• KOA founder Dave Drum. Photo courtesy of KOA

    KOA’s Montana origins: Roughing it in style

    By JON AXLINE

    Billings businessman Dave Drum watched as a tremendous amount of traffic began to pass by his property along the Yellowstone River on U.S. Highway 10 in the late 1950s.

    The Seattle World’s Fair and the Space Needle would open in 1962.

    Much of the traffic – and more to come Drum surmised – was headed that way.

    Where some people may have just seen a lot of traffic, Drum saw an opportunity.

    Fast forward to 2014, and Drum’s business idea spurred by the traffic increase is as important to the roadside landscape in the United States as any gas station, tire shop, old drive-in or motel.

    The distinctive red and yellow logo of Drum’s Kampgrounds of America represents a safe place to stop for a night at a comfortable campground for a price lower than most motel and hotel.

    A KOA campsite means you get a comfortable campsite where you don’t have to sleep on pinecones, rocks and tree roots. Campers also get a fire pit, picnic table and the opportunity to take a hot shower, use flush toilets rather than an outhouse, do some laundry, and buy supplies at the KOA’s distinctive A-frame buildings, which are the centerpieces of the campgrounds.

    To read the entire KOA story, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.

  • Ready, Set, Go! to the Thompson River Chain of Lakes

    Thompson Chain of Lakes Montana Magazine

    The water of Horseshoe Lake is clear, quiet and vibrantly colored. Photo by Cathie and Gordon Sullivan

    It’s still early spring – not quite camping weather for most of us – but those beautiful and sunny spring days make it hard not to start thinking about those summer rec plans.

    If you’re looking for ideas, we’ve got a good one in the May/June issue of Montana Magazine where Gordon and Cathie Sullivan tell us about the Thompson River Chain of Lakes in between Libby and Kalispell.

    We’re calling it the perfect tranquil retreat.

    Like a brilliant string of emeralds, the lakes thread throughout 3,000 heavily forested acres pressed between the Salish Mountains to the north and the rugged Cabinet Mountains to the south.

    Experts like Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist Gael Bissell will tell you the remote Thompson River Chain of Lakes is not only a beautiful and restful recreation spot, but also represents an important stronghold for common loons, those well-dressed birds of distinction.

     Among lakes to experience nesting loons is Little McGregor, Horseshoe, Island and Lower Thompson, but approach with extreme caution and stay well outside the bright yellow buoys for best encounters. Foggy spring mornings are best. Other loon sittings can occur on almost any of the lakes in the chain.

    Here’s how to find the Thompson River Chain of Lakes

    READY, SET, GO!: TO THE THOMPSON RIVER CHAIN OF LAKES

    THIS SET OF 18 LAKES CAN BE FOUND ALONG MONTANA STATE HIGHWAY 2, SITTING BETWEEN KALISPELL AND LIBBY. THE SITE INCLUDES 83 PRIMITIVE CAMPSITES AND 8 GROUP CAMPSITES, ALL OF WHICH REQUIRE A FEE FOR OVERNIGHT CAMPING. ROADS ARE PRIMITIVE AND NOT RECOMMENDED FOR MOTOR HOMES AND LARGE TRAILERS. HOWEVER, THE 22 DEVELOPED CAMPSITES AT LOGAN STATE PARK, LOCATED ON MIDDLE THOMPSON LAKE, ARE SUITABLE FOR LARGE CAMPING UNITS