Elk City State Park, KS

elk-city-state-park-ks1Elk City State Park sits on 857 acres of land on the wesst side of Elk Lake, just west of Independence. It has 150 sites among four small campgrounds, 85 of which have electric and water hookups and 11 of which have sewer as well. About 30% of the sites may be reserved in advance, including all of Prairie Meadow campground and parts of Sunset Point and Comfort Cove campgrounds. All RV sites are paved, although that does not guarantee their levelness. Like at Clinton State Park, the cost to camp is $16.50 a night at the time of this writing for a 2 utility site, plus a straight $3.00 transaction fee whether you stay one night or fourteen. There is also a $4.50 daily fee for entry into the park, unless you have the annual pass. I stayed four nights and paid $94.00, staying at state parks adds up.



I pull into Elk City State Park just before the rain. It’s clear to see that it hadn’t been raining here earlier in the day, but I’ve gotten unlucky and after escaping it at Clinton this morning, it’s back for revenge. An older couple in a Class A pull in just before me and we all make it into the park station at about the same time. The lady at the counter explains how the site choosing process goes (pick a site and set up, come back in to pay after. And don’t choose one with an orange or pink slip on the podium).

Outside the hunt for a site begins. The Class A snags the first available pull-through they can find, a prudent move perhaps with the dark clouds looming overhead starting to sputter down on us. I continue on past the first campground past the ranger station, Sunset Point, into the next one – Comfort Cove. There are actually two other campgrounds as well, but there is no point in perusing them for a site. Timber Road is all tent camping and Prairie Meadow is entirely reservable sites and is all full up.

elk-city-state-park-ks2One pass through Comfort Cove and I’ve found the best available open site, there are less of them here with it being Friday and the opening of the Neewollah festival in Independence. It’s a back-in site that I swear is about three miles long, and located on a corner which makes it harder to get into, but it has a clear view of Elk Lake, what a score!

Despite being paved though, the site is the most unlevel I’ve parked in to date. It takes a stack of my leveling blocks three tall, and even then I’m still slightly tilted toward that side. I scoot Cas all the way to the back corner to make absolutely sure I can hook up to water this time and test my plumbing. It rains on me the whole time I unhitch, which takes longer than usual with Bertha and Cas being so at odds with each other level-wise. Luckily it’s not a downpour kind of rain, just a light but persistent kind.


It’s about 4:30 when I finish unhitching, and the rain is forecast to continue until nightfall. I won’t be taking a walk of the park or getting my water hooked up tonight, instead it sounds like a good evening to drive into town and snag some free WiFi to work on a post, so that’s what I do.


The view from my rear bedroom window at this park is two large and stately cottonwood trees, and a fifth wheel and the pop-up behind it. It’s the view from my ‘office window’, the large window on the left side of Cas over the dinette, that has the fantastic lake-side view. I enjoy breakfast looking at that second view, and then it’s time to explore the campground.

elk-city-state-park-ks4I like the campgrounds at Elk City more than Clinton. I think there are three big factors, the diversity of the four campgrounds, the fact that it’s actually on the lake, and the people. I’m seeing a lot of Halloween decorations and getting a lot of friendly nods as I walk.

Comfort Cove has the 11 3-utility sites, and they’re all full with large fifth wheels and Class A’s. I’m seeing a lot of posts that show reservation ranges of a month which confuses me, as a state park the limit should be 14 days. This campground has a lot of the big cottonwoods among mowed grass, although there is a small loop of back-in sites on one side and tent sites on the other that surround a dense thicket of red cedar trees. Several sites have water views.


Sunset Point has one loop of dirt tent sites in a mixed hard and softwood forest, and the rest of it sits as advertised on a point that juts out into the lake. The sites on the end of the point that have water on three sides but are all empty – they’re paved for RVs but have no utilities. Once I get solar and a propane heater installed I could really enjoy one of these sites, the view is great and they’re open so there’d be ample sun for the panels.

elk-city-state-park-ks7My two favorite utility sites though are numbers 12 and 13, which are small back-ins with 30 amps that while not quite on the point yet still look out right over the lake on the back side and have a few oak trees around them for shade. I’m very tempted to move Cas to 13 tomorrow which is open, but that would cut into the short amount of time I’ll have here and tomorrow is forecast to be the best day for hiking weather-wise. If I was going to be around for a week it’d probably be worth it.

