Well miracles do happen, because we found free camping in South Dakota! Oh, I had it on our itinerary but a lot was at stake. We had to take the plunge, trust in my intuition and research, and risk the 28 miles west off of Interstate 29 to see if it was for real. Yep, it was! A little town called Marion, South Dakota, added rv sites to their city park (Hieb Memorial Park). It includes electric! You can stay 7 days for free or pay $150 month if camping longer.
So let’s catch ya up to date…Oh Iowa…how it pained us to say goodbye to your rolling hills…NOT! When we left Anita, Iowa, we headed west on I-80 (then on to 680), then we hit I-29 and headed straight north. Almost instantaneously we hit flat land. Know what else happened? At our next fill up at the gas station, we discovered we gained 2.5 mpg! Yes, those damn hills really make a difference.
Anyway, once we got on I-29 we kept going “up” (that’s north to you compass folks) until we reached South Dakota and let out a big “yeeeeee-hawwwww!” It is exciting to arrive in another state, which is evident by my enthusiasm. So the big risk was going into unknown territory – Marion, South Dakota. At Exit 64, I told Jim to get off the interstate and head straight west. He did…but he was a little concerned. But my free rv campsites homework paid off. “Free camping, South Dakota?” he scoffed? YEP dear spouse…”trust me.”
Marion, South Dakota, is 28 miles straight west…and that is a good thing. The reason is because you get to completely avoid Sioux Falls (anyone driving an rv through a city will understand this). Plus, when you leave Marion eventually, you head straight north and reconnect with I-90 – so you never deal with that “big city” traffic. Of course, I worried that when we headed toward the town, the 28 miles of country road would be hell…but it wasn’t that way at all. Wide pavement, pristine condition, with a shoulder (to cry on if you have rv troubles, haha).
In no time, we arrived at Hieb Memorial Park in Marion. Now this is funny (we were punchy tired so maybe it isn’t, but we thought it was). We called the “city” days prior to confirm the park existed. Jim was sure they told him there were 10 sites, I wrote down somewhere there were 30 (but in a tiny town, that wouldn’t make much sense)…but we pulled in and found only four. Two in the back (one taken) and two at the tiny parking lot outside of the baseball field.
Fast forward to the end result (the middle is boring and involved a grouchy, tired cat, dog, husband and one lovely, pleasure-to-be-with wife who had to endure the other 3 beings…kidding….). We were too tired to search for the missing rv sites, so pulled up next to the only rv here, thinking people were in it. To our surprise, it was vacant! Someone was just parking their 5th wheel there…so whole place to ourselves.
This site is BEAUTIFUL. We are right on the river, nothing but scenery out our door, quiet little town…I would PAY for a site like this on the road….and the town of Marion, South Dakota, is giving it to us for free? So here is what you need to know about it:
- The town has a grocery store when you enter it, but little else. Many buildings boarded up. No restaurants, etc. so plan to cook in your rv. They do have gas, post office…but little else.
- There is a city swimming pool adjacent to the park. Great if you have kids with you.
- We only saw 6 sites. Two in the back are perfect (grab them!!), two are in the parking lot by the baseball field (dodge them) and two we initially overlooked but look like lovely sites just to the right of the park entrance. The two sites in back have their own water spigots, the parking lot ones have one spigot to share within reach, the two sites at the entrance also have one to share right between the two 30amp hookups.
- What doesn’t it have? No 50 amp service, no septic AND no shower house.
- What does it have? Peace and quiet, HUGE park for kids including a swinging bridge over the river, pavilions, bathrooms. Friendly little town…and, of course, FREE.
If you are heading this way, don’t miss this opportunity. Our cheap rv living tip of the day is this….KOA just LOVES that many rvers fear straying off the highway. We recently checked the cost in Billings, MT and it is over $55/night! It’s just crazy…If you truly want to save money rving, you have to put in the work to find these little gems. Not only is this place free, but there are no rvers here…we get peace and quiet vs. spending a fortune to park next to a motorhome where we can hear them snore…You have to be flexible or you will spend ten times more than we are. We are visiting loved ones in Billings soon and have few options but to pay the big bucks…but the rest of the time we have options, so we vote for free rv sites all the way (or cheap ones!!) when we can….
Tomorrow we have zero plans for an rv stop because we need to shop in Mitchell, SD, to stock up. Probably only going 100 miles so may get hit with a larger fee, but the next day we have a $5.00 campsite to share with you….then a state park in Wyoming for $10.00. So these affordable rv camping sites help keep campground costs down when we actually need to pay a higher fee. Fingers crossed my research works out!! Will keep you posted….So far, so good.
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