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“Great Place to Camp”

Apple River Canyon State Park
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Attraction details
Owner description: A 297-acre park featuring bluffs and canyons formed by the Apple River.
Reviewed 25 September 2013

Nice clean camp ground. Spaced out well. Clean restrooms. If you need firewood you can head past the Ranger station and there is a place about a 1/2 mile up the road.

8  Thank gsteener
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 12 August 2013

My husband and I have been coming to this park for about 8 years and have been to it at least 2 dozen times for between 3 days to a week. It was always the escape we were looking for to get away from people and noise and to commune with nature, relax and de-stress.... until recently.

In 2011 the park started taking reservations and having a camp host but I can't speak of that year since I camped off peak season. In 2012 I was there for a week, the week days were quiet and of the 50 sites only about 5-7 were taken. By the end of the week the park was full and turning people way by mid-day Friday, but it was Memorial day weekend so that is what I expected. Despite the full park it wasn't overly loud and quiet hours were observed. The hosts that year were Dave and his wife (Linda maybe?). The park was pretty well kept in check with them as hosts and everything ran smoothy. It didn't turn out to be the getaway I was hoping for but with it being a holiday I wasn't surprised.

This year however I was VERY disappointed. The first problem I encountered were the dogs... so many dogs. We arrived on a Monday and planned to leave Sunday. We took site 3 which is our favorite but unfortunately nearly right across from the host site. The site across from us (as we found out after we set up) had 2 very large dogs, not on leashes, that barked at EVERYTHING, talking, walking by, the sound of the cooler opening, a zipper, you name it. As the weekend approached more groups came in with more dogs. By Friday night there were at least 20 dogs in the park and several fights broke out between dogs from various owners, either because they went running out of their sites or being walked without leashes. Over night Friday there were at least 2 dogs that literally barked non-stop throughout the night.

My other problem was the outhouses. It seems that despite the fact that they have much more revenue coming in (because of the reservations) the outhouse are not being emptied. The one by my site had about 4-5 feet of clearance from the seat to the sludge. It really needed to be emptied. It also stunk pretty badly and the flies were everywhere. This didn't used to be a problem, maybe they added something to the "water" daily and now they don't, I'm not sure.

I'm also not a fan of the reservations. I know it brings more money into the park but it has also changed it, and not for the better. Before reservations, the park was almost always silent (except for nature sounds) during the week with between 1-6 sites taken. On an average weekend it would be between 25-40 site taken. The people who camped there, even on the weekend, used to be a lot more respectful of the camping experience others were trying to enjoy. This meant that they didn't have music playing where other sites could hear it clearly, dogs that didn't know how to behave where left at home, and quiet hours were observed (of course there was an exception or two). Now with the reservations it seems that the cliental that it has attracted is much more disrespectful. They probably have been to other parks that are loud and rowdy and figured this is the same. It didn't used to be but it is now.

My biggest complaint though was the hosts. I don't know their names but they are an elderly couple that live a few miles from the park. They really made the trip even more unbearable than all the dogs and unobserved quiet hours. Let me first say, if you want to camp and avoid them all together, come on a Monday and leave Thursday since they don't stay in the park those days according to the ranger, though when I was there they returned Wednesday. To start, the wife is obnoxiously loud! I heard EVERY conversation she had with everyone that came to register, along with her complaining and gossiping about other campers to whoever was registering if they were unlucky enough to get stuck there for more than 2 minutes. I also heard her husband complaining to her that we took the one log left in the fire pit after a camper left (and in my opinion, collecting wood from sites after people leave is part of the camping experience and part of the fun). He said that it wasn't right and that he should get all the wood left because he was the host, from that point on we got dirty looks from him whenever he passed.

By Saturday we had enough and decided to start packing up first thing after breakfast. As we were packing I heard several people who stopped at the host to see if any sites where left being turned away because the park was full. I walked the 2 loops a few times that morning including once less than 2 minutes after someone was turned away and saw several open sites (not including 8 which was closed because of mud) just on the non-reservation side. The people that were smart enough to not ask and just look for themselves did find sites while we were still there (we left around noon).

Lastly, before we left my husband stopped at the host to get a refund for the night we didn't stay. We used to let the park keep the money if we had to leave early since we knew how the parks were struggling but now we are much worse off and the park appears to be doing much better. When he went over there the wife claimed the park doesn't give refunds, which I didn't think was true. I went to the ranger station to ask and he said if you paid with cash (we did) you can have a refund. We (the ranger and I) went back to the host and he explained how to do refunds to her and we got our money. She claimed that this was the first time and she didn't know. Somehow, I don't think so. It is the 3rd month they have been hosts, it has defiantly come up. They likely pocket that money themselves when someone else takes the site since now that site has been paid for twice for that night.

Over all they were awful hosts that made an already disappointing trip into torture. For the first time ever, coming home was a relief. Usually we are pretty sad the trip is over when we get home. I'll let you decide if this is a park for you, but it is no longer what we are looking for. I thought that the park not having showers, flush toilets, concessions, playgrounds or water activities (besides fishing) would be enough to preserve it but I guess not.

On a positive note, the park did replace "travel at your own risk" stairs at the start of the Primrose trail with beautiful wooden stairs with 3 little decks with benches. It was a welcomed surprise. Also Steve and the other older gentleman (sorry I forgot his name. Gray hair and mustache) that work there were a joy to talk to as always.

10  Thank Krystle S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 July 2013

Stopped for a picnic with the family. Fished a little (didn't catch anything); the kids were not feeling well. Have not camped here but would like to. Apple River looks pretty clean through here.

Thank bbqkeith48
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 June 2013

There are 5 trails, we did 2. Nice quick hikes to get out of the car and get moving! We prefer these kinds of walks/hikes. Saw some fisherman. Bathroom was clean with TP. Did not see any showers etc.

Thank ms9
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 27 May 2013

Lovely, clean and compact state park offering tent camping spaces, easy hiking trails, and fishing on the Apple River. Enjoyed one night of camping with my daughter. Camping spots are as secluded and quiet as these things go. Each space had a fire pit with attached grill. Bathrooms were pretty clean too with plenty of TP.

All said and done, this is a good destination for drive-up camping and its a short 2.5 hour drive from Chicago.

3  Thank JohnThomason
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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