A Caravan Camping Tradition in Missouri’s Ozark Lake Country

When Carroll and Sherril Lines go RVing, it’s a family affair. This Missouri couple only has to put out the call and an instant caravan of family and friends are rolling down the road. The group traditionally gathers at Sparrowfoot Campground, one of dozen campsites along the shores of Truman Lake, a 55,600-acre lake in West-Central Missouri. While only about an hour-and-a-half drive  from their home, the Corps of Engineers campsite somehow seems a world away.

Though the couple has visited several other sites around the lake, they always return to Sparrowfoot – one of the Ozark’s best-kept secrets, they say. They’ll often use the site as a base for other lake country adventures, be it a nearby bluegrass festival or a trip further south to Bull Shoals Lake, 45,440 acres of water that straddles the border of Missouri and Arkansas.

While they have been known to hit the road alone – they did go RVing on their honeymoon – they enjoy a group camping experience four or five times a year. And Ozark Lake Country is always their choice for a good time that’s conveniently close to home.

SHERRIL: We love Truman Lake. And when we go there, it’s almost always with family and friends – usually my husband’s parents, Eileen and Claude, and their buddies, Virginia and Cliff. My husband’s brother and his wife have a motorhome, too.

We all travel together. The thing is, his mother and father and their friends are older, all over 70. If they have trouble with the RVs, we’re there to help. And it’s fun.

If we’re heading for Truman Lake, we like to stay at Sparrowfoot Campground. It’s very pretty and close to the water, so we can get down to the shoreline. There are lots of trees, plenty of shade, and the limbs are high enough they don’t hit the RVs. And it’s not overly developed. We’ll usually see fewer than 20 RVs parked there.

There are other campsites that we like to visit on Truman Lake, too. There’s a nice marina at Longshore, with a restaurant and areas for swimming and boating. It’s very pretty. If you go to Bucksaw (a campground), you’ll also see big birds and lots of deer.

Sometimes, we’ll use Truman Lake as a springboard for other side trips. Last year during our autumn vacation, we stayed at a campsite located on Bull Shoals Lake in Theodosia, Mo. We loved the great view from our RV and we were very pleased with the amenities – covered concrete tables, paved driveways, lots of shade, convenient swimming beach, close to the marina, restaurant within walking distance, electrical hookups, and within a day’s ride to Branson for entertainment.

Early in the morning of our second day, we awoke to find the fog rolling in on the lake – so awesome.

CARROLL: When I was a kid, Truman Lake was just the dream of some politician – a flood control project on paper. I was born close by, and watched the dam under construction.  I’ve known it was there, but didn’t start going there until 10 or 15 years ago.

We started going to Bucksaw, then branched out. Then we found Sparrowfoot, which was a few miles closer to home.

I started camping with trailers. Somewhere in 1995, I bought my first 19-foot Class C.  From there, I went into a 23-foot motorhome, then a 29-foot diesel pusher (Chuckles). We’ve been married four years and have had four different RVs.

What we have now is a 36-foot motorhome. We love it. Two slide-outs, satellite TV – it’s got a lot of things that make our camping experience fun. Eventually we want to do this full time; I guess we’re part gypsy.

As for the caravan, we try to get together every major holiday weekend and vacations two or three times a year.  A lot of the times the kids will come down, too, so we’ll often have up to 21 people.

They leave it all up to me to find a location, and I try to find a place where we can park close together.

Most of us carry little walkie-talkies so we can communicate. If someone has to get fuel or stop along the road, we tell everyone what’s happening.

What keeps us coming back? Some of it is tradition. We just like it. Because of my work hours, my wife and I don’t have a lot of time together in the evenings back home. So we like to get out and take our walks.

We just like our rituals. My dad usually makes the coffee, first thing in the morning. After he gets up, he’ll call over and say, “The coffee lamp is lit.” We’ll drink coffee while the rest of the world is just waking up.

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