Our camping goal is to get as much camping in during the Spring and Fall month as possible as opposed to summers when kids are out of school and it’s too hot to really enjoy being outdoors.
We’ve discovered that camping when the temperature is below freezing is also not comfortable, so we really only have a few months that are “ideal”, for us anyway.
So. We went to this campground in April and apparently, no one camps in April. I shouldn’t say nobody camps in April, but there seems to be a lot less people camping in April.
In case you’re not aware, we’re newbies to this whole camping thing. Well. we’re not newbies, per say, we went camping a lot when the boys were little. We started with a pop-up camper, graduated to a hybrid, (a trailer with pop-out tent beds on either end) and then we stopped camping all together because the boys got older and we just sort of got burned out. We burned out primarily because the hybrid would leak every time we took it out and we got tired of having to deal with the stress of waterproofing the canvas and then still having it leak when we camped).
Then COVID happened and Kevin and I suddenly couldn’t go on cruises anymore:
- Because the CDC shut down the cruise industry for nearly two years and
- We weren’t willing to jump through hoops dealing with the restrictions that came with the whole unvaccinated stigma
But we didn’t want to stop taking vacations or exploring different areas, or basically living our lives, so what did we decide to do? Convert a cargo trailer into a camping trailer.
And by “we” I mean Kevin. I was little to no help actually helping him build the thing.
Sorry. I didn’t mean to go into the details of why we started our “glamping” adventures but there you go.
Back to this trip.
We had no idea this Ozark Outdoors campground existed. LeRoy talked to someone in the neighborhood who told him about this campground and we had to try it out. It sounded amazing. It’s basically Disneyland for campers.
It also made me wonder how many more campgrounds were we missing? And how in the world do you even LOOK for them??
Here are a few resources I’ve stumbled upon:
- BSC Campground – this is specific to Missouri but I’m sure there are similar sites for other states out there.
- Recreation.gov – this is a site for all state parks across the United States. I’ve been haunting this site for weeks. The thing about state parks – not all parks/sites have water/electric/sewer, though most have water/electric, most do not have sewer. Something to keep in mind for your neck trip. However, these sites are RIGHT on the lakes and off the beaten track so they are beautiful, peaceful and cheap.
- RV Camping – this site is helpful in that you can look up your state, you do have to do a little digging and follow a few rabbit holes before you find some great resources in your state – but at least it gets you started.
- Missouri State Parks – again, specific to Missouri but I’m sure other states have similar sites you can research for your state.
Anyway, back to Ozark Outdoors.
Ozarks Outdoors is located between Rolla and. St. Louis and it’s situated right off the Meramec River. The biggest selling point is that they have a tubing route. You can take a shuttle to the start of the route, ride your tube down the river and get off at the end of the route to take the shuttle back to the beginning, if you wish. The campground is all along that tubing route. The campground itself is a little over one mile long. It’s huge. Now of course, we didn’t do any tubing when we camped in April because it wasn’t an available option when were there. It was too cold and the river was too choppy at that time. But it’s a cool feature.
We left home on Friday, April 22nd, at 12:30 PM. We’re on this kick where we go on vacation Fridays and come back Tuesdays. We choose these days because these are the days that work the best for Kevin’s work schedule. We arrived at Ozark Outdoors at 3:15 PM. This was the first time that Kevin pulled the trailer with his new Dodge Ram and the truck did great though it was a challenge as it was pretty windy on the way to the campground. The trailer is heavier than traditional RV’s and we really have to distribute the weight toward the back of the trailer so there is less “bounce.”
As I mentioned, the park is huge and though there were a few other campers, everyone was spaced out and we had lots of privacy. After setting up, we walked down to the river to take a look around. We had gotten a ton of rain and the river was pretty muddy so we had to take our shoes off back at the bathroom/showers at the outdoor spigot and wash them off before we could go back into the trailer. Oops.
The campground has really nice bathrooms and showers. Here’s how they are situated: there is an apartment complex on the 2nd floor and the ground floor consists of concrete rooms where the bathrooms are on one side of the structure, the showers are on the other side of the structure. So there is not one bathroom that have showers – they are separate. And they are unisex – no women/men separations here! (I’m sure the 97 different types of gender people will appreciate that).
This campground is quite a bit off the beaten track, meaning, it’s sort of out in the middle of nowhere, so there aren’t any places close by to eat. However, the campground does have an onsite restaurant, (called Paddlers Grill), and that’s where we ended up having dinner that first night. It was a little awkward because we were the only people there and the restaurant was only open on Friday and Saturday nights and only for a few hours, but the food was decent and it was close, so we weren’t complaining.
