The Coolwater Campground, located in the Manistee National Forest near Wellston, Michigan, offers fifty-four tent and RV sites, as well as two camper cabins for reservation. The two camper cabins have electricity and heat but no running water. One of the cabins can sleep six guests, while the other has room for four patrons. The fifty-four RV and tent sites are a mixture of water and electric, electric, or "rustic" sites. Twenty of the available sites have water and electric hookups, while there are fourteen with just electric hookups and twenty "rustic" sites with no hookups. The owner notes that all of the sites can be reserved for either tent camping or RVs, depending on what the guest is looking for. Each site is also equipped with at least one picnic table and a fire pit. Also on the grounds of the campground are a basketball court, volleyball court, and access to the Manistee National Forest.
The Coolwater Campground features a mix of tent camping, RV sites, and camper cabins that can be reserved from the second week of April through the second week of December. There are two camper cabins at the property, with one having the ability to accommodate six guests and the other being able to sleep four. Both of the cabins have heating and electricity, but neither has running water. In addition to the cabins, there are 54 sites that can be used by either RV or tent campers. A few of the 54 sites are water and electric hookups, some are just electric, and 20 are "rustic," meaning there are no hookups available, according to the owner. The owner also notes that, in general, the water and electric sites tend to be more popular for those staying at the property due to the views over a cliff. A trail to a nearby river is also found at these sites. In addition to hookups, every site has at least one picnic table and a fire pit for guest usage.
Also found on the grounds of Coolwater Campground is a relatively small store that sells novelty items, "and maybe peanut butter and jelly sandwiches," as mentioned by the owner. He reports that the store mainly sells "little things for the campers," such as lighter fluid, charcoal, and other items that guests may have forgotten. Other potential areas of interest at the property include a basketball court, volleyball court, fishing, and trails that lead to the Manistee National Forest, which the owner reports can be found on three sides of the campground. Due to the national forest being right off the property, patrons can bring their ATVs to the campground and ride them to the national forest on the trail system. The owner also reports that approximately 90% of the campground is shaded by a canopy of trees, with some of the trees being over six feet in diameter.
While staying at Coolwater Campground, the owner hopes that guests can feel relaxed and have an enjoyable time. In an effort to emulate such an atmosphere, the owner says that he tries to give patrons their privacy and "let them do their thing." Throughout the open season of April through December, the owner reports that there are a variety of activities that guests can take part in. From April to June, he says that a portion of guests bring their ATVs and ride the trails at the nearby national forest, and from June to August, many visitors play on the Pine River, which is accessible from the campground. Canoes and other equipment to be used on the river can be rented at various businesses near the property. From August through the end of the season, the owner says that he sees a variety of people coming to fish. He says that, in general, the busiest time at the campground is from June to August due to the number of visitors who come to play on the Pine River.
Aside from the activities that can be engaged in at the national forest and on the river, there is also a casino in the town nearby that guests can visit, as well as a variety of "old fishing towns" and shipping towns that have local attractions, according to the owner. Moreover, there are wineries, ski resorts, lakes, and bluegrass festivals—such as the Hoxeyville Music Festival—that take place at various times throughout the year. The owner also recommends that patrons eat at the Coyote Crossing Resort, the Redneck Yacht Club, and the Dublin Store if they are looking for local restaurants.
There are several policies in place for those who come to stay at Coolwater Campground. Firstly, there is no outside firewood allowed on the grounds; it must be purchased at the on-site store. Additionally, pets are allowed, but they must be on a leash at all times and cleaned up after. The owner also asks that guests turn their radios off at 10:00 p.m., and noise is to be kept at a minimum during the night. Drinking is allowed at the campground, but the owner asks that those who choose to do so "drink responsibly." Lastly, if patrons bring their ATVs to the property, they are expected to drive slowly through the park for the safety of other guests. Those who have previously stayed at Coolwater Campground often comment on the hospitality of the owner, as well as the "natural beauty" of the area and the quietness of the grounds. One former patron said, "The sites are quiet, wide, and clean. It was easy to set up the hammocks and tents, and it is a quiet place with the Pine River close by to canoe/kayak. The restrooms were clean, and the owner was very friendly and helped us."
The owner of the Coolwater Campground says that the beginning of the campground dates back to 1968 and that it was "one of the two original parks on the river." Before purchasing the campground, the owner and his wife traveled the country in a truck camper for two and a half years to decide where they wanted to live and where they wanted to purchase their own park. He said that when they drove through the entrance to the Coolwater Campground, they "wrote a check right then." He said that the nature, trees, and multi-generational campers at the property influenced them to purchase the property. "We accommodate people that have been coming here since they were in their mama's bellies," he says. The owners purchased the campground in 2021, and they say that their favorite part of running the business is being able to interact with the campers who stay on the grounds.
Since purchasing the business, the owners have upgraded the bathrooms and roads, made repairs to individual campsites, and expanded the merchandise available in the store. In the future, they hope to continue making repairs to sites and other features across the property, as well as adding full hookup sites to the existing sites.