, but were going to have to move from our site with electric hookup to a site without electric, as there were no electric sites available for the weekend. It was very hot and we were unsure of the park’s rules regarding generator use, so as we had to hitch up to move anyway, we decided we’d just move to a different park with hookups.

Both Travis and I felt the KOA had a creepy vibe — we’re just not sure why. The clientele was less than desirable, but that’s often the case on weekends at campgrounds like this. Whatever the reason was, we were happy to have full hookups.

We didn’t utilize any of the amenities except for filling our propane, so I can’t really comment on those. I can say that our spot was pretty tight, barely fitting our 28′ Airstream and Ford F-150. The ‘streets’ were even tighter and maneuvering within the campground was a little difficult, especially for big rigs.

Address: 3315 W. 166th Street, Jordan, MN 55352

Phone: (952) 492-6440

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull Throughs
  • Store
  • Indoor Pool
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Playground
  • Basketball, Volleyball, Horseshoes
  • Cabins
  • Propane Fill
  • Dog Park
  • Mini Golf
The streets were snug, especially when people parked their tow vehicles along the side.
We probably had abut a foot to spare at the end of our pull-through.
It was nice to have a little grass area out the door so we didn’t have to walk anywhere to let Max out before bed.

Red Fox Campground at Minneopa SP

We stayed at Red Fox Campground in Minneopa State Park in Mankato, Minnesota for three nights. The campground consists of two loops: A Loop has 34 sites and B Loop also has 34, six with electric hookups. The campground itself is very primitive, offering few amenities. However, the sites are very private, as you are in a heavily wooded area. We stayed here because we were visiting family in Mankato and there weren’t a lot of options in the area. We stayed from May 29 – June 1 and both the mosquitos and ticks were out in full force. When reserving online, there’s a $10 reservation fee in addition to the $29/night rate, plus a daily $7 park entrance fee (unless you have a MN State Parks pass). We paid a total of $118, or $39.33/night, which is too much for what you get, especially since we couldn’t enjoy being outside due to the bugs.

Address: 54497 Gadwall Road, Mankato, MN 56001

Phone: (507) 389-5464

Amenities:

  • 68 sites
  • Six sites with electric
  • A Loop has a restroom with showers
  • B Loop has one cabin for rent
  • Water fill is available in both loops
  • Dump station, though not within the campground
Site B12, as well as all of the other sites, was extremely private
We enjoyed the views out the panoramic windows!

The park is small and in two parts. One area has the park office, a picnic area, and the Minneopa Falls waterfall. The other area is home to a bison enclosure (which you can drive through), the historic Seppmann Mill sandstone windmill, and the campground. There is a hiking trail near the Falls, but it’s currently closed because it’s washed out. There seemed to be some hiking trails throughout the park, but because of previously mentioned mosquitos and ticks, we didn’t take advantage of them. We did a very quick exploration of the park (because, mosquitos) including driving through the buffalo enclosure (we saw them from a distance), a drive by of the windmill, and a visit to the Falls.

Seppmann Mill – A sandstone windmill that ground wheat and other grains from 1864 to 1890.
Minneopa Falls – The lower falls are 40′ high
Minneopa Falls – The upper falls are 10′ high
These stairs led from the lower falls down to the trail along Minneopa Creek, but the trail was closed due to being washed out.

Neshonoc Lakeside Camp Resort – West Salem, WI

As we drove across Wisconsin from spending some time in our hometown on the east side of the state, we needed a place to stop for a night on the west side of the state. We originally were going to attempt Veteran’s Memorial Campground in West Salem, which is a first come, first served spot that offers electricity, but after boondocking for the long Memorial Day weekend, we decided we’d rather have full hookups. We needed to empty our tanks and refill with water as the next place we were staying was electric hookup only.

I found Neshonoc on the Campendium App, and we decided to our take chances pulling into the campground on Memorial Day at 9am. In the office, I asked if they had a full hookup site available for the night and she said, “Sure, no problem!” I then asked if they had a full hookup site available right now for the night and she said, “That may be a problem.” She told me that people had definitely pulled out already that morning, she just didn’t know from what sites as they don’t have to check out when they leave. She gave me a map, told me where to look, and said to park at whatever site was open and to just let them know when we found one. Thankfully, we found a spot after driving around for a bit! We were also thankful that we were able to get parked and settled in before the rush of departing campers — the streets are narrow and don’t allow for two vehicles to pass each other which can make it difficult while you’re trying to park/leave. By noon, we had the place almost to ourselves! It was a tad less mosquitoey here and we were able to take advantage of the refreshing pool. We also appreciated the 20% they offer for veterans!

Address: N5334 Neshonoc Road, West Salem, WI 54669

Phone: (608) 786-1792

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull Throughs
  • Cabins
  • Tent Sites
  • Two Swimming Pools
  • Access to Lake Neshonoc
  • Basketball, Volleyball, Horseshoes
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Dump Station
  • Propane Fill
  • Boat Launch
  • Playground
Site 194 was a pull through with full hookups and a nice lake view!

Our First Time Boondocking

While in our hometown of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, we found ourselves without a place to stay for Memorial Day Weekend. Whether it was poor planning or uncertainty of what the length of our stay in the area was going to be (we had already stayed for a month at a campground), we reached out to a family friend to see if we could moochdock at their farm. Thankfully, they said yes.

We had never boondocked before, and the 90+ degree temps (with high humidity) and swarms of mosquitoes educated us very quickly as to what kind of conditions we would choose to boondock in in the future. We have a Champion 3500 watt generator with wireless remote start that saved us during the hot, hot weather. We were able to run the air conditioning continuously, though we never left the generator running unattended and instead turned the fans on and opened the windows whenever we would leave. During the hottest times, we had to refill the generator with gas every 4-5 hours, which meant it kicked off at 3am one night. Instead of getting eaten alive by the mosquitoes while trying to refill it in the dark, we opted to open the windows and use the fans instead. Our last night was a little cooler which allowed the generator to run all night — yay!!

We had filled our freshwater tank before leaving the campground and had no issues making it last the long weekend, especially since I was able to shower at my parent’s nearby cottage one day. I was going to a baptism so I needed to wash and dry my hair, which would have used a large portion of our water and forced us to turn the AC off as it can never be running when a blowdryer is being used.

We had solar panels installed by Airstream when we purchased our trailer and during the times we weren’t using the generator, we were able to depend on those to be able to continuously use our lights, fans, TVs, etc. without worrying about killing the battery.

The refrigerator ran on propane and did a good job of keeping everything cool, and while the hot water heater could have also ran on propane, we never turned it on because we really didn’t need hot showers with how hot it was outside.

Our takeaway from our first boondocking experience is that we like having electricity. We’d have no problem staying a night or two somewhere without it, but it would need to be in cooler temps.

Our spot was a little difficult to get into due to uneven ground, trees, and driving through field grass, but we did it!
We had nice view of Lake Winnebago which we shared with the neighboring cows.
Moo.
We determined it’d be much easier to pull the trailer out of it’s spot with a tractor. For the last night, we were parked in a flat, gravel area so we could hookup and hit the road by 6am the next morning.