No pets, no beverages, no hammocks, oh my! This is the theme for our next adventure, friends, as we travel to Housatonic Meadows State Park Campground in Sharon Connecticut, home of what Spencer likes to call, the No Fun Zone…. Wait no, lets do that again with someone far more qualified… queue music.
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Perfect! So now, one look at this campground website would have you believe that you are out in the wilderness, among the unicorns and butterflies, boating and laughing, fishing and hiking, but nothing could be farther from the truth. To make matters worse, if there were ever a place that says rules were meant to be broken, it’s here in Connecticut. The worst part is the park rangers see it and then do nothing except lecture you when you first arrive. The speculation is that there must be a lot of paperwork involved because even if you report something they do everything in their power to ignore it.
Let us explain, and most of this is from Spencer, Kimberly says the campground isn’t typically like this. She says a lot of this is only because we went on Labor day weekend, and it’s towards the end of the official camping season so it is to be expected. Anyway, when we first arrived we were given a strong lecture about no alcohol, no pets, no hanging anything off trees including velcro hammocks and clotheslines of any kind. We were told they lost several trees recently so no towels, lanterns, or anything could be hung from trees. We were told the waters are fly fishing only, we were informed of quiet times, everything we needed to know was lectured to us right then and there. That’s fine, we typically abide by the rules, so we like to know everything off the bat so there is no confusion. Spencer had a fly rod and his out of state fishing license with the must have stamp, we had our supplies, and everything seemed to be in order. Again, this was Labor day weekend, and Spencer understands that, but upon entering the park we saw hammocks hanging from trees, we saw people openly drinking beer, we saw people walking dogs, it was completely backwards from what we were just told. That part of the Housatonic is fly fishing only, and the trout are strictly catch and release, there were signs up all over, but there were people with standard fishing rods, keeping fish, it was a complete free for all. The sad part is that the majority of the park can be seen out the window of the Ranger station, and nobody said a word.
There is no electric on the sites but that didn’t stop people from using electronics, so whatever, to each their own, but there was an electric rice cooker, actually cooking rice, and we wish we were kidding, on the floor just outside one of one of the toilet stalls in the girl’s bathroom. Somebody was cooking their food, on the floor, next to a toilet, in a public bathroom….
There is no field for anyone to play in, so random people were playing whiffle ball in the main driveway, bouncing the ball off of other peoples vehicles, tents and campers. Typically a campground with that many sites, close together like that, has some sort of space, but there is nothing, no basketball hoop, no horse shoes, no volleyball net, no anything. You are not supposed to bring wood into the park, which is pretty standard and for good reason, but the wood that the ranger station sells is so green you could not light it with a blowtorch so people were continually foraging in the wooded area for sticks, branches, and breaking limbs off trees with a hatchet. To top it off this campground is more or less a big open field, sandwiched in between a river, and a highway, with a couple of bathroom buildings.
This, friends, presented somewhat of a conundrum, we did find ways to enjoy ourselves Spencer says the fishing action is fantastic. The fish weren’t big but he was out with a fly rod catching small mouth bass left and right, while the girls were swimming, just out of casting range, which he found surprising. He did release all of the fish he caught, he may have otherwise considered keeping one, or two, if they were bigger but not from GE contaminated waters, which this part of the river is. Kimberly enjoyed adventuring the campground, and making her campfire chili while reading her Vogue. We took the motorcycle out quite a bit as well, there is some beautiful landscapes, very nice hobby shops, potters, historic sights and trails to view. We discovered a hiking trail that ran along side the river, headed towards Mass, next to site 18. We have no idea how far this goes, but we followed it for a long way and it was a beautiful view. So as you can see there were things to do and we did have a lot of fun with the family. However, if absolutely nobody else followed the rules, does that mean we could maybe bend them a little? Maybe have a beer while we relax near the campfire like we typically do? Would anyone even notice? Seems like it’s a serious possibility, Kimberly claims the rangers don’t usually care as long as it’s not out in the open and you aren’t disturbing other campers. We, of course, aren’t telling you what we eventually decided so lets just call this food for thought if you ever decide to come here. MUAHAHAHA…
What really helped is that we had two campsites next to each other, one for us and one for the children, and they were surrounded on two sides by a large rock wall. We were then able to position the vehicles, and tents so that we had a bit more privacy in our spot. Now, we know we started off making this sound like the doorstep to a certain place you do not want to be, but realistically, for the most part, people were respectful of each other. They were laughing and enjoying themselves, yea they were breaking the rules but they weren’t really bothering anyone, or harming anything while doing it. So why should anyone care, including us, if they were having harmless fun on the weekend? Well the fact of the matter is we didn’t care, but like anyplace that you find harmless rule breakers there is always at least one group who takes it too far. A large obnoxious group which we had to deal with ourselves since the rangers couldn’t be bothered. Do you know that saying “one bad apple spoils the bunch”? Kimberly feels that this group may have been what spoiled the bunch for Spencer but aside from that he feels that the park should still have intervened after so many campers complained.
