Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Campground Review: Itch-Kep-Pe Park, Columbus, Montana

I next headed east along I-90 to the small Montana city of Columbus which is about 30 miles southwest of Billings.  The Columbus Kiwanis built and maintain a small park right on the Yellowstone River with the hard to pronounce name of "Itch-Kep-Pe" Park.  I've no idea what the name means and my Google efforts to find out came up empty so I'll just assume it's an Indian word(s).

Maybe Itch-Kep-Pe means "free but donations accepted"?
The park is free to camp at on a first come basis and is located just south of Columbus (follow the signs) between the Yellowstone River and the city golf course.

The rain-swollen Yellowstone River.
 Here's the (slightly expanded) data sheet on Itch-Kep-Pe Park:


Hookups:                                 None
Fire ring:                                  Yes
Water Access:                         Yes (river)
Fresh Water Available:             Yes                             
Trash Service:                          Yes
Toilets:                                    Yes
Showers:                                 No
Dump station:                          No
WiFi:                                       No
Level sites:                              Yes
Laundry:                                  No
Store:                                      No
Pool:                                       No
Shade:                                    Yes
Verizon reception:                    4G, 2 out of 4 bars
Millenicom reception:               2 out of 4 bars
Cost:                                       Free (donations accepted)

As soon as you pull in and choose your camp site a campground host drives over and after asking if you plan to overnight gives you a one page handout with the campground rules.  Attached to the handout is a donation envelope (hint, hint) and an explanation that the park is maintained via donations.  I typically have no problem with this approach to "free" camping and the camping at the park was  enjoyable enough that I slipped some bills into the envelope and made my "deposit".

Donations cheerfully accepted!
The park consists of 30 or so campsites split into two sections with the "front" section seperated from the "rear" by about a half mile gravel road.  You drive right next to the city golf course on your way back to the rear section.

For a small town the golf course appeared really well maintained.
I stayed in the front section of the park - some online reviews of the park I'd come across mentioned that the city "youth" utilized the back section as a night party area in the summer...enough said, I value uninterrupted sleep.  That said the front section was very quiet and several families with children were camped there also.

The Tank's site in the front section --plenty of sun for the solar panels!
The one advantage that the "back" section of Itch-Kep-Pe had over where I stayed in the front was a more unrestricted access to the Yellowstone River.  Thick bushes and trees were all along the riverbank in the front section but the river was open in the back section, which is probably why the Kiwanis chose to put the park's boat ramp there.

This "back" section site was virtually on the Yellowstone River.
I stayed two nights at Itch-Ke-Pe Park and enjoyed the camping very much.  It would have been nice to have had the option to pay for electrical hookups because the heat was very oppressive and I definitely would have run the Tank's hardly ever utilized AC if it had been an option.  Instead the two fans I carry kept me fairly comfortable until the sun went down.  Only a couple miles off of I-90 Itch-Kep-Pe Park is a great free overnight option for travelers going east or west on I-90.

Thanks for reading!