Where Is This Campground Located?
GPS: 45.00819, -99.957199
Gettysburg, South Dakota
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The Gettysburg City Park is located on the south side of town next to the baseball field and community pool. This campground has 3 grassy spaces each with an electric hookup and picnic table. It’s free to stay, but there is a 3 day limit. Donations are accepted at an iron ranger, but are not solicited. We originally found this campsite on Freecampsites.net, which is an awesome and highly-recommended resource for free/low-cost overnight locations.
The most beautiful thing about small towns in America is their sense of hospitality. As you stray away from the overpopulated urban jungles of either coast, you’re met with a vast rolling landscape of tiny towns populated by only a few thousand—or sometimes only a few hundred—people. In order to encourage local tourism, many of these places allow RVers to camp in their community parks. What this means for us is that we get to visit places that we would never have thought to stop and we save a little on camping, since these spots are often free for a certain number of nights or are available at a nominal nightly fee. For the town it provides a revenue boost for their local businesses and parks system.
What Services Are Available Here?
Each site at the Gettysburg City Park has a 30-amp electrical hookup attached to an old telephone pole that designates the spot (the wiring is modern). There is a threaded water pump available near the entrance to the parking area with good tasting water that needs only minor filtration. There is a small, well-lit building that includes a couple of security cameras, a bathroom, and a soda machine, as well as a covered picnic pavilion. The dump station for the park is located just to the right of the building. It’s in good working order and provides non-potable water to rinse your gear.
Gettysburg is a very quiet town, and at first glance the campground doesn’t look like much. Plus it’s a little hard to find because the sign is hidden by a small grove of trees. It basically rides the edge of a dirt parking lot that backs up against a baseball field.
When we first arrived, we missed the turn and ended up on the wrong side of a shallow drain channel that divided the park in half, wondering where all the camping took place. Then we saw the electrical boxes across the channel and figured it out—take the third driveway entrance on your right after turning onto East King Avenue from South Mannston Street. It is literally along the edge of the parking lot right next to the baseball field.
Once we settled in, we found the park was in great condition except for some nasty looking still water in the channel behind the sites. There were a lot of mosquitos and flies, both of which bite, so staying out past dark isn’t recommended. On the upside, the grass was well kept, the grounds were clean, and the park is well lit at night without being too bright to sleep. At the back of the lot, there’s a cute bridge that crosses the channel and leads to the community pool, a very large playground, volleyball courts, a second baseball field, and disc golf.
The cell signal here is fantastic! We were recently in difficult cellular areas (North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming) for a few months, so we were quite pleased to get 3–4 bars of Verizon LTE, 4 bars of Verizon 3G, and 5 bars of AT&T 4G. Data worked great without any interruptions and streaming video was no problem at all for the entire stay.
What Were We Up To?
The first night we were there, a lovely couple rolled up in their class A. After watching them park for a little while, Mike decided to go over and introduce himself. Despite having Montana plates, they were originally from the area and apparently they stop to camp at the park every time they pass through. We spent our first night outside talking with them about life, work, and other assorted topics of interest. The man said he spent his youth playing baseball in that field. He moved away with his wife to earn a living in places like Omaha, San Francisco, Valdez, and eventually Saudi Arabia before returning to South Dakota to enjoy his golden years. The entire time we talked, we thought we were talking to a couple in their 60s who had recently retired—but no! It was later revealed they were in their mid 80s, which was simply amazing and a real testament to travel’s positive effect on longevity.
So as we chatted away, we learned all about the history of the town. The city of Gettysburg is the county seat and has had campground sites available to travellers for over twenty years. Even though it was named after the civil war battle, it carries the strange nickname of Where the Battle Wasn’t. I personally find that kind of funny, because all I can imagine is a bunch of farmers laughing about that over a few beers at the time it was coined. Every day, at noon and six, a siren sounds in the distance. If you ever lived on the west coast, you may find this sound a bit unnerving, as it’s the same one they use as the tsunami warning siren. Relax; in Gettysburg it just signifies lunchtime and the end of the workday.
All in all, this is a great little park to stay at. We didn’t end up using the electricity (there was excellent sun in our spot for the solar panels), but we did stay the full time permitted. Even though there are no signs specifically asking for a donation, we left one in the iron ranger on the way out. If we ever find ourselves back in this part of the country, we will definitely stay here again.