As I’ve mentioned previously, we like to head out of town to a quiet location for the July 4th holiday (see Ramsey Lake State Park). Our dogs hate the fireworks so we look for off the beaten path quiet campgrounds with no fireworks allowed during this loud holiday. Last year I was recovering from ankle surgery – this year, our dog Sophie was recovery from two knee surgeries. The poor girl had torn both ACL’s. Her first surgery was in January the second was in April (it’s a 16 week recovery process for each). Our camping season was severely delayed this year. Originally we had made reservations down in Southern Illinois for the holiday week, but with Sophie still recovering we changed plans and decided to go someplace closer to home for a shorter amount of time in case she had issues.
So with a little research on Reserve America I found Johnson Sauk Trail State Park in Kewanee, Illinois. Located about 2 hours from us. The goal was to find a quiet campground that didn’t appear to be super full. Based on the campsite availability Johnson Sauk Trail State Park looked like it fit the bill.
The campground is broken up in to 3 areas. Area one – standard camping sites and tent sites, sits in a huge forest of pine trees. Very wooded. Area two is a small loop of about 8 sites not as heavily wooded as area one but lots of trees and area three is a huge loop down from the woods in more of a open field. When we made the reservation we opted for area two because there was only two other sites reserved and it looked to be less crowded. We ended up changing sites (keep reading….).
We originally reserved site #7 from Tuesday July 3 through Friday July 6. Just enough days to feel like you got away and not too much for the dogs to handle. When we arrived that Tuesday the midwest was in the middle of a heat wave. It was ungodly hot and humid (I hate the heat and our older dog doesn’t do well with it either). We rolled up to site #7 and noticed that the one side of the site was a big incline. The fire pit and picnic table were “down the hill”. For our dogs we have a ramp for them to get in and out of the RV and after attempting to park the RV with this incline we quickly realized the ramp wasn’t going to work at this site..
Fortunately for us that was about the time the campground hosts (a lovey couple) rolled up on the golf cart. After chatting with them for a few we asked if we could move sites. Lucky for us the campground was going to be fairly empty since the holiday was mid-week, so they said go pick another spot and tell them where we ended up. So we jumped in the car and set off to find a better location.
My better half is always searching for the most level site so we drove around the campground seeking out a site. We must have driven through it at least twice. Jim was jumping out a certain sites to scope out how level they were (did I mention how hot it was? Thank god for air conditioning in the car!) We finally ended up in area three (the open field site #51) because there was no one around and more importantly the site was totally level!
So after taking almost two hours to finally get settled in we were able to finally relax. Aside from the heat (it was unbearable at times) Johnson Sauk Trail State Park was a beautiful quiet park. There were only a handful of other campers around. We had the one corner of the loop all to ourselves.
It rained a bit on July 4 which unfortunately gave us no relief from the heat, but it did provide us with a beautiful rainbow right over the campground. You can see how empty the campground was.
Finally on Thursday we started to get a break from the heat. So I could go out an explore. The state park is fairly large, it has a nice lake (where you can rent kayaks) a very small camp store and restaurant that overlooks the lake. It also has one of the oldest round barns (1 out of 42 left in the state). There are several hiking/hunting trails and a one way road that goes around the whole lake.
Since the weather was letting up (finally relief from the heat was coming on Friday) we decided to stay another day. The only downside was that our site was reserved so Friday morning we had to move over two spots to site #47.
I will say that the nice thing about this campground was that the sites were very spacious (especially in the area where we were staying). There was a ton of room between each of the sites. Even though most of them were open (not many trees) at least you were not on top of each other.
The only downside to staying the extra night was that the crowds moved in on Friday. The campground was packed by Friday night. So we got a taste of what things would be like during peak season. I’m not sure how fast I would go back during this time, but for mid-week and/or off season Johnson Sauk Trail State Park is a great place to relax.
Website: Reserve America
More Photos: Johnson Sauk Trail State Park