Back on my walk, Prairie Meadow reminds me a lot of Clinton’s campgrounds. It has tall grass full of chirping insects with woods off to the side. Like the 3-utility sites in Comfort Cove every single one of these sites has an occupancy slip for a full month. Most of the sites here are pull-through, and there is good separation between them. As I’m about to leave the campground I meet up with a lady out walking her two corgis. We wave and say hello to each other, and she introduces herself as Susan.

Susan and her husband have been staying at the park in Prairie Meadow since late August. They’re pipeline workers from Oklahoma up here to work, that explains why there are so many long-term campers here. We walk down past the day-use boat landing to the beach area which is mostly grass and completely empty. Susan lets her dogs off leash, and they enjoy a romp while we continue talking about work and life in a RV.

elk-city-state-park-ks5I take my leave of Susan after a while and continue my exploration of the park. Timber Road is the smallest of the four campgrounds, numbering only 13 sites. It’s a long road with a loop on the end that goes through a thick woods of mostly young oaks, all of the sites here are dirt and meant for tent campers. Off of this road is the access point for the park’s two trails, one is a 1 mile nature trail loop, the other is a 2.75 mile one-way hike along the bluff overlooking the west side of Elk Lake. Tomorrow I’ll be tackling the later.

Back at Cas, I hook up to water with some trepidation, and pull everything in storage out from under both sinks, in front of where the city water connection enters into the RV, and away from the back of the water heater where the plumbing lines split to go in. For the next two hours I read a book and take periodic breaks to check the connections at all of these points and also where the water line enters into the back of the toilet for any sign of moisture. In two hours with occasional use, I see no hints of wetness anywhere, and tentatively make the announcement that the blizzard-induced power outage up in South Dakota that kept me from being able to heat Cas and keep the plumbing from freezing has done no damage. I’ll continue to check these areas periodically for a while once I’m hooked up at Amazon just to make sure all is well.


In the evening I head back into Independence to respond to blog comments on the latest post and check e-mail. I am so thankful for McDonald’s free and reliable WiFi on days like today.


Today is a great day to be alive. The high is 70, the skies are clear, and it’s a beautiful time of year to be outdoors hiking. I walk back to Timber Road and get on the trail heading north.

Part of my reasoning for doing so much walking the past week I’ve been on vacation is to get use to all the walking I’ll be doing at Amazon. I’ve got on the shoes I’ll be using at work, to get my feet use to it again.


The miles fly by. The trail is less rocky than the ones at Clinton, but still has obstacles like exposed tree roots where heavy rain has washed the dirt out. There are also several points along the trail where trees are down across it and need to be climbed over or walked around. I pass a giant rock on the side of the trail that looks right out over the bluff to the water a long, long ways below. It’s a great photo opportunity.

Most of the trail is pretty heavily wooded and while you’re walking along the lake shore, the trail is far enough away that glimpses of the water are rare. At one point along the trail though, the bluff has been eroded right back to it, it almost feels like there should be a railing to keep from tumbling over the side. Of course it would be at this point where I meet a group of people hiking the other direction. I scoot off the trail uphill away from the erosion to let them pass.

Along the trail there are three spots where you have to go downhill then climb back uphill, these are washes where when it rains water runs down the bluff to the lake below. In one, the tree with the blue blaze marking the way up has been toppled over, and I spend a minute hunting along the rock strewn basin of the wash for the way up.

Before I know it, the trail spills me out onto a road, I guess I’ve reached the end. I walk a ways down the road though, because I can catch glimpses of the dike through the trees and I want a closer peek. I walk all the way to where the road crosses on the dike and take some pictures, I guess I’ll consider this the end, time to turn around and walk back.


Just before the trail ended at the road, a little side trail split off towards the water, and this time I take it. It goes pretty steeply downhill, and gives you access to the beach at the base of the bluffs. It’s gorgeous, and I take several photos. The sand on the beach actually isn’t sand at all, but thin shavings of rock that must have broken off from the bluffs, in the process of being ground down to sand but not quite there yet. If I’d come here with someone, this would be a perfect spot to have a picnic and laze away a couple hours. But the sun is descending now, and I want to be back before nightfall.

The hike back to the campground is uneventful. I can hear several kinds of birds in the trees as I go, chickadees I recognize, but some I don’t. There’s also a loud pulsing insect noise that I can’t place. It’s not a cicada, that sound I’d recognize, but something almost as loud.

