- Published: Saturday, 02 December 2006 13:00
While spending the summer working in Keystone, SD, near Mt. Rushmore, we had the opportunity to visit Ellsworth AFB many times. We didn't need to stay at the FamCamp, but there were plenty of spaces available during our visit in August, 2006. Even though reservations aren't accepted, I doubt they turn many guests away. The directions we had were a bit confusing, but we quickly found the campground. The directions now posted on this web site are correct and clearer. The key here is NOT to use the Main gate. Use the Patriot gate if arriving during normal duty hours, or the Commercial gate. The Commercial gate has a phone you can use to call security to open up.
The campground is directly next to the Patriot gate, so there's no confusion where to go. During our visit, the office wasn't manned. There is a self-pay box nearby. But the campground host was right next door to the office. Our first impression of the campground was "it was okay". Nothing fancy, but not a "dump" either. About 75% of the hookup sites were occupied. Since Ellsworth AFB is on an open prairie, the wind is usually blowing. The wind during our visit probably made the campground less appealing to us than it would on a warm, calm day.
The shower house is separate from the office. The structure is a little old, but they keep the place pretty clean. Just older fixtures, walls, and showers. On the other side of the shower house is a small laundry. There's 4 washers at $1 a load, and 5 dryers at $.75. Not the best deal for laundry on a military base. While there didn't seem to be much amenities at the campground, the rest of the base has plenty. Internet access is at the base library, which is about 1/2 mile form the campground. The base gas station is RV friendly, with plenty of room to maneuver big rigs. The exchange isn't huge, but large enough. The commissary is about average in size, large, but not huge. There's also a movie theater on base, which we're finding many bases don't have anymore. Of course, there's the travel office, Class VI, gym, and the other facilities you'll find on a large base. Ellsworth AFB is also home to the South Dakota Air and Space Museum. Besides all of the aircraft on display outdoors, there's exhibits inside. While not active at Ellsworth anymore, there's much history on ICBM missiles. For a few dollars, you can take a bus tour close to a B-1 bomber, and view an inactive missile silo.
I wouldn't consider Ellsworth AFB FamCamp a "destination" campground, rather a good base camp while exploring the area. Nearby is the Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Wind Cave National Park (4th largest cave in the world), Jewel Cave National Park (2nd largest cave in the world), Custer State Park and Rapid City. Nearby is also the town of Sturgis, home of the Sturgis motorcycle rally, and the town of Deadwood, wild west town where Wild Bill Hickok was murdered. Kevin Costner's film, Dances with Wolves, was filmed nearby as well. Devil's Tower in Wyoming is also only a couple hours away. Of course, there's plenty of commercial tourist attractions nearby as well.
We rated this campground with 3 stars. It's a nice, quiet campground without any frills. Nothing fancy, but nothing terribly wrong either. A good spot to hang around for a couple weeks while exploring this SW corner of South Dakota.