I met up with two old friends for a little reunion, hoping for a fun weekend of relaxation at this park. Unfortunately, the staff had other plans. We were treated rudely by several of the staff over the course of two days. In addition, our trip was cut short because our entire campsite was flooded after a 1.25" rain storm. I will discuss a few of the instances that have caused me to leave the title of this review. For anyone reading this, keep in mind- two of the three of us are avid campers and all three of us are respectful individuals (both of nature and of others around us). We are professionals (medical researcher, nurse, and rabbi) and are not loud or disruptive to our fellow campers.
Since the three of us were traveling from 3 different states, we each arrived in a separate compact car. At the gate into the camp, I asked specifically about the three cars. The person at the front office assured me that it wouldn't be a problem for the three cars to park, and she provided us with three car parking passes for the two days we were camping. Not 30 minutes after we arrived and began to set up our tents and campsite, a DNR employe drove up and scolded us (not in a nice tone of voice) saying that we couldn't have three cars in our campsite. While the restriction seemed arbitrary to us, we politely explained to the employee that we were setting up camp and planned to use the cars to store our food in overnight along with some of our gear. We moved one car to a parking lot on the far side of our site loop.
Twenty minutes later, the same DNR employee drove by yelling from his car that we were not allowed to tie a rope between two trees. No further explanation was given, and he didn't get out of his truck. Just yelled "not allowed" from his vehicle and waited until we understood what he was yelling at us about and we took the rope down.
Later that evening (we are still in the first night of this trip) the beloved DNR truck rolled around: this time he got out, and said we needed to move our second car now and that we couldn't park the third car where we did because we needed to leave that lot open for people to use the bathroom. Two campsites down there was an 40-50' RV with a car parked in a campsite. We pointed to that example (one of many RVs in the area that also had cars on site) and asked how we were any different than the people nearby. The DNR employee just shook his head, and treating us like we were children misbehaving, told us to move the car.
A warning to anyone who goes tent camping as we did: If it rains, your campsite can flood. I have camped in a tent countless nights and have been through many rain storms. I have never seen a campground that had graveled, designated campsites that floods as readily as this place! After a 20-40 minute rain storm (we were piled in my car to avoid being zapped by lightning) we came out to find both of our tents in 4 inches of standing water. This water stayed in our campsite for at least an hour. I say at least because I don't know when it drained. We left, defeated by the park and the campsite, to sleep in a dry hotel.
You also have to pay an RV rate per night because there are no tent-only camp sites in the park.
The next encounter with the rude park staff came the next morning when we came back to clean up our tents and to dry out our soaked gear for the trip home. We were almost alone in the park the morning of our checkout--the continued rain from the night before drove away most people from the park. We decided to take our stuff to a large unused picnic shelter to spread out our bags, tent, clothes etc. to let some of our stuff dry a bit. I drove my small car under the shelter to unload stuff while out of the rain. It was only a few minutes until a DNR truck drove up, telling us to "get the car out of his shelter." We understood it was unorthodox to use the picnic shelter for a carport, and we tried to explain what we were doing, but once again the camp staff was unreceptive to our situation and treated us with no respect as people who were doing NO DAMAGE to the park or to any other person.
We obeyed these rules, and it really isn't that they are good or bad or ridiculous rules. I understand that if you have a policy you enforce it. The issue is the way we were treated. The various staff we encountered (the camp host, 2 different DNR employees making rounds, and a manager--we did go and discuss our experience with the ranking employee before leaving for the weekend) treated us poorly. We were paying customers at the park, and we were treated like we were trespassing or in some way destroying the campground.
The positives to the camping weekend can be summed up in a short list. My two best friends are as wonderful and unshakable as ever, and the bathrooms are really clean and nice. The negatives: not a tent friendly camping ground, and deplorable staff. Taken in total, my friends and I will have camping adventures for many years to come, but none of us will ever go back to Prophetstown State Park.