Camden State Park is a beautiful getaway on the prairies of southwestern Minnesota. Home to varied terrain such as rolling grasslands, hilly forests, the Pinewood River, lakes, and ponds, you’ll be thankful that the park has miles of trails to help you explore it all. Created in 1935, much of the park’s infrastructure was built by the Veterans Civilian Corps and the Works Progress Administration during the Depression. Thirteen remaining buildings and structures on the property now have the National Register of Historic Places status.
Camden is a treat in all seasons. In spring, marvel at abundant wildflowers such as white trillium, trout lilies, bloodroot, and violets. To beat summer’s heat, splash and paddle in the swimming pond or the beach at Brawner’s Lake. Don’t forget the sunscreen! As the woods burst with autumn colors, put on your waders and commune with the trout in Pinewood River. And in winter, tow the snowmobile or strap on your snowshoes to explore the miles of groomed trails to historic ruins or to enjoy the snow-covered silence.
Boasting 80 drive-in sites (47 with electric hookups), 12 equestrian campsites, great facilities, and easy access to activities, RV camping at Camden State Park is a pleasant and restorative experience. You will be near the river and lake no matter which camp you choose. Whatever outdoor activity you enjoy, you can find it here at Camden.
Camden State Park is located in the southwestern Minnesota area, about 1.5 hours from Sioux Falls, SD and three hours from Minneapolis. The next biggest town is Marshall, MN, which lies about ten miles away, off of State Highway 23. Just off of County Road 83, you can reach the park from US-59 to the east, US-14 to the south, US-75 to the west, and MN-30 to the north.
The roads leading into the park are mostly level and straight with no major issues for RVers no matter what you are driving. Of course, it is always smart to drive slowly so you can enjoy the view and watch out for wildlife that may wander out onto the road. If you like history, head up to Marshall and visit the Lyon County Historical Museum and the Museum of Natural History. You can learn all about the history of the area surrounding the park.
Within the park, all of the 92 sites in the three campgrounds can fit up to 50-foot rigs, and seven of those can also manage 60-footers in drive-through spots. There are no reports of the roads within the park being too difficult for the 60-foot RVs, although, if you have any doubts, call ahead to get info on specific spots.
The Lower Campground, which is strangely located in the northern section of the park, has 35 campsites with 26 of them having electric hookups. Most sites are along the Redwood River and the rest are near enough to have a water view. These sites can accommodate rigs between 50-60 feet. However, the 60-foot ones are pull-through only and there are just seven of them. Each of the campsites has its own picnic table and fire ring with a grate to cook on.
Located by the viewing area, amphitheater, picnic areas, and the swimming beach, most of the amenities and recreation are in this camping area. The kids will love the playground and sandbox. Bathrooms throughout the park are clean and well-maintained; however flush toilets, showers, and the dump station are only available from mid-May through mid-October. Reservations can be made up to a year in advance. Pets are welcome but must be leashed or otherwise restrained during your stay.
The Upper Campground, which is actually located in the southern end of the park, is home to newer facilities and generally has fewer mosquitoes because it is not as close to the river. This campground offers 45 sites, 21 with electricity. With spacious lots divided by lots of trees, camping at Camden State Park is a relaxing and enjoyable experience. All spaces come equipped with fire pits and picnic tables. Restrooms with hot showers are in the middle of the campground, and there are eight water spigots located around the camp.
You may want to bring some earplugs because the park lies just across the river from a noisy train that runs even in the middle of the night. You can bring your furbabies too because they are welcome to join you as long as they are restrained and supervised at all times during your visit. The kids will love hiking the many miles of trails and you will enjoy the peace and solitude that the Upper Campground offers. Open from the middle of May until the middle of October, reservations can be made up to 12 months in advance.
Located just to the west of the Upper Campground, right across the railroad tracks, the Equestrian Campground has 12 large campsites for those who brought their horses along for their visit. All sites have enough space for a large RV and trailer. You will find picnic tables, a fire ring with a grill for cooking on, and a tie-up for your horses at each of the sites as well. There are no utilities but there are vault toilets and you can get water from the Upper Campground.
