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Honest Review: Cottonwood Campground COE

By Michelle Luttrell:

As we left a Bass Pro in Council Bluffs, Iowa we headed to Cottonwood campground near Crofton, Nebraska. Our travel map took us down backroads through rural Nebraska. It was a beautiful day and fairly short drive from our overnight boondocking spot to our next destination.

The most exciting part of travel days for me is not knowing what to expect to see during the journey and the anticipation of what our next living area will be like. As we drove along the Missouri River we came around a bend to realize we were about to cross a dam. If you look at the photo, you will understand our shock. We weren't sure what the clearance was at first! This was a new experience for us and I began to analyze it all immediately. A few thoughts were swirling around in my head. "Did we make a wrong turn? Will we be able to turn around? Will we be too tall?" Many of these first time experiences are a rush of adrenaline. Maybe that is why it is so exciting. As we proceeded through the gate it was evident we would fit, but now I began thinking, "What is on the other side?" Are we sure this is the right way?" This spillway crossed the Lewis and Clark Lake which led to two campgrounds. We were on the right track.

Nebraska Tailwaters is one of the campgrounds. Cottonwood is the second, and both are managed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (COE). It definitely earned its name. As we were pulling in, the cottonwoods were shedding so much it looked like it was snowing. It was absolutely beautiful. We had a site very close to the entrance and across the street from the playground. The playground was larger than most, newer, and very clean. It was placed next to a large shelter house and it was plenty far enough back from the lake that I didn't worry about them wondering close to the water.

One thing that was odd was the placement of the water spigots. 'They were very few and far between. We later realized we should've gone past the entrance of the campground for fresh water. There is a well laid out dumping station and fresh water hoses just past the campground. John ended up filling our 5-gallon water jugs at the spigot and lugging them to our site multiple times in order to fill our fresh. Good thing we only needed enough for 3 days.

Can we talk about the shower house for a minute? Good showers are the one thing I do miss since we began full-time RVing. So when I find a good shower house I am ecstatic. This shower was the best I have ever had. The pressure was on point and it was super clean. They even had bamboo mats and benches in the shower. I absolutely took advantage of that.

The hikes in that area are endless and there are a variety of them from easy short to hard long hikes. We hiked the Calumet Bluff trail. It was an in and out 1.8 mile hike we did easily with the girls (3 & 6 y.o.). I don't want to spoil the climax of the hike, but just know there are straight drop off points as you get closer to the end. Be careful with the little ones that like to run ahead!!!

Obviously we highly recommend this campground. We will definitely come back here when we are in the area. Improvements were being made while we were there (May 2021). A beach was being put in and maybe additional sites. There really didn't seem to be any bad sites but we will try to be on the water next time. If you decide to camp here let us know what you think. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.


  • Take the extra time and fill up your fresh water before going into the campground.

  • Kayaks or paddle boards would be really nice to have here.



  • South Dakota and Nebraska state lines are all over this area. One minute you're in Nebraska the next you're in South Dakota

  • We traveled here in a 35 ft. 5th wheel being pulled by a Ram 2500 Diesel w/8 ft. bed

  • Used Cricket and Verizon cell and hotspot service

  • Stayed here May 2021 for 3 days in site #35

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