Camping with the Corps (of Engineers)

For the past two weeks we’ve been in route from Colorado to Kentucky with a side trip to College Station, Texas. That’s 2,200 miles, with a lot of full sun and 95 degree heat. We close up the ‘Stream when we roll so it’s always hot inside when we stop. If we were to wait for outside temperatures and fans to cool her down to say 80 degrees, we’d be up past midnight every night. Fortunately our air conditioner works pretty well on shore power, if not on our little generator. Enter Corps of Engineers campgrounds, which usually have a lake, and almost always have some electric hookups. Corps parks come with another advantage: Corps managed camps honor America the Beautiful passes (good for 50% off). You must be at least 62 to get an AtB, but hey, I’m there.


One Happy Camper
One Happy Camper

We’ve learned that when it’s hot you rarely need reservations at Corps campgrounds if you arrive Sunday through Wednesday, and that saves you another $6. Reservations get expensive quickly if you spend a single night per campground, as people are wont to do when trying to cover a lot of ground.


We have had cool A/C every night since Colorado. We paid $15 or less per night at all but one camp, and that was in high cost Dallas where we had to stop for repairs. Our average for those stays, not counting free days hooked up to Bomba the Jungle Boy’s shore power, is under $11 a day.


And without further ado, let me give props to three excellent Corps campgrounds. The first is Wright Patman Lake, just south of Texarkana. It’s a 20,000 acre lake which opened in 1953, and still has good white perch fishing. There is plenty of shade from mature hardwoods and pines, and it’s just off Hwy 59, the main route into Texarkana from the south.


Willowbug at the Locks
Willowbug at the Locks

Second is the Terry Pool and Dam #6 on the east side of Little Rock. Their water feature is the Arkansas River (yes, the same one we camped alongside in Salida, CO) but here it’s much bigger and thanks to the locks, navigable. Albert Einstein’s son Hans came up with a way to make the river self-cleaning, so silt is not a problem, and the flooding that had plagued Arkansas long before the days of the white man is now under control. These campsites are spaced far apart, and most are shaded by big sycamores or maples. There is a 30 acre pond stocked with catfish, so if you can stand to clean them, you can catch your own fish dinner (use beef liver for bait; works nearly as well as dynamite.)


Sunset Over Bailey Point on Barren River Lake
Sunset Over Bailey Point on Barren River Lake

70 miles south of Campbellsville, KY, lies the 10,000 acre Barren River Lake with three Corps campgrounds. We stayed two nights at Bailey Point Camp on site B-17 (the one you want if it’s hot) with a good view of the lake, a strong breeze coming off of it, and all kinds of shade.   It’s only 35 miles from B-17 to Mammoth Cave, and we have a tour reserved tomorrow. That will be our last travel post of the year, but I’ve saved up a few topics to write about in Campbellsville. Check us out maybe once a week.


Red Sled and Kat's Cradle on B17
Red Sled and Kat’s Cradle on B17
View from B17's Chairs
View from B17’s Chairs
Night Falls on the Barren River Lake
Night Falls on the Barren River Lake

Surely something interesting will happen every seven days.

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