Fortunately that one group left after a day, for some reason… … …and things got a bit better after that. This was a large group, taking two or three campsites, and these people were stripping their cloths in the woods, got drunk and made fun of other campers, the “adults” were training the younger boys, who looked like the teen version of Hansen, sorry guys, to be ninjas, throwing knives at trees and plastic water jugs towards other peoples sites, you name it. They even left their vehicles parked on the campsite two hours after they packed up, and were supposed to be gone forcing new campers to pull in and set up around them. So yea, Spencer agrees that this group made the campground look far worse than it actually is, but he also feels the campground management is partly to blame.
That said, the bathrooms are clean, for the most part, and more up to date than a lot of bathrooms we have seen. The only issue we found was with, once again, the rangers. Let’s just say all of the stalls in both buildings were out of paper products for a day and a half, and the staff just hung out in the brand new, air conditioned ranger station while campers…lets just stop there. With that, there is a general store and a gas station just down the road, and a supermarket about 15 minutes away, so any supplies you may forget, or need, are just a stone’s throw away. We came prepared, as usual, so no trouble for us, other campers weren’t so thrilled about the circumstances though.
Now, there is but one shower stall in each bathroom, in each bathhouse, just outside of the last toilet stall in the row. There are lines of people waiting, for this shower, that could last all day when it’s busy. Then, to top it off, the shower stalls have no door, just a single, torn, curtain that doesn’t like to stay propped over the opening facing the bathroom entrance on the other side of the room, where people are waiting. If you have children you will want to escort them and play watchdog since the bench, to set all of your cloths on, is just on the other side of this curtain. The showers themselves are heated, which is nice, but you have to keep pressing the button on the wall which will shut itself off after about a minute and a half. Not a problem, however the lights are also on a motion sensor which doesn’t see into the shower stall so you will be trying to find that button, and getting dressed, in the dark if you decide to shower at night.
The sites, themselves, were clean, and the park was actually quiet for there being so many people camping together. In fact it’s a lot more quiet than other campgrounds that we have been to that had less people. The ground, in many of the campsites, is mostly grass, except near the row of pine trees near the river. These areas have a lot of mixed soil covered in dead pine needles, and the trees continually drop more of them into your food, and drinks, so you may want to bring cups with lids, or water bottles. Some sites did have all grass, down by sites 3-7, and some sites had no grass at all, like sites 23-25. The bugs were not too bad, being near the water, but you may want to bring some form of insect repellent since they are there. You’ll see them mostly gathering around the lights but they don’t bother you too much near the fire. There are also a lot of access points to the river although there is a bank to walk down. This bank starts as non existent down by site 18 to virtually unclimbable near site 58. With that our list of recommended sites is going to be very small since most of the sites are poor, or stacked on top of each other, but we will cover most of them anyway to give you a general idea of the area.
The cabins were actually quite nice, they were spaced out quite a bit, and had a beautiful view of the river. The insides were all knotty pine and from the outside they looked pretty clean. They seem to be pretty roomy too and if you decide to come to this campground we would recommend one of these cabins. Specifically we would recommend one of the center two since the outer cabins have a sea of tent sites just beyond their border. These cabins are also pretty close to the bathhouse, which is across the roadway on a hill, and the cabins are about as far away from the highway, in this park, as you can get. They are also just down the way from a hiking trail that runs along the river headed towards Mass. With that said, this area is the nicest in the campground, but probably could get quite busy.
Sites 45 – 52 are all on top of each other, and have a wide open view of the Highway which constantly has cars and motorcycles traveling up and down it. The sites are also on a slight hill so if you decide to actually play a ball type game, in the small area near this road, there is a good chance that your ball will wind up there. However if you can deal with the noisy traffic, and don’t really mind being close to other campers, we suppose this would be a great spot to play a horse shoe type game, maybe corn hole. These pictures were taken next to site 50, so what you are really seeing is only 3 campsites. 51, 52, and 45 with 51 being empty.
Sites 2 -7 seem to be on top of each other but are actually a little more spaced out than the rest. The reason that the sites seem to be a lot closer, than they actually are, is because the space is so open. These sites are very grassy, and they may actually not be too bad in the off season. When we took this picture most of the campers had already left so Spencer can see Kimberly’s attraction to the place, to a certain extent. This area is also away from the main campground so you will not see the road, and its a bit more quiet.
Sites 12-16 are right on top of each other with no grass. If you look close at the picture, that small space, actually shows all five sites just beyond the cabin. These sites are right on the water so maybe that’s the draw, but it’s just too much, in too small of a space, for us. We could see this spot getting very crowded, and noisy which also takes away from cabin 11. That’s why we said to try and get one of the middle two cabins earlier in our blog.