Saturday, April 23rd, we slept in. Kevin cut out Styrofoam window coverings and we use those to put in the windows at night and they do a really good job of keeping any sort of light out so that it’s a perfect sleeping environment. As a result, we typically sleep in when we go camping because no light can come in and wake us up. We slept in till 9:00 then made our way down to the showers.
We both went into a shower room, side-by-side, (not together!), stripped down and realized, at the same time, that you had to pay $.50 in order to shower. So, we got dressed, met back outside at the same time and started laughing because we had no idea it cost money to shower. I don’t believe I saw that little tidbit on the website, but maybe I missed it.
Good thing I had some change in my purse! (Pro tip: Always make sure you have some change when you go camping).
We paid $.50 for five minutes which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it really wasn’t that bad. Knowing there was a time frame definitely made us hurry. I get why they charge a fee – some people take really long showers.
It was super windy and hot this day. We had planned on hiking a trail but we felt like it was too hot. Again, since this campsite was in the middle of nowhere, we weren’t really sure what to do. Onondaga Cave State Park was right next door to the campground, which was a nice surprise, so we headed to the cave to see how much a tour would cost. We arrived just as a tour had started and we didn’t want to stick around and wait for the next tour, so we drove around the area, took some pictures, headed into Cuba MO to check out some places to eat, picked up a few things at Wal-Mart, went to a flea market and picked up some interesting pieces for Kevin’s flea market booths, (also, we can write the trip off as a business expense – I’m not married to an accountant for no reason!), then went to Hickory BBQ and had dinner. Our movie for the night was Alexander. (We never watch movies until we go camping).
Sunday, April 24th, we had another late-start to our morning. Kevin used to be pretty militant when it came to vacation agendas. We had to be HERE, at a certain time, then HERE for another activity and BACK for dinner or whatever else we had planned. Thankfully, he’s mellowed out in his old age and now we do what we feel like doing. No agenda, no schedule, just play it by ear. Vacations are a lot more fun now.
We went back to the cave and this time we arrived just as they were putting another group together. We really like cave tours – it’s interesting to see how powerful water can be over time. This cave was very pretty and had a lot of interesting formations. We took some pictures, but this video also has some cool shots, too.
The cave tour took about an hour and a half and by the time we got back to our campground, the few people who had moved in on Friday were gone and we were one of two people left in the entire campground!! Talk about strange, weird and a little creepy. Keep in mind, this campground is about a mile long so that’s A LOT of empty space. They do have a security guard, an old guy that we waved to when we got back from dinner, but still – quiet and spooky.
But it was sort of nice to have the place to ourselves.
We spent some time sitting by the river reading and enjoying nature. It was awesome because it was so peaceful. It was one of the few times in life where it was absolutely quiet. You didn’t hear another human sound – no airplanes flying overhead, no barking dogs, no screaming kids, no loud music – just nature. It was very peaceful. I want to do more of that kind of camping. Which has made me re-think the possibility of camping at state parks. They are set up to be more peaceful – spaced out, right next to the lake – than say a commercial campground like Ozark Outdoors. Sure, it was peaceful then, but I’m betting it’s a mad house in the summer time.
We drove back into Cuba and ate at a Mexican restaurant – the decor was so loud it was almost painful to look at.
We then went back to our campground and watched RV and Blades of Glory. (Both funny movies, actually).
Monday, April 25th started off slow again. We slept in and tootled around the campsite for most of the morning. Then we went back to Onondaga park and walked the Deer Lane Trail. About a quarter of a mile into the trail, we ran into the entrance for the Cathedral Cave. The entrance consists of a heavy metal door into the side of a hill. What’s cool about the Cathedral Cave tour is that it’s a lantern tour, meaning, there are no lights in the cave, each person carries a flashlight into the cave and that’s how you explore it! Doesn’t that sound like fun?! Unfortunately, they don’t have as many tours for the Cathedral Cave as they did for the Onondaga cave so we didn’t get a chance to do that tour, but we would like to go back someday and try it out – it sounds fascinating. (Actually, I think they told us it was flooded because we had had so much rain).
