Smithville Lake Camping Guide

It’s hard to imagine that just 20 minutes drive south of Kansas City is an oasis of recreation and fun. The Smithville Lake camping Mecca offers city slickers a chance to unwind naturally. Let’s dive into a unique kind of lake that has quite a story to tell.

What is Smithville Lake Camping known for?

A large project that was created back in 1971 resulted in one of the 10th largest man-made lakes in Clay County. Covering 5000 acres and 175 miles of shoreline, this ingenuity miracle was built by the US Army Corp of Engineers. It’s now managed by Clay County and the city of Smithville. It’s best known for fishing, boating, swimming, camping, and recreational celebrations all through the year.

It’s also become popular for biking, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, RA Airplane field flying, and who could forget BBQ parties. Campgrounds around the lake offer different amenities for each site. Some will have more advantages for RVs and trailer campers, while some will be strictly for tent campers. They’ve made each site accessible for handicapped folks and offer running water, toilets, and even shower and laundry facilities.

Besides being less than an hour from Kansas City, it’s a place that’s close enough to start your weekend fun. It’s a great public gathering for fishing for largemouth bass, white bass, crappie, walleye, channel catfish, and flathead catfish. With the local stock that is thriving so well, it’s not uncommon to find 15″ and larger bigmouth bass fish. Serious sport fishers can spend their time unwinding along the banks while the kids are at play. What a day!

What is the best time of year to go?

Some might argue that there’s no perfect time to go to Smithville Lake. It all depends on what kind of camper you are. The fishing community will tell you the fall is the best time, while others will lean on summer being the best. That’s when swimming and boating and other outdoor activities are the most common. There are also nature enthusiasts who say winter is the best to spot American eagles and other bird varieties.

Those who are into hunting rabbits will find that any season is good for finding plenty of rabbit clutches year-round. We recommend that warm spring to mid-fall is the best time to take advantage of the fine lake weather.

What campsites are there at Smithville Lake?

 There are three choices of campgrounds that are perfect for your Smithville Lake camping trip. Each campsite will accommodate groups, families, and couples to varying degrees. The first two are managed by Clay County, and the last is managed by the city of Smithville. Either way, each campground has something special to offer everyone.

Camp Branch

This campground offers a generous number of sites reaching over 352 in all with spots that offer extra amenities. There are various electric hook-ups for RVs and trailers, while the lakeside features many tent sites. There is a community playground for the kids, and toilets and shower facilities for all campers. Daily rates on off-season days are as low as 14 bucks, and peak rates are 22 per day.

Each site has picnic tables, fire pits with grills, and access to fresh drinking water taps. There is also a local grocery where you can purchase daily supplies. There are minor rules, such as dogs are required to be on a leash, but smoking is openly permitted. There are also handy dump stations for RVs and group busses. It’s also not far from the Paradise Pointe Golf Complex for those who like to golf while camping.

Fishing, in particular, is very popular, so this link will fill-you-in for the rules and regulations for daily fishing limits.

Crows Creek

This campsite is a bit larger, with a total of 415 campground spots perfect for RVs and tent camping. RVs will enjoy freshwater hookups and electricity for a daily price, and there are shower and laundry facilities too. Bus groups and RVs have full dump stations and fresh tap water at reach. Every campsite has a full picnic table, fire pit grills, and access to a local grocery to purchase daily snacks or beverages.

The prices are the same as Camp Branch in addition to the camp rules for smoking and pets. Fishing and other activities like swimming, boating, biking, and swimming are just a few meters from your campsite. The same fishing rules apply so you can find helpful info where the bait shop is located. They can also tell you which fish are best caught the time you year you go there.

Smith Fork Park

This site is managed by the city of Smithville and has some very modern extras that city folks can enjoy. Besides the spacious parking for RVs or long trailers, there is a large field not far from the campground itself. It’s perfect for playing Frisbee and playing football but more recently its loads of fun for flying remote control airplanes. You might see an occasional drone lurking close by, but don’t worry; it’s just taking in the sights.

Smith’s fork campground has 79 sites that are specially outfitted for powering RV’s and trailers and campers. There’s plenty of hiking trails and access to the lake. Each year this campground is home to summer and fall events for camping families. Don’t forget to catch the Halloween celebration where haunted pirate ship themes are abundant. Electricity provided can power 30 or 50 Amp service, with some sites offering both. If you bring your family, this campsite is well worth the 25 bucks per night spent.

Things you should know before going?

You probably didn’t know this, however, the Smithville Lake dam is also home to the largest collection of Crinoids. If you’re scratching your head, Crinoids are very old sea creatures that appeared 300 million years ago. They are related to starfish but not limited to being called sea lilies. There are fossilized versions of crinoids that can be found in the lake shale and rocks. Missouri claims them as their proud state fossil.

If you come across one or a few of them, they’re free to take with you as a personal gift. They are so abundant, it’s not a concern that they are taken away. There are some things you cannot take from Smithville Lake. Local mushrooms are strictly forbidden from picking. They should not be consumed since they can be poisonous if they are misidentified. So they must be left alone in wooden areas.

They also have strict limits on firearms, and it’s illegal to carry a hidden handgun. Campers must have their rifle locked-up at all times. For the 4th of July, celebrations do not allow bottle rockets at the Smithville Lake either. Oddly enough, waterskiing is not allowed as well. The lake is big but not that big to risk waterskiing accidents.

Should you go camping there?

It’s absolutely a great location to spend your time with friends and family. Any time that you can get away for Smithville Lake camping is the perfect way to relax. This is not like driving several hours to some remote location, its right in the backyard of Missouri. And especially for families that just want to find a weekend to camp, it’s affordable and economical. If you’re out-of-town or out-of-state, bring your RV and enjoy a bit of R&R’ for a week or two.

This is quickly becoming a family-oriented hotspot for those who want to have a home away from home. Fisherman will love this spot for landing a whopper that can make a day on the shore memorable too. Depending on which campsite you choose, the amenities are always friendly and indeed homegrown. If you have kids, swimming and activities in the summer and fall months are going to keep them occupied likewise.

The final words

Camping at Smithville Lake will complement any weekend trip or holiday event at any time of the year. The park itself is open year-round, making it an excellent destination for every kind of enthusiast under the sun, especially for those who are avid fossil hunters who want to take a piece of history home with them. Make it one of your favorite vacation spots soon.

I’ll see you there!

Article Author
Sean's an avid camper, kayaker, and RVer. He loves spending time finding new trails and campsites to take his family and friends.