I make it back to Cas well before sundown and watch some tv series episodes that I have saved on my computer as the sun sets over the lake outside my window. I’d say I walked a good six miles this afternoon, and other than slight soreness in my feet, I’m none the worse for wear.


Through comments on IO I’ve learned that Big Chief, the RV park I’m going to be staying at starting tomorrow while I’m working at Amazon, is already full past capacity and the new owners are doubling people up on sites to try to fit everyone in. Besides the usual Amazon workers, there are also 70 or so RVs there for people working on the same pipeline that Susan and her husband are working on.


Worried about having to share and not getting water and sewer to myself (they’re arranging things so one RV uses the 30 amp plug, one uses the 50 amp), I drive the surprisingly short 45 minutes over there. I didn’t realize Elk City was so close. I’d gotten the names of two other RV parks in town not too far from Amazon, but one is already full, and the other doesn’t have a shower house – I’ve never showered in Cas, I don’t trust my hot water heater. I stop at a copy place in town to get a copy of my driver’s license made, it’s something I need for my next gig after Amazon, then pull into Big Chief.

It’s changed since last year, but I’ll have a couple months to get more into that. I speak to the man at the desk in the new park office and get the low down. Yes, they’re all but out of room, but being small and on 30 amp power unlike most full-timer’s rigs, they’ll have room for me tomorrow. I’ll be sharing a site with someone undoubtedly, but they’ve found a way to split the sewer and water connections, so at least I’ll still have full hookups. I’m less worried about not having as much space, I come to Amazon to work after all and Big Chief isn’t a scenic park to begin with, I spent next to no time outside during my stay last year. I’ll be keeping the reflectix up in my windows to hold the freezing nights out so it’s not like my view will be ruined. I just hope my site neighbor doesn’t have a yappy dog or play loud music.

elk-city-state-park-ks13That settled, I drive back to Elk City for a lazy afternoon. I get out for another short walk around the campground area and sit at a table along the lake shore and take in the day. It started out drizzly and overcast but is clearing up now and unlike yesterday there is very little wind. Large flocks of birds are flying in a spiral out over the lake, I think they must be catching insects.

I return to Cas and spend a couple hours typing this up. When I notice the sun going down outside I take a break and walk out onto the fishing pier for a picturesque sunset, completely free of clouds. I try to etch every detail into my memory, aided with a couple pictures. This is the last day of my vacation, and the next two months are going to be full of work with very little time or energy for anything else. This sunset will help carry me through the dark (literally, as I’ll be working the night shift again) weeks ahead.

It’s going to be an early night. While the drive tomorrow with Cas will take at the most one hour, getting hitched and unhitched will take about a total of four hours and require cranking Cas’ nose up and back down four times, which I can tell you from experience is tiring.

Still, I’m glad to find myself a bit excited by the days ahead. The past summer at beautiful Badlands National Park and now this leisurely drive down to Kansas has ‘filled up’ my soul so to speak, and I feel ready to tackle two months of hard physical labor to work on filling up my wallet. Vacation’s over, back to work!


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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. David Greybeard on October 24, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    Good choice going to Elk City rather than El Dorado. El Dorado State Park is nice enough, but mostly it’s just big, flat and treeless. Not as pretty as Elk City.
    There is a 14-day limit, but most of the Kansas State Park campgrounds set aside a few spaces for month-to-month rentals. They still require you to buy an annual camping permit and vehicle permit.
    I recommend the Annual Vehicle Permit to any of your readers that are planning on spending any time camping in Kansas. It’s $25 and gets you entrance and day-use to any of the State Parks. It pays for itself with only 5 or 6 visits. Here’s the rates for camping and utilities:
    Read carefully! All annual permits expire on December 31st: they are NOT valid for one year from the purchase date.
    Don’t get me started on that ridiculous $3 “transaction fee”.

    • Becky on October 26, 2013 at 8:52 pm

      Hey David, thanks for the feedback. I think I made the right choice too, Elk City was very nice. That’s good info to know about the annual pass too, how it doesn’t last for a year.

      As for the transaction fee, I’m seeing that show up more and more in parks…

  2. Beverly on October 24, 2013 at 12:18 am

    Based on what I’ve read about working at Amazon (and I’m sure you know this to be true), a lot of people can’t handle it and move on. Perhaps, you’ll have your own space sooner than you think.