The trail itself wasn’t very pretty, largely because the time of year we walked it was on the cusp of spring and the trees and vegetation hadn’t bloomed so everything was gray and brown. It was a long trail though, 2 1/2 miles. And what’s funny about this trail is that it wasn’t marked very clearly so there were a few times we took the wrong path. (One time I literally almost walked off a cliff!) We were looking for green markers on the path and if you happened to see a green marker, it wasn’t on the trail but on the trees alongside the trail. It was frustrating and after a while, I was completely convinced that we were lost. I was starting to get a little worried because it was getting late in the day and I was afraid we would be lost in the woods after dark. And we did not have cell service.
I wanted to turn back but Kevin, who had a map, said that we were nearly at the end of the trail and going back would take longer so we trudged forward. We finally stumbled our way back to the visitor center after several more wrong turns. I was pretty annoyed by that time and wanted to tell someone at the visitor’s center about the lack of signage but the center was closed and we were getting hungry so we ended up driving back into Cuba again and ate at Audrey’s Eatery. It’s supposed to be based on the movie “Little Shop of Horrors” and I thought it would be fun to eat there. However, it was a huge disappointment. The place was a dump. It doubled as a comic book store and had all sorts of gaming paraphernalia and we instantly regretted going there. However, after speaking to the waitress we found out they were in the middle of moving to a new building which explained the clutter and the chaos. They were very nice and the food was decent and I’m glad we went because we had a good laugh afterward, but it wasn’t really our kind of place.
We headed back to camp and Bill, the security guy, stopped us and talked to us for a bit and then we drove to our lone campsite in the middle of nothing. (Still makes me laugh thinking about how we had the ENTIRE place to ourselves). We built a campfire and Bill, who was driving around because he’s the security guy, stopped by our campsite and we talked for quite a while. He’s an elderly man and he had some interesting life stories. I could tell he was curious about our trailer so I offered to take him on a tour of the place. He seemed really interested in how our trailer was set up and I think he was surprised to see how comfortable it was. He stayed until the fire was nearly out and after he left we watched Wedding Crashers – a classic in my opinion.
Tuesday, April 26th we packed up and headed home. I was almost relieved to be leaving because like I said, having such a huge place to yourself is cool, but very weird. We made it back home at 12:45 PM and Kevin went straight to work and I unloaded the camper, cleaned it up and did five loads of laundry.
I also spent some time planning out our next camping trip. I worry that Kevin is get burned out on camping, Between camping with me and LeRoy, he will be camping a lot. Speaking of LeRoy, Kevin went ahead and reserved another trip with LeRoy at Ozark Outdoors because after all, LeRoy is the one who found out about this place – we wouldn’t have known about it otherwise. They are planning on going next weekend, as a matter of fact. It will be interesting to see how busy it is when they go now that it’s in the middle of summer and so hot. I’m sure the river is going to be super busy with tubers.
I wouldn’t mind going back to this campground again but it’s really for people who love spending time in the river. Personally, I can’t bring myself to swim in a lake or river because I can’t get past the fact that I don’t know what lies beneath me. It creeps me out. And if we aren’t planning on spending any time on the river, there’s not much else to do there. And the closest town with restaurants was about 15 minutes away.
Ozark Outdoors does have a cool Aerial Treetop Park. It’s basically like an obstacle course in the air. It looks like fun and I’m sure it will be a big hit with the kids and young adults. It was closed when we were there, not that we would have done anything on it if it was opened – that’s a little out of our league.
They also have a cool area called “Canoehenge” – a spot where a group of people can gather and have meetings, picnics, etc. Bill, the security officer, also told us they have outside movies in the summertime, too.
Overall, it’s a cool place and I’m sure it’s a lot of fun in the summer months. They were building another bathroom/shower facility when we were there which tells us they must really be hopping in the summer months. I’m looking forward to Kevin taking some pictures to see how busy it is when compared to when we were there. I don’t think Kevin and LeRoy plan on tubing while they are there, but you never know.
If you like to spend time on the river, this is the place for you. It’s a great place for families and they have several sites throughout the park where you could camp together with your family – family sites, I guess. I’m glad we went. It was interesting to see something different and so off the beaten track. Bill did tell us though that since they are so close to the river and it’s a pretty flat campground, they do have trouble with flooding from time to time. I don’t think we have to worry overly much about floods right now with it being so hot and dry, but it’s definitely something to consider if you’re planning on camping there. They also have cabins and as I mentioned before, apartments above the bathrooms/showers if you had family that wasn’t big into camping but wanted to “camp” with you.
The people were friendly, the facilities were super nice, there is a restaurant on site and they even advertise live music on the weekends.
Overall, I would give this campground 4 out of 5 stars.