Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Seven Points Recreation Area - Raystown Lake

The road up from Jennings Randolph Lake in West Virginia is a pleasant ride through the slowly diminishing mountains as they turn into the Alleghenies in southern central Pennsylvania. We follow US 220 from Keyser for most of the trip, turning off some forty or so miles from Raystown Lake. The road runs mostly along the valleys, following the rolling contour of the land north, except for the short, gut-busting climb just before we get the Campground entrance.

The roadway pull-off at the main gate is angled so the quick trip to the registration office is short and painless. The pleasant, young attendant informs me almost all of the 246 campsites will be filled for most of our stay, so he hopes we will be happy with our on-line selection. He tells me the on-line system is down, making that the third time I have heard  that story in the last three weeks at three different campgrounds. I'm beginning to wonder if that isn't just a standard answer. Switching campsites will prove to be difficult if we aren't satisfied. We also find out none of them have water at the pad. Obviously, that isn't a hindrance to the campground's popularity, and we soon see why.

Our first impression of the huge facility as we drive in is really good. The Raystown Lake project is over thirty miles long and appears to be extremely well utilized. Almost all of the visitor's or camping facilities are actually run under contract rather than the Corps itself. The Seven Points Campground is run by a non-profit organization known as the Friends of Raystown Lake, and they do a really good job of keeping the place spotless. They honor the Golden Age Passports and America the Beautiful passes where some concessionaires do not. They also run a busy marina as well as a restaurant and a ship's store. In addition, the world famous Allegrippis mountain bicycle trails are part of the recreational system they maintain, the trail head being just a few hundred yards past the main entrance to the recreation area.

There is another area some fifteen miles south known as Lake Raystown Resort and Convention Center, on Corps of Engineers property, but not run by the Corps itself. They offer lodges, a convention center, cabins, a marina, and another 200 or so camping sites, but they are run by a commercial organization and do not accept the age-based passes many retirees count on. Their campsite prices are considerably higher than any of the Seven Points campgrounds, but claim most of their sites are on the water while Seven Points only has three campgrounds on the lake itself. I'm afraid if the political powers that want to commercialize all Federal assets have their way, the middle class campers will be basically locked out of the facilities we now enjoy. 

This is the first Corps of Engineers facility we have visited that has more than one campground at the main location. In fact, it has six campgrounds inside the main gate. Our campground, Bay Camp, is not on the water.  We've always had full hook-ups everywhere we've camped in the past. In the four years we have been RVing across Florida and Georgia, we have never had less than 30 amp electrical service and potable water at our campsite, regardless of where we were or the agency that ran the facility. The Robert W. Craig Campground at Jennings Randolph Lake was our first campground with only community water. The Seven Points Campground at Raystown Lake, Pennsylvania, is our second.

the perimeter of the recreation area, checking out the many picnic areas and camps. The main road becomes a one way road forming a loop about two miles long. Our turn-off is just before the intersection with the main road, so anytime we drive out in the future we must make the two-mile loop to get back to the campsite.

At first glimpse, Bay Camp seems to be a barren, featureless campground and we are extremely disappointed. Our first thought is this is the least appealing campground we have had yet. It is a single road with a turn around loop at the end. Sites are across from one another for the first half of the road. There are campsites on only one side of the road once you get past the toilet facility, and our site has privacy in front and behind of our pad. The pads themselves are gravel, but appear clean and level. Not as much space between sites as at Robert W. Craig, but far better than Goose Point.

We slowly creep along, looking at signposts and find the people in 160A, our assigned campsite, are still there. They will be there awhile as they haven't started breaking camp yet. Bicycles and towels litter the camp site. We look at the time: 2:45 pm, we are too early, they have until 4:00 pm to check out.

As we slowly drive by the campsite, two large, unleashed dogs run up to the car from site 161, our potential neighbors. Taz, our Golden Retriever mix, immediately responds with snarls and barking, his head as far out the window as possible. Ilse immediately has words with the seemingly disinterested owner who waddles over and seems shocked when my wife informs her dogs must be leashed. Oh well, back to the main gate to see what is available elsewhere in the recreation area.