    • Becky on October 24, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      Yeah. Pamela, one of the people who manages the CamperForce program comments on IO on occasion and she’s said on here that they always hire more people than they need to fill jobs, because they know some won’t stick around.

  3. Brian on October 23, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Hi Becky. You can also test the integrity of your water system plumbing by using the onboard water pump. Disconnect Cas from the city water hookup. Put a few gallons of water into your fresh water tank and then turn on the water pump. Run some water through each fixture to purge the air from the lines. Shut off all the fixtures and leave the pump on. Hang out for a while and make sure you don’t hear the pump cycling on and off. If the pump stays off your good to go. I would test it for at least a hour. Several hours would be even better.

    • Becky on October 24, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      Hey Brian. The valve at my city water connection isn’t functioning properly and any water I put in my fresh water tank right now will drain out of the RV at that point, whether the pump is on or off, so that method wouldn’t have worked for me, haha. Definitely a good option for people who’s on-board water system is in good shape though!

  4. John of Sinbad and I on the Loose on October 23, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Oh good grief! I too hope you have a good neighbor with no yappy dog or is hard of hearing and they have their television blasting all hours during the day when you are trying to rest or sleep. Do let us know and good luck.
    John of Sinbad and I on the Loose recently posted..It’s a Beautiful DayMy Profile

    • Becky on October 24, 2013 at 3:41 pm

      I didn’t need to worry, my ‘site-mates’ are awesome people. I couldn’t have picked a better couple to live next to if I’d tried. 🙂

  5. Marcia GB in MA on October 23, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Too bad you can’i “stay and play” a little longer. It occurs to me that some state parks allow folks to stay 30 days outside of the busy season. Maybe that’s why you’re you’re seeing those extended stay tags.

    I hope all works out well for you at Amazon this year and also in the tight living situation at Big Chief. You are taking lots of good memories with you!

    • Becky on October 24, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      I sure am making some memories Marcia. And I think you’re right, that it being the off season makes long term stays possible at parks that otherwise wouldn’t allow it. Something to remember in other situations as well if a person is needing a long term spot to park for other reasons during the colder months, visiting relatives or doing some fixing on the RV, etc.

      So far Amazon is off to a good start. The couple I’m sharing the site with here are a blast to hang out with, and the orientation process is going a lot smoother than it did last year when Michael was away.

  6. Traveling Troy on October 23, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Hi Becky. It’s my first time commenting on your blog.

    Last year, I started doing a bit of traveling and realized how expensive it was to stay at hotels, so I began researching alternatives. I decided traveling via RV would be the way to go. I then spent some time researching and I built a large list of others traveling and living in their RVs.

    Well, no one can keep track of 200 or more blogs, unless you do that full-time. For that reason, I went through the list which was created a year ago and deleted any non-active blogs or blogs now offline. After the cleanup, I still had well over 100 and I’ve found some new ones since then.

    Where is he going with this? Unfortunately, your blog was lost in the mess of 100s of other blogs. I just started reading your blog last week. I backed up to 2011 and read all the way through (even the great comments). Fantastic read and you’re an excellent writer.

    I now only follow about 10 full-time RV travel blogs and have another 50 stashed away when I need some inspiration. Well Becky, I just wanted to let you know that I moved you into my top 10 with “To Simplify”, “Technomadia”, “RV Sue”, Bob’s sites, “Drive Nacho Drive” and a few others.

    I really enjoy your breakdowns of your work-camping experiences. Making money on the road is probably the biggest challenge we non-retirees face. I have put my travels on hold to figure out how to make money and travel, but your details on Amazon and working at National Parks has really opened my eyes to other possibilities. I would love to work a 3 month on, 3 month off work schedule while traveling. 🙂

    Thanks for putting this out there.


    • Becky on October 24, 2013 at 3:35 pm

      Hello Troy,

      Well I’m glad that you found me again, haha. Thank you for the kind words, it always feel good to hear that the things I’m writing are helping others, that was my biggest goal in starting IO after all.

      Like you, making money was the biggest barrier for me. I didn’t know for sure if I’d be able to earn enough living on the road like this, but I made the leap anyway and with diligence and hard work it’s all worked out. I’m a long ways from only having to work half the year (that was always a sort of goal of mine too) but ever month I’m learning more and getting a little closer to my ideal work/life balance. I may not be there yet, but I’m sure having a lot more fun than if I’d worked for 10 more years at a ‘real’ job before taking off just to travel.