You will only be about 500 feet from the river, so you don’t have far to go if you want to take a swim or do some fishing. You can even put in your canoe or kayak here and do some paddling. The bridle trail is connected to the campground so you can just saddle up and head out for a ride any time you like. Bring your other four-legged family members along too. Just make sure you bring a leash for them.
As long as you don’t plan on bringing your pets along, you can reserve the Redwood Lodge for a more unique style of camping. Not only is it spacious but it is historic and beautiful. Built in 1935, you can rent the lodge all year long. The huge home has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a large patio with a campfire ring and barbecue pit. One of the bedrooms has two sets of bunk beds and two have queen beds, so you and seven guests will sleep comfortably here.
The lodge is located in the northern end of the park right on the river, and you won’t have to worry about the heat or cold weather because it has heat, air conditioning, and even a gas fireplace to make it really cozy. The lodge is ADA-accessible including one of the bathrooms. The fully furnished kitchen has appliances, dishes, cookware, and even a coffee pot and toaster. All you have to bring is your food and drinks.
How about a real-life treasure hunt, right in the state park? At Camden, you can check out a free geocaching kit - geocaching is using GPS coordinates to help you locate little treasures that the park system or other visitors have previously hidden. Usually, the coordinates come along with a tricky clue or riddle, so that when you find the place, you also have to solve a puzzle to figure out where exactly to look for your hidden treasure in that area. The geocaching rule is: you can take what you find, but you must leave something else in its place. It’s a blast for children and adults alike.
Unless there is snow on the ground, Camden State Park is your biking oyster! All around the park you can cruise on single track mountain bike trails - check out the prairies, hilly forest, and cross over exciting streams and rivers. If you don’t want to be quite so extreme, hop on the Camden Regional Bike Trail - a 10-mile, paved track from the park to the nearby city of Marshall. Take this scenic route to get some ice cream or a drink in this charming town with excellent bike lanes to help you easily get around on two wheels.
In every season, Camden State Park maintains trails that will make you want to spring out the door and have an adventure. There are 15.8 miles of adventures. Of those, 1.7 are an interpretive hike with information about nature and the fascinating history of this fairly old state park. Check out the 10 miles of horseback riding trails, or in the winter, come take advantage of the 1.5-mile groomed skate-ski trail, 7.5-miles of snowmobile trails, or make your own path with a pair of snowshoes! On any of these treks, check out the Jones Mill Historic Site where the settlement of Camden, MN used to be or, in the spring, keep your eyes peeled for stunning wildflowers.
Camden State Park is a guaranteed great day of fishing. Drop a line at the fishing pier and try for bluegill or bass at Brawner Lake. If you didn’t bring your own gear, the park has you covered! At the main office, you can check out a Fishing Kit, which includes a rod, reel, and a fully stocked tackle box for free! Or you can dabble in the world of fly fishing by taking one of the occasionally offered workshops at the park and then try for some trout in the Redwood River. There’s no doubt you’ll catch something worthy of a photo to put on the mantle while at Camden.
Visitors can’t find enough good things to say about the lovely water at Camden. First, there’s the Redwood River running through the park which offers the consistent opportunity to cool down with a dip as it follows some of the hiking trails. Then, there’s a pretty sand beach at Brawner’s Lake and the spring-fed swimming pond. This pond and a beautiful bathhouse built from local stone were both constructed around 1935 when the park was first founded.
Camden State Park has the fortunate location of being right on the Redwood River and Brawner’s Lake. On their way into the park, visitors can rent canoes, kayaks, or stand-up paddleboards (also called “SUP boards”) from the rental shop by the park entrance. For reasonable rates, you’ll have the tools to explore these peaceful bodies of water and enjoy the park’s beauty from a new angle. Of course, you are welcome to bring your own water vessel if you have one.