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Campground Chit-Chat – Midwest Roadtrip Reviews

We are excited to share reviews on the campgrounds we found during our recent road trip traveling from CO to West Virginia. Our search was on for dog friendly sites next to water. You see, we were following the heat wave, humidity and storms across the country. So a spot for the pups (and us) to jump in and cool off was important.

Brewster and Ansel ready to start the road-trip!

Lucas Park Campground at Wilson Lake, Kansas

Our first stop was Kansas. We booked a site at Lucas Park Campground at Wilson Lake. Researching the area led us to this Army Corps of Engineers lake, stated to be the clearest and prettiest in the state and only 7 miles off of I-70, which seemed fantastic for our road-tripping selves. Surrounding the lake are the Smoky Hills – which consist of grasslands and prairies among the rolling hills. The lake itself is about 9000 acres with 100 miles of coastline. We booked our site through Recreation.gov. Check in and check out were 6 pm. Yes. That’s right. We did assume that was incorrect, but the camp hosts kindly verified it for us. And our camp hosts – they were kind, helpful, and very welcoming. Once we settled in at the campsite, we went in search of a place for the pups to swim and found a perfect tiny beach within the campground for some splashing in the water (by all of us) and jumping in and playing for the pups. The water temperature was just perfect. And we can attest to the lake being quite clear and pretty.

Reserve – www.recreation.gov

Dog friendly – Yes

Electric and non-electric sites available

Bath house – Clean bathrooms and showers

Lake activities – Boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, etc.

Hiking trails – Yes

Would we go back? –  YES! A definite yes! We would love to spend time paddle boarding and exploring the lake and area more!

Brewie meeting Dorothy and the Lion from The Wizard of Oz on our way to the campground.
Morning views from our campsite.

Lake of the Ozarks State Park Campground, Missouri

Our second stop was Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. This lake was much further off of I-70 than anticipated. The windy roads and slow speed limits we encountered made it not the most convenient spot to get to for a one-night stay in the midst of traveling. But it was the only lake with camping we could find along this segment of our path – and in the heat we really wanted water for ourselves and the pups. After we set up Charlotte our camper, we went for a little walk about with the pups looking for a spot to let them swim. What we came across were signs – letting us know to swim at our own risk and mentioning that they could not verify the bacterial count in the water. So we elected not to swim that night. As I wrote this blog, I did research the water quality of Lake of the Ozarks – for my own knowledge and for anyone that may want to venture there to explore and camp. Apparently back in 2009 there were failed septic systems which resulted in high levels of E. Coli. For the past several years it looks like the levels of E. Coli have been acceptable according to the various articles on-line that I read.

Reserve – www.icampmo.com

Dog friendly – Yes

Electric and non-electric sites available, cabins and yurts

Bath house – Clean bathrooms and showers

Lake activities – There is a busier section of the lake with hotels and beaches, etc. that we did not explore. We chose not to swim the pups or paddle board in the lake where we were.

Hiking trails – Yes

Would we go back? –  Yes but in a different season

Brewie and I – all smiles at the campsite.

Twin Knobs Campground at Cave Run Lake, KY

We just loved this campground and the Daniel Boone National Forest that it was located in. Though our drive-in to it was a bit scary. We were on the back edge of a big storm as we turned off of the highway. We literally have never seen a sky that color before – it was a burnt orange almost muddy red as we slowly made our approach. Had we not been worried about the storm and our campsite in relation to it we would have been in awe of the scenery around us (which we were the next morning on our way out ; ). As we turned into the loop that our site was on we noticed no one else was there. We settled into our campsite as the rain turned to a light drizzle from a downpour and dark had taken over. We left the camper hitched to the truck for the night in case we had to make a quick departure due to weather. The rain slowly went to a mist and as we cooked dinner noticed the lightening bugs around our site. An aside – Colorado doesn’t have lighting bugs. I grew up with them in New England and I just wish Colorado had them. To me they are so magical. We enjoyed watching them until we settled our soggy, humid and hot selves into bed for the night. The next morning the rain held off while we were able to explore the area. After researching that drones were allowed, I sent Doug, our Drone, up above the dense forest surrounding our campsite to get an idea of what was around us. And it was amazing – we had to then go explore. Doug shot video of the lake, hills and low clouds, surrounding the campground. We found a trail from our loop down to the water. Which we all played in.

Reserve – www.recreation.gov

Dog friendly – Yes

Electric and non-electric sites available

Bath house – Clean bathrooms and showers

Lake activities – Boating, kayaking, paddle-boarding, etc,

Hiking trails – Yes.

Would we go back? –  YES! Absolutely!

Looking down at our set-up at Twin Knobs Campground.
The drone view of the beach our trail led to and us playing in the water with the pups.

Carlyle Lake, Illinois

And on our return trip, after staying with our friends in Ohio, our first stop was Carlyle Lake for the night. Like Wilson Lake in Kansas this is also a US Army Corps of Engineers man-made lake / reservoir and the largest lake in Illinois.  We pulled in just in time to grab one of the last first come first serve sites available for the night. The lake was gorgeous, and we were lucky to catch the sunset. The pups also swam and had a great time. But I was a bit miserable. And not the fault of this campground. The humidity was close to 100% and the heat index had the temperature around 95. I am ashamed to say that I grew up in humidity but my years in the dry heat of Colorado has made me weak ; ) I literally could not move. Just standing or sitting I was dripping wet. Thank goodness for the outdoor shower hook-up on our Cricket. I sprayed my head several times that night. The pups too. And we all made it through the night on our way back west the next day.

Reserve – www.recreation.gov

Dog friendly – Yes

Electric and non-electric sites available

Bath house – Clean bathrooms and showers

Lake activities – The majority of water sports

Hiking trails – Unknown

Would we go back? –  Yes (but maybe in cooler weather)

Ansel enjoying a dip in the lake.
Sunset over Carlyle Lake.

*For our last night on the road we had reserved a campsite again at Wilson Lake in Kansas (I was telling the truth when I said we would definitely go back). But due to the humidity and heat index rising from the previous night, I’ll admit I booked a reservation for a hotel room for us and the pups.