Ortona, FL – Ortona South COE Campground Review
Ortona South Campground Website
Date(s) of stay: March 10, 2016 arrival; March 11, 2016 departure; April, 2015;
Located on the Caloosahatchee River portion of the Okeechobee Waterway, the campground has 51 campsites, about half are river front and the others have limited water views and in some cases very nice prairie views. Note that only 45 sites can be reserved through Recreation.Gov the others (#1, #3, #6, #41, #42, #48) are not reservable and are probably walk-up sites .
Each site has water and 50 amp electric hookups (no sewer), a cement pad bordered by a shell/gravel area where a covered roof covered picnic table, a fire pit and a grill with a grate are located.There are two bath houses within the campground, laundry facilities, a picnic shelter and a dump station. Several fishing docks make this spot popular with anglers.
Note that site lengths listed on recreation.gov appear to be the pad length and not the total site length. Many, but not all, sites are considerably larger than the listed length.
$30 per night. However, if you have a National Parks Golden Age Pass or America the Beautiful Pass which can be obtained at any national park for $10 (lifetime) as long as you are 62 years of age or older, there is a 50% discount reducing the rate to $15 per night. The fee to cancel a reservation is $10.00. There is a 14 day maximum stay in any 30-consecutive day period.
Overall Impression – 4/5
We really liked it here – a very clean and very well maintained and managed campground! Nice being right next to the river and the locks, always fun watching the boats. Sites were well spaced and angled so we didn’t feel like we were right on top of our neighbors. Our site had some saw palmettos and other growth at the end of the pad, so the living area on the site next to us (#22) was blocked. The only down side is that many of the river front sites face southwest so there is no afternoon shade so when it’s hot it can be very uncomfortable. During our stay in 2016, we were on site #9 which was across the road. Although not directly on the river, with the direction we were facing we had afternoon shade.
The vibe here was very peaceful and safe. Lots of fishing activities. Good bird watching, we saw several Ospreys and other interesting specimens. Watching the lock operations is always fascinating (at least we think so) and on several days that we were here the spillway and lock gates were open to campground visitors – this was the first time we have ever been able to walk out on the lock gates and spillway bridge! Note the gates close at 4 p.m. EST.
Size – 4/5
Most sites are back-in although there are 3 pull thru sites listed as 35′, 40′ and 43′ feet in length. On recreation.gov 33 sites here are listed with a driveway length of 40′ or more (28 are 40′, the other 5 are over 40′). Note that it appears that the driveway length in reality refers to the pad length only. By combining the length of the concrete pad (what recreation.gov calls the driveway) with the asphalt extension that connects it to the loop road, the overall length is much longer. So in many cases (but not all) the total site length is quite a bit more than recreation.gov implies – we had no issue fitting our 43′ rig on a 40′ site (#23 and #9) and still had more than enough room to fit our tow vehicle. Most sites are also clear of obstructions behind the pad so the butt end of your rig can extend well past the pad making even more room.
Best sites for big rigs:
- #21-24 riverfront listed as 40′
- #2, 16-20 prairie view listed as 40′
- #33, 34, 36 riverfront listed as 41′
- #35 riverfront listed as 45′
- #48 prairie view, looks nice and long but it must be a walkup as it is not listed online
- #40 riverfront is listed as a 35′ pull thru but larger rigs should fit
Most other sites with a “driveway length” of 40′ have good overhang room at the rear of the pad and will probably fit up to a 45′ coach, but there may be limited room for the tow vehicle at the front of the site. There are overflow parking spaces available near the center of the campground.
Sites big rigs should avoid:
- 45/46 are oddly arranged buddy sites
- 41/42 is a single long pull thru comprised of 2 sites
- All others with “driveway length” of less than 40′
Each site has a shell/gravel area with a roof covered picnic table, a fire ring and a grill with a grate. Sites appear to be fairly level and most are well spaced with plenty of room between you and your neighbor.
Riverfront sites #21-30 leave the rig facing southwest so the living area gets the brunt of the afternoon sun. Some riverfront sites #32-39 may have more shade trees. Prairie view sites #1-20 and #47-51 face the rig in a more northerly direction and should have decent afternoon shade.
Privacy – 4/5
Depends on the site. Most are well spaced apart and many have a good angle that adds to the privacy factor. Some sites had more vegetation and/or trees than others, providing enhanced privacy and some shade.
Amenities – 3/5
All sites have cement pads with water and 50 amp electric hook-ups (no sewer). There are two bath houses which looked older but were very clean inside, laundry facilities and a dump station. There are at least three fishing piers on both sides of the spillway which seem pretty popular .
Convenience – 3/5
Located next to the river and surrounded by cow pastures, there isn’t much in the immediate area. Closest grocery store, restaurants and other services are in Labelle about a 13 minute drive away. The nearest Walmart is in Moore Haven about a 30 minute drive. Ft. Myers is a little less than an hour from the campground.
Physical Surroundings – 4/5
The Army Corps of Engineers did a great job maintaining much of the natural setting – the river on one side and lovely green prairie pastures occupied by a large number of cows on the other. Good place for bird watching – osprey diving for fish in the river and purple martins who occupy the many purple martin houses scattered throughout the campground. At night the sounds of nature abound, we even saw a firefly show on the prairie side.
Maneuverability and Roads – 4/5
There are two 90° turns on Dalton Lane to get to the campground, not really a problem, just don’t miss them or you’ll be in the grass with the cows. Inside the campground, the paved roads were not super wide but wide enough for a big rig. To get to our site, we had to drive to the end of the campground, then around a turn around loop which could have been a little wider – our tires ended up off the pavement and on the grass. Our site was easy to back into.
Peace & Quiet – 5/5
Except for the noise of an occasional boat going by and a cow mooing on the other side of the river, the campground was pretty quiet. It is far enough away from the highway so there isn’t any traffic noise.
Utilities – 3/5
- Sewer – no sewer available.
- Satellite – depends on the site. We had no problems hitting the DISH Network Western Arc (110, 119, 129) from site 23. The sites most likely to be problematic are the more heavily treed sites #32-39.
- WiFi – none
- Cellular signal – Excellent Verizon LTE. Five bars without a booster. Line of sight to a cell tower about half a mile away.
- Over-the-Air (OTA) TV – We were able to lock in to all major network stations.
- Power – 50/30/20A on all sites, about 118 volts on both legs, no errors or issues.
- Water Pressure/Quality – Good pressure at 45psi, typical Florida “swampwater” odor was a bit stronger than usual, but tasted fine with no noticeable turbidity or discoloration.
What We Liked
– Clean, well maintained and very peaceful campground.
– Fun watching the boats at the locks.
– Riverfront sites.
– Decent sized sites.
What We Didn’t Like
– Lack of afternoon shade on some of the riverfront sites.
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