Site 17, in our opinion, is the honeypot of the campground, it is large, lots of brush, a rock wall separates site 17 from site 16, and it’s right on the water. Site 18, on the other hand, is probably, the smallest in the entire place. See that furthest white vehicle attached to the silver trailer? That gentleman is getting ready to leave, and his vehicle is covering the entire site. We got another picture just after he left and it is small, it’s secluded because of all of the brush but small. Realistically this site should just be combined with site 17 since you can only really camp on three quarters of it. Site 18 only has enough room for one tent, maybe, and as you can see from the picture, the gentleman camping there didn’t even have a place to park his vehicle. If you have kids, or just want a nice quiet nook to call your own, we recommend trying to secure both 17 and 18, that way you have the entire loop to yourself, no through traffic, your on the river, and you can camp in peace.
Sites 19-25, are in a loop, but they aren’t ideal due to their mismatched sizes. See, this is tricky, but 24 and 25 are large sites, 20-22 are tiny sites, 19 and 23 are medium size. So 21 and 22, the tiny sites, have a lot of brush around them so that helps quite a bit but then 20, also a tiny site, is left out in the open with 19 right on top of it. These sites are also the furthest from any bathroom then just outside of the loop, near site 25, is the entrance to the busy part of the campground. 25 is probably the best one out of the bunch, it has a ton of room, but no grass, lots of roots, it does have a rock wall separating it from site 29. Still, if this loop gets full, it could very easily turn into a complete nightmare. Vehicles, kids, tents, there just really isn’t enough room, for everyone and everything, on the smaller sites so they spill out into other camping space. Now, if the State removed Site 20, and Combined 21 and 22, this spot might not actually be too bad, but until then we recommend staying away from it.
The campground map is a bit misleading as well, so if you are following along, 59, 60, and 61 are actually right next to each other. They are close to the driveway, you are a stones throw away from the highway, and they are small sites. Not to mention, these three sites have the power lines running through them, with the telephone pole, and the multiple guy-wires, sitting right smack dab in the middle of site 61. Sites 37-39 are sandwiched between the dumpsters and the bathrooms, there is no second bathroom there like the map suggests. Unless that’s a dumping station for RV’s but the map doesn’t say what it is, and we didn’t notice it while walking around. Either way this is not an ideal place to be so we would recommend not camping there. 29-32 and 53-56 are all stacked right next to each other, despite what the map says. Sites 57 and 58 are also next to each other, grassy, small, on a hill, they overlook the entire loop, and the highway both. This side of the campground also has a very steep drop to get to the river. That said this spot might not actually be too bad if you have an RV and secure both sites for the weekend.
If you do get a site in this half of the campground, try to get a site that is in the corner of one of the rock walls because that adds quite a bit of privacy to your area. That said sites 34 and 40 are probably the best out of the bunch since they both have some grass, up to a certain point, the access to the water isn’t too bad, and they are the right distance from the bathrooms. To get to the water there is a long hill to walk down, which isn’t too bad either, and there is a picture of the girls standing on it earlier in this blog. Once you get to the river there is a steep cliff but if you follow the river downstream a bit there are random paths down this drop that lead to the water.
So here they are again, our list of go-to sites for the Housatonic Meadows State Park Campground in Sharon Connecticut…
- 17 (Honeypot) Preferably with Site 18
- Site 34
- Site 40
- Cabin 9
- Cabin 10
Overall, Spencer gives this place a thumbs down, it’s too open for his liking, too many people, and it felt, to him, like camping in the middle of a small fishing village. Remember though, he would be happy pitching a tent in the middle of nowhere, with no amenities, and calling it good. He says there is no place for anyone to play games, you’re forced to spend outrageous prices for an out of state fishing license, plus an extra fee for a stamp for this particular spot. Then you are not allowed to even keep a fish from the species that this, must have, stamp represents. Not that he would keep the fish anyway, to him it’s just the principle. Despite the several fun things we did with the children, and the fact that he did have a lot of fun, he doesn’t like being the only person actually following the rules, when he goes somewhere, after being lectured about them.
Kimberly gives this place a thumbs up, she promises that the added crowd is just from us going on Labor day weekend, and its usually not so full. She has come here before, with friends, usually securing site 17 which is our honey pot site for the grounds. This place holds a special place in her heart, it is quiet, has clean bathrooms, hot showers, and allows her to do the things she loves doing most while camping. The children had fun, they liked running around playing, swimming in the river, at the same time Spencer was catching fish. Kimberly likes the fact that we didn’t have to worry too much about traffic, or unwanted guests, as she sat reading and tending her campfire. She also believes that Spencer, since he was forced to put on his “Dad Pants” due that unruly group of campers wouldn’t look so harshly on the rangers, or their unchecked rules, if that particular group wasn’t there. In light of this Kimberly calls for a do over.
So what time of the year is the best, in your opinion, to go camping? Would you camp at a place like this? Have you been here before, where would you like us to go next? We would love to hear from you, please leave your comments below.
-Kimberly and Spencer