Monday, August 7, 2017

Campground Review, Left Tailrace. Chamberlain, SD

Courtesy of US Army Corp of Engineers website

After ten days in Forest City, Iowa it's time to hit the road. We've decided to take the scenic route to Colorado. We're heading north into Minnesota, then I-90 west through South Dakota to Buffalo, WY then southbound. Our big stop is Rapid City, South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore. The tricky part of this route is that it puts us on the much traveled route to between Rushmore & Yellowstone. We usually like to wing dates and stops, but we had to make a few reservations for this trip. Specifically, because of the Sturgis bike rally the first week of August!  
"There's a front-loader and an RV in a round-about... 
(Insert joke here.  We just crossed into #Minnesota.  Check!)..."

"We're streaming 93.7 Denver on iHeartRadio but our CoPilot navigation app keeps switching the music to Kenny Chesney.  It took me awhile to convince The Colonel that it wasn't me!"

Our first billboard for Wall Drug 355 miles.

Adrian, MN

The rain delayed our departure but we got in 144 miles after lunch. First stop is Adrian, MN Municipal Park Campground which is shaped in a circle! $30/night.  We only stayed here for the night.  It was easy access off the road, the staff was friendly and it was a quick in & out with a swing through the truck stop the next morning.  I'm refraining from a full review, but the shape is either ingenious or weird.  I couldn't decide.  It does make your spot pie shaped which was tolerable but I could see how it could get tricky if the park was full.  They also don't understand "pull-thru".  We were able to pull through one spot into our spot without unhooking, but the dinghy hung into the spot behind us (which was empty).  Not a true pull-thru--especially if they were full.

"The Copilot took the wheel today! 
I drove from our campground to a rest stop (1 1/2 hours). Of course, we went into three different construction zones that involved lane changes, riding the right AND left hand lines and cones on our side of the line! Terrifying, but then the open road is SO much easier! It was equally terrifying for The Colonel but he was a good sport!
No RV's were damaged."

The campground in the middle of the Missouri River and below the dam! 

Headed to our first Corp of Engineers campground.  Tours of the Big Bend Dam sealed the deal (there are more upriver if you want to explore). only took reservations more than 24 hours in advance so I called before departing Adrian and were told, "Come on up!  We have room.  We'll let you in early."  (Normal check in/out is 4:00 pm!  
We were able to get a reservation for the weekend when we arrived on a Thursday). 

Passed the exit for the Laura Ingalls Wilder house in DeSmet, SD.

"We found the Missouri river, ya'll.  We are not lost!"

We turned just before the Missouri River and followed the river north from an elevated position.  Panorama from the overlook just north of Chamberlain

It's the furtherest we've wandered off the highway in search of the perfect spot (30 miles).  The rolling hills of South Dakota were breathtaking as we followed the Missouri River north, along a portion of the Native American Scenic Byway ( the Crow Creek reservation, to our campground.  

South Dakota section of Native American Scenic Byway courtesy of

Directions:  We had the GPS & directions from the website but it was still a little confusing ( below, italics are mine).  They advise taking Hwy 50 up the east side of the river.  This is the most scenic drive.  However, we departed on Highway 47 & according to our Trucker's Atlas, it is an equally suitable road.
  • From west bound I-90 take exit 265 at Chamberlain SD, 
  • Turn right on to Highway 50 (also Main Street just before the bridge crossing the Missouri River) travel approximately 16 miles,
  • Turn left on to BIA Highway 4, travel 8 miles to Ft. Thompson SD, 
  • (At the roundabout) Turn left on to highway 47 travel 3 miles (there is currently a 11-ft restriction for a small bridge under construction (one-lane, light traffic, we were able to take it slow) 
  • Then take a left at the Left Tailrace Campground sign on Big Bend Dam (you'll start across the bridge across the dam.  There is an unmarked left turn at the flag display that will take you to the campground, otherwise look for the sign saying Powerhouse Lobby/Left Tailrace exit--doesn’t say campground)
  • Then travel approximately 1 mile to the Left Tailrace Campground.  (Not much signage but just follow the loop (camper’s & fishermen or marina signs) until you see the little log hut that is the campground office). 

Services:  All sites 30 & 50 amp but only a few water spigots (so ask before entering).  Dump Station on the way out.  Our T-Mobile iPhones were roaming on AT&T (200 mb, no streaming) but immediately switched to T-Mobile at the top of the hill (next time we would drive up to parking lot across the highway & download some Netflix!).

Spot #51

We are in truck country which means fifth wheels rule. However towing a fishing boat behind that appears the norm! (We saw this is CO last year also)

We were joined by lots of local fishermen over the weekend.  We were in spot 51, a pull-through on the dam end but on a walk I discovered spot 12 is the primo spot with an amazing view of the lake, followed by 22A.  A quick glance shows spots 23-26 (or 28-29) are within reach of the water spigot if you have a couple hoses.  There is a two-week limit, but the cashier said there is a boondocking site “up the hill” that allows a two-week stay also.

Spot #12 sunrise

To do:
Big Bend Dam tour:  Sorry, no pics allowed.  The creepiest section was 109 ft below the lake, behind an 8 foot thick cement wall, below the generators.  Be sure to walk along the water outside after the tour and see the HUGE fish right up against the dam.

Akta Lakota Museum:  A free museum in Chamberlain and well worth the stop.  Again, photography was not allowed, so you'll have to check it out for yourself.

Lewis & Clark trail passes near here.  We're from Missouri and kind of immune to the trail, so you're on your own with this one.


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