Black River State Forest East Fork Campground

You can’t go wrong with a camping trip to the Black River State Forest East Fork Campground in Wisconsin.  I recently made a weekend excursion to this amazing state forest.

I wasn’t at all disappointed.

The Black River State Forest has three main campgrounds.  One of them has more modern amenities such as flush toilets, electric powered sites, and showers.  The East Fork Campground where I stayed does not have any of those things.

Black River State Forest East Fork Campground
Black River State Forest East Fork Campground

It does have vault toilets and water pumps.  But that’s about it.  It provides a more rustic camping experience.  All the sites have picnic tables and fire rings.  And you can buy firewood from the entrance to the campground.

Black River State Forest East Fork Campground, Campsite #24

Originally I was going to do some hiking and dispersed camping along one of the trails in the forest.  That plan changed when I ended up having to bring my dog, a small 11 pound Yorkie-poo named Asgard, along with me.

My wife ended up deciding to head back to visit her parents this past weekend.  It was easier for me to bring our dog with me.  We are protective of the little guy, and it’s not always ‘safe’ in regards to other animals when my wife visits her folks.

East Form Campground, site #24. From this angle my SUV was parked behind where I was standing.
East Form Campground, site #24. From this angle my SUV was parked behind where I was standing.

So, Asgard was coming with me, and it changed my plans just a little.  Instead of dispersed camping I ended up reserving campsite #24 in the East Fork Campground.

Site #24 sits right on the edge of the Black River.  It’s a great site.  You can hear the river running over some rocks to the east which ads a nice ambiance to the site.

However, on the map above it shows it separated from the other campsites around it.  It is actually right next to campsite #23.  They are almost a tandem site, that’s how close they are together.

So if you are looking for a little more privacy and some space, check out campsite #17.  When I was driving in and out of the East Fork Campground it was not occupied, and looked to me to be the best campsite at the campground.

Great First Night, Then The Weather Turned Bad

I knew long before I got to the Black River State Forest that I was in for a wet and nasty weekend.  The forecast was calling for rain and thunderstorms pretty much all weekend.  I think that was in part why the East Form Campground was void of many people.  There were only several campsite being used while I was there, though most had reservations when I looked online.

My first evening there was pretty tame.  Arrived around 5:30 PM and checked in with the camp host.  By 6:30, after looking around my campsite and the general area, I had my tent and camp pretty much in place.

I collected some twigs and tender for making a fire, and bought a bundle of firewood from the camp host.  By 7:45 PM I had started making my fire.  The wood was wet and smoked heavily, drifting out over the river where it lingered for most of the evening.

I boiled up some water and used it to hydrate some freeze dried food I packed along.  It was a later dinner of spaghetti, and to be honest it was pretty darn good.  Mountain Home is making some very delectable camp food these days.  They pack light and are easy to haul in backpack for most any camping occasion for an easy meal.

After dinner I plopped down in my camp chair in front of the fire while my dog sat on my lap.  We relaxed for a few hours there.  I kept feeding the fire with the logs in the wood bundle I bought.  I let it burn slow and low.

By 11 PM all the wood was gone and coal remained in the fire ring.  It was a great first evening of relaxation, but I was getting tired and was ready for bed.

As I lay in my tent with my pooch snuggled up next to me, I could hear the faint breeze in the trees around the campsite.  The ever present sound of the river to the east babbling over rocks was a pleasant sound as well.  Also, not far away I could  hear Barred Owls.  I love their calls, but my little dog did not.  In fact you could say he was freaked out.

The rain started at 3 AM and it poured hard until 6 AM.  I was very happy with my little two man tent.  It held back the rain and kept me and my dog completely dry.

Rain-Rain, Go Away, Come Back Some Other Day…

You can see campsite #23 on the other side of my tent. Nobody was there when I was staying in campsite #24.
You can see campsite #23 on the other side of my tent. Nobody was there when I was staying in campsite #24.

While the rain started in around 3 AM, it was 3:30 AM when I was shocked awake by the sound of what I thought at first was a tornado!  It took me a moment to recognize I was hearing a freight train in the distance.  I remembered crossing some train tracks about two or three miles away from the camp.  The thing that surprised me was how load that train was.  The engineer was having a good old time blaring that horn – it was annoyingly disturbing.

What had been so far a great peaceful night mingled with various sounds of nature, was now being ruddy interrupted by a fast moving train a few miles away.

I would hear the train a few more times during my stay.  It really wasn’t so bad hearing it during the day, but I did find it sadly disturbing at night.

There was a break in the rain in the morning where I fired up my portable camp stove and cooked a couple eggs and some bacon.  I fed the dog, gave him a good walk, and by the time that was over the rain was back.  Yeah, it was coming down hard too.  There was even some thunderstorms mixed in.

All in all it rained all weekend like that.  I did manage to do some fishing from shore catching some small mouth bass and perch, but all in all I sat under a rain fly I had setup most of the weekend.

My little dog was pretty much miserable the entire time.  He doesn’t like being cold and damp… well, who does.  But he in particular doesn’t care for it.  He’s a house lap dog.

Black River State Forest, East Fork Campground – Conclusion

I will for sure be back to this campground.  My wife would enjoy staying here, even though it doesn’t have showers on site.  There is another campground about fifteen or twenty minutes away to the south that has that feature.  So if she really wanted to get a shower and clean up she could.

East Fork Campground is a nice little slice of heaven.  There is a great nature trail to the east end of the campground, a boat landing for canoe and kayaks, fishing from shore, and just an overall great ambiance.

The only thing for me that detracted from my stay was the train in the middle of the night both nights I was there.  It’s hard to find a campground these days that is so far removed from man-made sounds as to not have any heard.

For more information on the Black River State Forest, check out the main site here.

I am going to for sure be back for some hiking and dispersed camping!



TD is the owner and publisher of TD All Outdoors. He has been enjoying the outdoors since since he was a child. Over the years he has spent as much time as he can solo wilderness canoe tripping, overlanding, hiking, fishing, bushcrafting, hunting, hammock camping, and more. Aside from this blog, he also own his own coffee brand,

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