Whether your preference is the sun and sand, swimming, fishing, paddling, or simply the sound of water lapping you to sleep at night, setting up camp next to a lake or stream makes a trip special. Here’s our list of six waterside camping areas where the relaxation and enjoyment run deep.
Honey Creek State Park, Moravia, IA
Nestled amid rolling, timbered hills on Rathburn Lake, Iowa’s second largest lake, 830-acre Honey Creek State Park offers secluded wildlife viewing as well as 17 ancient Woodland Native American mounds with interpretive displays. There are five miles of multi-use trail to explore in all, plus a fishing dock and boat ramp providing fishing and boating access. You can stay overnight in one of four pine log cabins or at the park’s campground, which offers restrooms and showers as well as a universally accessible site, electric and non-electric sites, walk-in sites, and a dump station. Other amenities include a swimming beach, playground, and reservable picnic shelters that overlook the water in scenic southern Iowa.
Wolf Creek State Park, Windsor, IL
This massive, 25,000-acre park adjoins Eagle Creek State Recreation Area and borders Lake Shelbyville, a 11,000-acre a manmade reservoir in east central Illinois. Carefully maintained indigenous woodlands offer trails for fun adventures on foot or on horseback. The park has 380 campsites, some in the trees and others on the lake, with amenities ranging from restrooms and showers to electricity and picnic tables. In addition, there’s a campground cabin, two family tent camping areas, an organized group camp, and an equestrian campground. A swimming beach, open from the end of May to the start of September, is situated in the southwest section of the park. A four-lane boat ramp provides access for watercraft.
Klondike Park, Augusta, MO
What it lacks in size it makes up for in beauty and geography. Klondike Park consists of 250 acres of property rising on scenic bluffs high above the Missouri River in St. Charles County, providing sweeping views of the surrounding valley. Once the site of an old silica sand quarry, the park has a scenic lake (stocked with bluegill, bass, and catfish) and undulating topography that makes for challenging hiking and mountain biking trails. The campgrounds feature six rustic cabins that sleep eight (one is universally accessible), as well as 43 sites with a restroom and shower house nearby. A boat ramp provides access to the Missouri River while the Katy Trail links the park to wineries in Defiance and Augusta.
Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Kaiser, MO
Lake of the Ozarks is well known as one of Missouri’s most infamous party lakes, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas that provide peace and quiet. This state park sits in an undeveloped cove on the lake’s Grand Glaize Arm, wooded and sprinkled with glades and small springs, yet still only minutes from extensive shopping, restaurants, and entertainment options. The 17,000-acre Lake of the Ozarks State Park encompasses 89 miles of shoreline with two swimming beaches, boat-launching areas, and marinas; hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails; and cave tours. The park offers basic and electric campsites, three organized group camps, family campsites, cabins, yurts, and a camp store.
Long Branch State Park, Macon, MO
Located among some of the last prairie remnants in the Chariton River Hills area of Missouri, the 1,830-acre Long Branch State Park also features three areas with boat ramp access to Long Branch Lake. The 2,430-acre body of water is known for its fine bass fishing, offering 24 miles of shoreline dotted with small coves, as well as a partially covered fishing dock. Basic and electric campsites are available, as are several walk-in sites, family sites, and a special-use camping area. A sand beach near the campground will be a hit with the swimmers in your crew. Picnic shelters are scattered under the trees and along the lake; three hiking trails of 0.6 miles, 1.5 miles, and 7.5 miles encourage nature walks and wildlife viewing.
Table Rock State Park, Branson, MO
Branson attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists a year, and for those who like to stay away from the bright lights and sounds of downtown, Table Rock Lake State Park is popular resting spot with access to activities like mountain biking, fishing, hiking, and paddling. The park has two campgrounds complete with non-electric and electric sites, shower facilities, and flushing toilets. Table Rock also features a premium yurt complete with two bedrooms, televisions, and a kitchen with an electric stove. While there is no designated beach area, visitors can swim from the shoreline in several areas. State Park Marina has boat rentals, bike rentals, and the Boathouse BBQ and Burgers Café.
Author: Brad Kovach is the editor/publisher of Terrain Magazine.