What a nice campground! We loved it. If you fish, you'll like it even more
than we did.
We can enthusiastically recommend Russian River CG, but if you have a large RV be
careful which site you choose if you make reservations without having
seen the site first. As we've discovered previously, site length and
width aren't the whole story.
This is the great site we ended up with, a "double:"
Unfortunately, it's not the site we reserved online, based on length
and width. And that caused a problem for us. This is one of several
reasons we're hesitant of making reservations ahead of time at
campgrounds or in areas where we've never been before.
But I'm getting ahead of myself . . .
CHOOSING A CAMPGROUND & SITE
We learned about the Russian River CG from the Alaskan Camping
book, which has excellent descriptions and information. So far we've
been very pleased with this camping guide.
We made reservations online at Russian River a couple weeks ago after
being unable to make any campground reservations in Seward until after
the 4th of July. Considering it was a holiday week we were pleased to be
able to reserve a large site during the red (sockeye) salmon run at this
This is a diagram of
the campground from an interpretive panel on our loop, to give you an
idea of the layout. The campground is situated between the Russian and
Kenai Rivers, both usually full of salmon in the summer and trout in
We had to choose a site blindly when we made the reservation. That often
happens when we have to choose a specific site rather than picking
one from what's available when we arrive at a campground. Either way has
its risks if you have a large RV.
We looked at the campground map online and chose a 56-foot back-in site
in the Steelhead Loop because the pull-thrus in the 83-site campground were all reserved. It
sounded long and wide enough for our 36-foot 5th-wheel coach and truck.
(The five loops are named after the five types of Alaska salmon.)
We checked in near the entrance off the Sterling Highway, then drove
back about two miles to our site.
On the way in Jim filled our fresh-water tank with enough
potable water to last for three or four days. There are no water hook-ups at the individual sites.
There are some water pumps in the loops but the pump across from the dump station has the only threaded faucet in
the campground. With a threaded faucet Jim could use our hose to more
quickly fill the camper tank directly than using our water containers
and the pump system he devised for use when we're boondocking.
Nice paved road on our loop
When we got to our assigned loop we discovered the site we reserved is
too difficult to get a 36-foot 5th-wheel coach in without a
The narrow entry to the site was not only bordered by trees, it was also
the harder way to turn (toward the blind side, not the driver's side)
and there was no room on the other side of the road for Jim to maneuver
the truck. He risked running into several trees and a water pump
directly across from the site.
He tried backing the camper in several times and finally gave up. Jim’s very good at backing
the Cameo into tight spaces so it wasn't a matter of a lack of skill.
of nearby mountains from the main campground road
he made the reservation he wondered aloud if this would happen. It's
happened to us before and it's bound to happen to us again. As I said,
it's one of the reasons we dislike making campground reservations in
If you have a small to medium-sized camper you should be able to fit
into any of the sites in this campground.
Be considerate, however, and don't choose a double site. Bigger rigs
need those. Here's an example of a double site that's easy for a large
5th-wheel or travel trailer to back into but it's occupied by a little
Class C rig that could fit into any of the other smaller sites and still
have lots of space:
That's the kind of thing that drives us crazy.
We drove around our loop again, noting four empty double sites that
would work well for us. It was past check-in (2 PM) by then and we knew
the sites could be filled either by reservations or by someone coming in
after us and lucking out.
We drove back out to the entrance station to see if we could
get another site. The young men who were working seemed to do their
best, considering only three sites out of 83 are available the three
days we want (July 2-4) and they are all single-width sites that are too
small for our rig.
But they could let us occupy one of the double sites in our loop that we’d
noted as accessible for us for the first two nights. We chose the one shown
below (and at the top of this entry). Someone has the site
reserved on July 4 only so we'll probably have to move out that morning.
The guy said he’d talk to his supervisor this afternoon about it because
he’d be working on July 4 and could ask the folks if they could take
another site. Problem is, we have to vacate the site by noon that day,
which will mess up our day if we want to go anywhere.
This is a great site. We’ll enjoy it for two days and figure out what to do
about the third day later.
There was no refund or additional fee. Single sites are $18/night or
half that for us with our NPS senior pass. We’ve already paid $27 + $9
reservation fee = $36 for three nights. Double sites are $28/night or
half that for us = $28 + $9 reservation fee = $37 for two nights, close enough if we can
stay only two nights instead of three.
Pretty lupines in the campground
We have several choices – hang tight on Wednesday and hope we can stay
that night in case someone doesn't show up (since all the sites big
enough for us are reserved
that day), see if we can arrive a day early in Seward (not likely, with
all the July 4 stuff going on there), or spend the night boondocking
somewhere between here and Seward.
We noted a spacious, scenic turnoff on the Sterling Highway today that
would be a good place to stay overnight, if necessary, and there may be
more farther south on the Seward Highway.
TOURING THE CAMPGROUND
This is a very nice campground with five large loops with paved roads.
Almost all the sites are spacious, with plenty of trees and shrubs
separating them. All sites have paved pads, a picnic table, a bear-proof
box for food and supplies, and a fire pit.
Each loop has either vault or flush toilets. There are no water,
electrical, or sewer hookups at individual sites.
Generators can be used between 6 AM and 10 PM, which is pretty generous.
National Forest campgrounds tend to have less restrictive generator
hours than national park campgrounds.
Jim rides on the campground road.
We rode our bikes around the loops to see what the other sites
look like and to note which ones are suitable for our camper if we
decide to come back here later.
Our site is flat; some are more sloped. We have plenty of room on
our paved pad, lots of trees, a nice mountain view, and no other sites
close to us.
We have 3-4 Verizon
bars for our phone and 5 MiFi bars – even better than at JBER in metro
Anchorage!! We’re really out in the boonies here. I wasn’t expecting to
be able to get online with my PC until we get to Seward. (Jim can take his laptop
anywhere there's a WiFi signal.)
We can't see any other RVs from our "front yard."
This area is extremely popular with folks who fish. In good years, when
red salmon are plentiful and there aren’t limits or bans on catching
them, this place is packed. Hence, the general three-day limit for
Right now the campground is only about half full. This year there are
bans and limits here and in other parts of the state because the salmon
population is way down for some reason. That may turn out well for us if
there are fewer people camping here this week.
Don't hesitate to stay in this campground if you aren't an
angler. There are other recreational activities in the area like
hiking, cycling, boating, horseback riding, and gold panning and
a Native Alaskan cultural center across the road from the entry
to the campground. I'll be talking about the hiking/cycling
trails that can be accessed from the campground in the next few entries.
One of the access points to the Russian River
I'll take you there in the next entry.
Jim spent a couple hours outside the camper this afternoon while
Cody and I walked down at the river. He thinks he saw a bobcat, a brown
animal about half Cody's size with a bobbed tail.
Black and brown (grizzly) bears are abundant around here but
neither of us has seen one yet in or near the campground. We'll need to
take our bear spray when we go farther out on the trails tomorrow.
Next entry: rainforest fantasy-land on the "fish
walk" along the Russian River
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil