Tionesta Recreation Area Campground Review – Pennsylvania

Tionesta Recreation Area Campground is an Army Corps of Engineers park located on the shore of Tionesta Lake and Dam in Pennsylvania. The campground draws mostly local campers who enjoy weekend getaways amidst the forest scenery and recreation. This camping area is noted for its big game and wildlife, fishing and hiking.

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Tionesta Recreation Area Campground Review – Pennsylvania

Location: 477 Spillway Road, PO Box 539, Tionesta, Pennsylvania 16353
Phone: 814-755-3512
Date(s) Stayed: August 2017
Length of Stay: N/A (see review below)
Cost per night (with taxes):  $35 ($17 Access or America the Beautiful Pass)
Connections: Water/Electric Only – Dump Station

Getting there

From Tionesta, Pennsylvania, travel 0.5 mile south on SR 36 and follow signs into the campground. The Tionesta Recreation Area Campground (Army Corps of Engineers), situated near the Tionesta Creek, lies at the end of one of the branches of the Allegheny River. Because it’s off the beaten path, the campground attracts mostly locals who enjoy camping, kayaking, canoeing, fishing and hiking.

The road leading to the Corps of Engineers campground from SR 36 needed maintenance. The dirt road was full of potholes and in disrepair.

Reservation Process

We reserved our campsite through Recreation.gov. Unfortunately, it was booked solid as most Pennsylvania campgrounds are in the late spring, summer and fall. Campsites are released on a 6-month rolling basis which is campsites are difficult to get for through-traveling RVers. However, site unseen, we did manage to get a campsite booked.

Arrival and Check-in

The check-in staff was cordial and helpful. However, the check-in host who looked at our RV and shook his head. He said “good luck fitting that thing in” (meaning our 42′ fifth wheel but he directed us through anyway.

After getting checked in, we found the roadways in the campground were extremely narrow and tight. Navigating our fifth wheel through the campground was challenging even to leave. There were low hanging branches that scuffed our fifth wheel’s roof.

Once we arrived at our site, the check-in host’s words were spot on. There was no way our fifth wheel would fit into our site let alone the roadways throughout the campground. The site-lengths on Reserve America were vastly miscalculated. Because our fifth wheel would not fit in the site we were assigned, we had to leave. Unfortunately, being we were arriving the beginning of the weekend, we were unable to be reassigned a larger site.

However, we did find a short-term parking solution on private property right outside the gate and check-in booth. The owners of the lot was very sympathetic to our predicament. They allowed us to dry camp for $10 per night.

That said, we still made our rounds of the campground to blog this review as if we stayed there.

Campground Amenities

Tionesta Recreation Area Campground is secluded, heavily forested, very rustic and outdated. It’s nestled under the trees near the Tionesta Creek and Dam. There’s a nearby boat ramp and marina that has easy access for watercraft activities. There are also hiking trails around the campground.
 

Overall, Tionesta Recreation Area Campground’s facilities were very dated and not well-maintained. Bathhouses were located throughout the campground with easy access and parking. Two of the ladies restroom stalls needed toilet paper and a serious cleaning. We do understand it was over the weekend however, the needs of the campers on site weren’t met.

There is a play area on the premises. However, there’s not a children’s playground. It does have a volleyball net and horseshoe pits. But, that too needed maintenance. The pull-through dump station was equipped with a large turn-out. Firewood was available for sale at the check-in station during working hours.
 

Campsites

There’s a limit of one camper or RV and one tent per campsite, or 2 tents per campsite. Parking on the grass is prohibited. However, we noticed that rule was grossly ignored. 

Sites 69 and 71 are handicap-accessible only campsites. Those sites require a Golden Access or America the Beautiful Access Pass to occupy. Sites are small to average size. Most sites are not big rig friendly (over 35′). While there are a few, they are most often reserved by locals.

There were low-hanging branches that scraped even the short campers. Each site is provided a fire pit and picnic table.

Things to do nearby

Outside the campground entrance is a beach area for swimming and picnics along Tionesta Creek. Be aware, there are no lifeguards are on duty. Within walking distance outside the campground, there’s a mini golf course.

The Market Village in downtown Tionesta comprised of little shop buildings arranged in the heart of downtown offered local handcrafts vendors. Because it’s near the lake, there are are also a couple kayak and canoe rental companies right in town.

In nearby Titusville, there’s the 240-acre site of Drake’s Well. In 1859, the oil rush in America started in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in the Oil Creek Valley when Edwin L. Drake struck “rock oil” there in 1859. Titusville and other towns on the shores of Oil Creek expanded rapidly as oil wells and refineries shot up across the region.

Drake’s Well has an amazing museum and exhibits, operating oil field machinery, and historic buildings. Drake Well Museum and Park tells the story of the petroleum industry’s birth in Pennsylvania and its growth into the global enterprise it is today. In fact, there still remains an active oil drill and well.

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Also in Titusville, college football coach/strategist John Heisman (1869-1936) also known as Father Of The Forward Pass, moved there as a child and graduated from Titusville High School, Class of 1887. Heisman’s innovations as an early 20th century college coach earned him football immortality. Heisman’s family was well-known in the Pennsylvania oil industry.
 
Between the towns of Tionesta and Titusville lies very minimal remains of Pithole City. Pithole is now a ghost town located about six miles from Drake’s Well and Oil Creek State Park. Both Oil Creek State Park and Cooks Forest State Park offer great hiking trails throughout.

Wrapping up our Tionesta Recreation  Area Campground Review

In my opinion, Tionesta Recreation Area Campground was a huge disappointment. We found the site fees did not commiserate the sites or amenities. The campground’s facilities and grounds are severely lacking maintenance. Worth mentioning, the campground seems to be overrun by locals which makes it unwelcoming for RV travelers. We would only recommend it to those who have much smaller RV units preferring a more “campy” atmosphere. 

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