A new campground this month for the CurbCrusher family. We packed up and headed south toward Estero, Florida and the Koreshan State Historic Site. Located just south of Ft. Myers on the Estero River, this state park started life as the heart of a “New Jerusalem” in the late 1800’s. Cyrus Reed, a Civil War doctor who had a vision, took the name Koresh from the Bible and started his own religion. A key premise of the religion was that the earth is on the inside of a sphere, and that the heavens (stars, moon, etc) are all in the center. This group ended up moving to Florida and establishing a colony just south of Ft. Myers. Over the years, the colony shrunk (their desire to be celibate may have had something to do with it) and in 1961 the last few remaining members deeded the land to the state. At some point, the state turned it into a state park.
There are still a number of buildings from the Koreshan colony era in the park. They have been preserved and are open during the regularly scheduled tours. From October through March there are a slew of volunteers that perform living history demonstrations in the machine shop, bakery and other locations around the colony site. According to the ranger that led our tour, 23 campsites are traded to volunteers in exchange for their time during the October to March time frame. The working machine shop is only demonstrated during that time, but can be visited anytime during the year.
Other things to do include fishing or canoing along the Estero River. Canoes are only $5.00 an hour, and the river is slow enough that you can get in a nice paddle up river and back in the hour. For the more adventurous, you can take the canoe downriver to the Estero Bay and if you paddle a bit across the bay, reach Mound Key state park. Lover’s Key State Park is about 15 miles away, and puts you on the beach.
Campsites Sixty campsites with water and electric make up this park. The sites are an OK size, but narrow, our rig from slide to awning took up the entire site. Some of the sites seem like they open up more once you get off the road. All the sites are sandy and surprisingly sunny even with trees around. The wooded area in Koershan has not burned in a long time (per the ranger) and you can tell it. The palmettos and underbrush are extremely thick between campsites, this might not be a good place to be during lightening season. There are two campground loops with paved roads that make up the campground, with a dump station placed on the entrance section of the second loop. The water and electric (30amp) boxes are not consistently at the back of the campsites, they are generally toward the middle to the front, so it you have one of the deeper sites and place your unit towards the back you will need extra hose and cord.
Activities There are self guided and ranger led tours of the Koresh colony, and the park rents canoes. There is a day use area, boat ramp and playground located right adjacent to the playground. There are a couple of small hiking trails in the park. Just outside the park, there is a river outfitter that rents canoes and kayaks. A big “outlet” mall is close by, and the beach is within 20 miles. This park is also located close enough to Ft. Myers to go see the standard Ft. Myers stuff like the Edison house and Sanibel Island.
Overall As always we had a great weekend, a bad weekend camping beats a good day at work. I found the history of the whole Koreshean Unity Colony to be interesting and probably could have spent some more time wandering around the colony. We only took the short upriver canoe trip, but heading down river to the bay would be a great trip to go back and do some time. I think you do feel a bit hemmed in in the campsites because of the overgrowth, but this may get corrected over the summer. The ranger that led our tour said they were going to close the campground this summer and upgrade the water and electric and if they were fortunate do a prescribed burn to clean out all the built up fuel in the area.
Lady CurbCrusher posts her campground reviews at rvreviews.com so there’s a link to her review.
Finally, I’ve updated the gas mileage chart at curbcrusher.com.