      Thank you for reading. It’s people like all of you commenting here that truly make IO special.

      • Traveling Troy on October 25, 2013 at 5:32 pm

        Hi Becky,

        I agree, comments make the site a whole lot better, but your writing is what keeps the people coming back to this site. Kudos to you. I need to improve my story telling on my blog. I do tutorials, videos and LONG posts but they apparently aren’t too engaging as my comment totals are low. I probably just need to get out there and mingle a bit more.

        When you get the 3 on, 3 off formula figured out, let us know. 🙂

        Hope all is going well across the street at Amz.

  7. OpenSpaceMan on October 23, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Bob’s post on my DIY van can be found in his “Categories” section labeled “Conversion Details”…”Innovative Van Conversion”.

  8. OpenSpaceMan on October 23, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Enjoying the day in the life post. What type of temps., highs > lows at Big Chief during Nov. & Dec. are you expecting? Also I have solar and a 12v fridge along with propane heat and stove, so self contained – Ford extended van…do you pay additional for showers or does Amazon cover that also if I don’t need hookups?

    I’m stealth full-timing while working in the city until next year this time and then back to working the Nat’l Parks. ( I worked @ Lake Mead for about 5 summer seasons ) but I would like to try the Amazon thing next year in Kansas while I make my way south.

    Thanks, for the pics…great job.

    *My DIY camper build is on Bob’s “Cheaprvlivingblog” under the heading “Innovative Van” if you feel like checkin’ it out.

    • Becky on October 24, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      Heya Space, I actually have read that article on Bob’s site, neat stuff. I have a lot of respect for people like you who can plan and build something like that, it’s certainly not one of my talents.

      The average low temp for Coffeyville for December is 25. Last year was a mild winter, the lowest low I experienced was 20, maaaybe 18, but I’ve heard from CamperForce people in previous years when temps got down to 0, so yes it can get very cold. During the day in December it’ll get above freezing, 45+ normally but there was a day or two where we only saw 40. Right now highs are in the 60’s, lows in the 40’s but it’s already dropping pretty fast.

      Amazon pays for site, water, electric, and sewer. You have to pay for propane, WiFi, laundry, shower on your own – if the campground you stay at charges for those things. Some do, some don’t. At Big Chief a load of laundry is $2 wash, $1-2 dry depending on how dry you want it. Showers here are free, as is the WiFi.

  9. weathershak on October 23, 2013 at 8:45 am

    I enjoy your writing. Kansas has some beautiful spots and camping rates are very reasonable compared to places out here on Delmarva. Glad Cas made it thru the deep freeze. hope you have a nice neighbor at Big Chief.

    • Becky on October 24, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      Thanks weather. Kansas is a lot prettier than most people give it credit for. I’m coming to the understanding that scenic beauty comes in many different flavors, some people enjoy some more than others but I do my best to appreciate them all.

      As a matter of fact, my ‘site-mates’ at Big Chief are amazing people who I get along with very well. Too bad they’re days and I’m nights and we’ll pretty much never see each other once our actual shifts start. We’re still making plans to go hiking on Sundays, the one day off we have in common.

  10. cozygirl on October 22, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    What a sweet spot to get a well needed break! Ive wondered about reflectix…bet better than my curtains. How do you watch tv series…download with free WiFi? What program… Time to rest…we finally get to pull out…been a long month caregiving!
    cozygirl recently posted..Countdown to hitting the road again…My Profile

    • Becky on October 24, 2013 at 3:10 pm

      Reflectix makes the inside of the trailer a lot more comfortable when it’s really hot or cold outside. For heating in the winter, it can make a 7-8 degree difference in inside temperature vs. just using the blinds I’ve found. The episodes I watched were old ones ripped from a DVD. Normally I use basic Hulu to watch more recent shows, you don’t have to pay for the service if you keep up on things (an episode only stays up on the free site for a while, then it moves to the paid version, Hulu Plus which works pretty much like Netflix). The internet here at Big Chief though is too slow to stream video or download big files so I won’t be watching shows until I’m done. Ah well, least it’s free and I can can still keep up on IO and check e-mail. 🙂

      Have fun on your trip to the SW!