Again, the young attendant, not as happy this time, informs me while
we can switch sites three times to fit it in, there are no other sites in the entire facility open for the time we need.  I complain about the untethered animals, and the attendant seems almost disinterested. I up the tension somewhat to make my point about the seriousness of the matter, and demand a ranger visit the campsite. He gets flustered and annoyed, guaranteeing me he'll call as soon as he gets a chance.

With a sense of resignation, we head back toward our reserved site on the Bay Camp campground from the main gate. Unable to change our location, we decide to make the best of it, after all, we will be here thirteen days! We stop at a communal water spigot on our way back from the unplanned trip to the main gate and top off our fresh water holding tank. There are potable water filling stations located in the same area as the multi-lane dump station so filling with fresh water up on the way in to the campsites is no problem. We used the spigot in front of the really nice and clean showers in the Ridge Campground to fill up. We will be staying in that campground on a return visit in August, and are happy to find just not showers, but Ridge Campground is also the only loop with coin operated washers and dryers. But, it is also the furthest campground from the lake, so there is always a trade-off.

We will have to unhook once while we are here to dump our gray water and black water holding tanks. We will try to limit our stays in the future at any one campsite to no longer than it takes to fill the tanks. It is the only way we have to avoid the exercise of hooking up and moving the trailer just to dump our waste water. There are alternatives available, such as a small, portable waste tank that is used to empty black water tanks without moving the RV, but we haven't yet found a solution for our small trailer. The problem is space.

Most of the little plastic, towable sewage tanks are simply too big to store any where under our little trailer. Most larger fifth-wheels and class “A” RVs have storage space under the unit to accommodate the little intermediate sewage transport system when not in use, but there is no room for one in my 21 foot long KZ Sportsmen. I certainly have no intention of carrying the empty little septic tank in my SUV! The towable units come in many different sizes and colors. One of the more popular brands is bright blue, and many campers simply call the little plastic wheeled, tow-alongs, regardless of its actual color, “Blue Boys.” As with everything in life, you get what you pay for. 

The larger tanks, in the 27 to 35 gallon range, all have automatic stops to prevent “messy” overfilling, while the smaller ones such as the one 12 gallon model that might actually fit under my unit, has no such safety against overflow. Just use long, industrial strength rubber gloves and a good sense of timing or your 26 gallon trailer tank will overpower the little 12 gallon portable unit, and you will wish you had just moved the camper to the dump station instead. I can only imagine the difficulties in cleaning a pad that has no water connection!

We have watched many campers go through the routine of emptying their “Blue Boys” at dump stations, often with fairly humorous results. The unmistakable rumble the unit makes as it is dragged at less than five miles an hour through camping loops en route to the dump station is a well known sound at every RV campground. We watched one elderly camper who reminded me of Don Knotts try to tip a rather large portable unit to empty it while at Goose Point. I decided then and there if I ever use one of those things, it will be in the dead of night when everyone else is asleep.


We have no choice but to kill time at the really nice visitor's center, where we chat with the woman who runs the gift shop. There is no information more valuable than from a local resident, and her information and insight immediately makes it clear to us this is an area we want to see. She tells us to come back at 9:30 in the morning for a vendor's showcase. We'll have a chance to win door prizes and pick up all kinds of brochures and passes. They'll even have free coffee and doughnuts.

Four O'clock rolls around and we slowly head back to Bay Camp on the one-way winding road past the huge marina and the boat ramps, not knowing what to expect. We slowly roll into the half-empty campsite, carefully looking for the dogs. Our campsite has been vacated, so we have no problem backing in. We carefully look around the campsite, our neighbor's dogs are nowhere to be seen. The pop-up is still there, but the dogs are gone.

Again, we really appreciate the Corps of Engineers parks and the people who run them. They have little tolerance for those who won't abide by the rules.

NEXT: Enjoying the lake at Raystown aboard the Princess, at:

1 comment:

  1. Hello I hope your summer is going well. It was very nice to meet the both of you at Raystown. Enjoy the rest of your summer and have a safe trip. Terri and her crew


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