Salt River camping business picks up

Doug Jernigan retrieves a kayak to put into the Salt River at the Meadow Campground near New London, Mo., on Friday, June 19, 2020. The campground, which was opened earlier this year by Lola and Randy McDonald and their daughter, Lydia, features cabins, RV hookups, a cafe and kayak rentals.
Special to The Courier-Post
Posted: Jun. 25, 2020 11:30 am

NEW LONDON, Mo. | A steady stream of reservations has been keeping the Meadow Campground busy since it welcomed its first guests last month.

Owners see a similarity between those reservations and the steady, ever-flowing current of the nearby Salt River, which is one of the campground's biggest attractions.

“We are just very honored,” said Lola McDonald, who co-owns the campground, which is nestled between a pair of rolling hills, U.S. 61, and the river, with her husband, Randy. The couple also own McDonald Stone Co., another New London business.

She and campground manager, Lydia McDonald, said they were not sure how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic would impact the campground's opening.

“We kept pushing the opening back, but a new business can only not be open for so long, so we just decided to open,” said Lydia McDonald, who is Lola and Randy's daughter. When the campground opened on May 23, the 12-acre campground opened with great fanfare, drawing large crowds of people who toured the campground, dined at the deli house's patio, and explored the river aboard a kayak.

“We were really blown away by how many people came and how many continue to come for signature ice coffee drinks, for our ice cream. We still can't believe it,” Lola McDonald said.

While the family celebrates the opening of the campground, the ongoing pandemic has caused them to boost what they say were already rigorous cleaning standards and procedures. The McDonalds have purchased new cleaning and sanitation equipment that is used in the shower house and the cabins.

“We are just trying to be as diligent and cautious as we can be,” Lola McDonald said.

The McDonalds purchased the property in early January 2019 and spent much of last year completing landscaping work around the campground and updating a shower house, which they say dates back to when a previous campground was on the property.The campground was largely washed away in a flood in the 1970s.

“Dad has always thought it would be cool to open a campground along a river. Initially, he was thinking about going down south somewhere in Arkansas and retiring down there, but then this property came up for sale and the opportunity just presented itself,” said Lydia McDonald, who said the campground's name stems from the naturally occurring landscape that surrounds the campground.

Since opening the campground, Lydia said campers, kayakers and country oasis seekers have traveled from throughout the region, including Quincy and West-Central Illinois, to the campground. Some guests have been from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and other Midwestern states.

“The number of phone calls, the tons of emails and Facebook messages that we have been getting is really overwhelming,” Lydia McDonald said. “I couldn't believe how many people came to our opening and the number of people we continue to see wanting to make reservations.”

Kayakers are able to choose from one of three packages when they book at the campground, including a four-mile, 16-mile, and 18-mile path that leads through some of the Salt River's most scenic views.

The sprawling campground, which is covered by the foliage of an assortment of pin oaks, maples, locust and other trees, features six hand-crafted, Amish-built cabins that are available for rent. Four of the cabins are cottage-style with one bed, while two are loft-style family-style cabins.

“We wanted to keep it as primitive as possible, giving people the chance to be close to nature and to not feel like they are on top of one another,” said McDonald, who along with her family designed each of the cabins.

“Our hope was really that we wanted this fusion of having the comforts of your own home, while being surrounded by nature,” McDonald said.

The McDonalds also hope the Meadow Campground becomes a place where friends and family can gather together for fun, including playing on the sand volleyball court, listening to live music, and more. The McDonalds built a bandstand area, which the family hopes will become a popular performance space for local and regional musicians. The American Standard band isscheduledtoperformat6 p.m. on July 10. Additional details about the concert are available on the band's Facebook page,TheAmerican Standard Band.

Information about the campground is located at or is available at 844-424-2267. The campground's reservations may be made daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.




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