by Jose Kevo
September 8, 2004
Hemmed between a large hill and Elk River, this became a hot spot in the early 1900's for picnics and gatherings. Today, Shady Beach is still drawing crowds; what I consider the best campground and canoe outfitter in the County.
Opposition and criticism aren't rare in local headlines aimed at controversial methods of how locals enjoy their weekends - especially here in the Bible belt. Some campgrounds have even banned alcohol on premises. New owners consider their atmosphere at Shady Bean "middle-of-the-road". In my book that reads, "have the time of your life but know how to respect others." Class of the place apparently still works its unspoken magic come 11:00 p.m. quiet time.
Lawns for tents span the majority of campground with a well-shaded area for travel trailers and a row of cottages recently added. Every vehicle passes by the main office for checking in whether camping, canoeing, or just hanging out on a day pass. They're open year-round attracting families, local youth and retirees. Even in busiest seasons, week-days can still provide solitude, but don't even think about coming on weekends without reservations.
The campground has always been well maintained; bugs/mosquitoes never seeming to be a problem. Biggest change over the years is campfires are no longer allowed on lawns; fire pits have been replaced with small barrel grills. Bundled firewood is sold for $1.50 along with ice, snacks, camping/canoe gear, and common things forgotten.
Restrooms with showers are located between the office and highway; a toilet only set further into the campground, and johnny-on-the-spots along the river.
The new sand volleyball court looks tempting enough to return for next summer. That is, if I ever made it out of the chaise lawn chair once arriving. There's only good memories from Shady Beach; an outdoor spa stimulating the hayseed in all of us. Even with continued improvements or Mother Nature constantly reshaping lay of the land with every flooding rain, I'd still know this place like the back of my hand.
Open fires are permitted at the "beach" - beds of creek gravel that come and go with levels of the river. Even when not floating, this area's perfect with lawn chairs in the water while soaking up sun.
If you happen to be so lucky, plan your stay during the full moon cycle of a hot summer month. Come nightfall, don't let ferocious sounding bullfrogs scare you off. Wade into the waters after popping a cold one. Gradually submerge settling in for the Blockbuster previewing on Mother Nature's Drive-In screen. A car racing by on the nearby highway interrupts quiet time reminding there's still another world beyond. And don't be surprised if you happen to stick around for the Double-Feature sunrise...
From journal Elk River's Call of the Wild