Tionesta Recreation Area Campground

In the summer of 2017, we stayed in the small oil town community of Tionesta, Pennsylvania. Located in a heavily forested region in Forest County, this area is noted for its big game and wildlife, fishing and hiking. Tionesta Area Recreation Campground is situated on the shore of Tionesta Lake and Dam. The campground itself, draws mostly locals who enjoy weekend getaways amidst the scenery and recreation.

Tionesta COE Campground

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)
Site #: N/A (see review below)
Cost per night (with taxes):  $35 
Discount: $17 Access or America the Beautiful Pass
Connections: Water/Electric Only – dump station at entrance 
Stars: 2

Driving Directions

From Tionesta, Pennsylvania, travel 0.5 mile south on SR 36 and follow signs into the campground. The Tionesta Recreation Area Campground, 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 campground from SR 36 needed maintenance. The dirt road was full of potholes and in disrepair. However, we took into account of the bridge construction near the entrance of the campground.

Reservations

In June 2018, we reserved our campsite through Recreation.gov. It was difficult to get a reservation as the locals made their reservations months upwards to a year prior. Individual campsites are released on a 6-month rolling basis which resulted in us not procuring a great site.

Checking in and Parking

The check-in staff was cordial and helpful. However, the young staff worker who checked us in looked at the size of our RV and shook his head. He told us ‘good luck fitting that thing in’ but he directed us through anyway.

The roadways in the campground were extremely narrow and tight. Navigating our fifth wheel through the campground was challenging even to leave. There was a serious need for tree pruning.

Once we arrived to our site and found that he was right. There was no way our 42′ fifth wheel would fit into our site let alone the roadways throughout the campground. The site-lengths on Reserve America were vastly miscalculated. Unfortunately, being we were arriving the beginning of the weekend, we were unable to be reassigned a larger site.

Needless to say, we could not stay at the Tionesta Area Recreation Campground. However, we found a short-term solution that we’ll get to at the end of this blog. That said, we still made our rounds of the campground to blog this review as if we stayed there.

Facilities

This Tionesta Area Recreation Campground is secluded, heavily forested and rustic. It’s nestled under the trees near the Tionesta Creek and Dam. A boat ramp and marina are near-by for easy access to watercraft activities.
There are also hiking trails around the campground.

 

Sadly, the facilities overall were dated and not well-maintained. The bathhouses and restrooms were located throughout the campground with easy access and parking. They were extremely outdated and were in serious need of maintenance. Two of the ladies restroom stalls needed toilet paper and cleaning. We do understand it was over the weekend however, the needs of the campers on site weren’t met.
There is a specified “play area” however, I wouldn’t say it’s a playground. It was nothing but a small field with a volleyball net and horseshoe pits. Again, like the other campground facilities, it needed attention.
The pull-through dump station was equipped with a large turn-out.

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 not adhered to which made the campground look less appealing.
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 are not big rig friendly (over 35′). While there are a few, they are most often reserved by locals months prior. There were low-hanging branches that tested even the shorter campers. The sites were provided with a fire pit and picnic table. Firewood was available for sale at the check-in station during working hours.

Things to do nearby

Outside the campground entrance is a beach area for swimming and picnicking along Tionesta Creek. No lifeguards are on duty.
Within walking distance outside the campground, there’s Sprinter’s 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 of the waterside locale, there were are also two kayak and canoe rental companies in the town of Tionesta.
In nearby Titusville, there’s the 240-acre site of Drake’s Well. In 1859 the Drake Well struck oil, launching an industry that has forever shaped our modern world. It hosted an amazing museum of exhibits, operating oil field machinery, historic buildings and more, 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.
Interesting to note, John Heisman (1869-1936), college football coach/strategist known as Father Of The Forward Pass, moved here 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 or Pithole City. Pithole is a ghost town in Venango County in Pennsylvania, about six miles from Oil Creek State Park and the Drake Well Museum.
Also, Cooks Forest State Park and Oil Creek State Park offers great hiking trails throughout.

Tionesta Corps of Engineers Campground-3

Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Tionesta Area Recreation Campground was a huge disappointment. Its facilities and grounds are severely lacking proper maintenance. Even with our Access Pass, its not one that we would  go out of the way like this one. Worth mentioning, the campground seemed to be overrun by locals which made it unwelcoming to distant travelers.

We would only recommend it to those who have much smaller RV units preferring a more “campy” atmosphere. We found the site fees did not commiserate the sites or amenities.

Our Alternative

We ended up staying right outside the campground entrance in a grassy paid lot. The owner of the lot was very sympathetic to our predicament and allowed us to boondock for $10 per night. This was an extenuating circumstance that the owners of the lot allowed us.

We hope you enjoy reading our other CAMPGROUND REVIEWS!

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