STERLING – Picture it: A cool breeze drifts across the river, rustling leaves and coaxing you out of a deep sleep, nature’s gentle alarm clock. You wake up, breathe in the fresh air and pour a cup of coffee. Then you crack open the tackle box, get the rod and reel ready, bait the hook, and with the flip of a wrist, you’re fishing.
This scenic slice of R&R, near a bend in the Rock River, isn’t even that far away, as the crow flies.
Crow Valley Campground, on 40 acres about 2 miles west of the Twin Cities off Moline Road, offers a place to set up camp, kick back and relax.
Rock Falls natives Rindy and Scott Wohlstadter, 55 and 56, now of Clinton, Iowa, just passed their fifth anniversary as Crow Valley’s owners. The campground, around since the 1970s, is open April 15 through Oct. 15, and offers tent and RV sites for short stays or long hauls, and a boat ramp.
“To my knowledge, we are the only campground in Sterling/Rock Falls that still has tent camping,” Rindy said. “Our tent sites are right along the Rock River, too. If you want to go fishing, you can throw your line right from the campsite.”
Crow Valley is special, because “we’re right on the Rock River, which is awesome for fishing,” Rindy said. “There are over 100 species of fish, and it’s deemed one of the 20 cleanest rivers in the United States.”
The Wohlstadters like to think of their business as more than just a campsite: It’s a community where people can make new friends or reconnect with old ones.
They enjoy meeting their guests, many of whom are repeat customers they know by name, and evenings sitting around a campfire with their fellow campers.
The campground offers a long list of amenities, including wifi, an outdoor pool, sand volleyball and basketball courts, horseshoes, a playground, game room, family activities, and a store when you can pick up camping supplies such as snacks, toiletries, worms, ice, and firewood.
While you’re there, you might even catch a glimpse of a rare bird: 6-foot-tall Mr. Crow, the campground’s mascot, who comes in for a landing from time to time to greet campers.
Don’t have a camper of your own? No problem. The Wohlstadters have three camper trailers available for rent.
Crow Valley also is a great place for those new to camping to cut their teeth, close to home – although “you would not believe the amount of people we get from the Chicago area who want to go tent camping and fishing,” Rindy said.
“We have a wide variety of customers from seasonal sites, to those traveling through, to campers who are working in the area and are here for a month or so with their camper or RV.”
The Wohlstadters’ journey from campers to campground owners started soon after they got married in 2012. As they discussed the things they wanted to do in their new life together, “I mentioned that I would like to own a campground, and he said he’d like that, too,” Rindy said.
The couple, both Rock Falls High graduates, already had some experience working in family-owned businesses: Scott’s parents, Jack and Shirley Wohlstadter, owned a the A&W in Rock Falls and the Orange Bowl at Northland Mall, while Rindy’s folks, Charles and Doris Harper, owned Rack & Range and Dixie Cream Donuts, both on U.S. Route 30 in Rock Falls.
They also were no strangers to RVing. They had a travel trailer that they took all over the country, to places as close as Thomson and as far away as South Dakota and Texas.
When a close friend mentioned to then-owners Steve and Kathy Miller that the Wohlstadters were looking to start their own campground, the deal came together quickly: By Labor Day weekend 2014, the campground was theirs.
They had to put some money and elbow grease into the site. “The electrical panel was not up to par,” Rindy said. “We’ve had to reinvest a lot into the campground. We’ve redone many sites, and we’ve many added sites.”
They’re not done: They plan to add more campsites and make other improvements –“keeping it great and refreshing everything,” Rindy said.
It’s all part of their goal to make their extended family of customers feel right at home at their home away from home, she said.
“The campground is a family place, and that is the most vital thing to both of us.”
Check it out
Crow Valley Campground, 23807 Moline Road in Sterling, is open for the season from April 15 to Oct. 15.
Contact owners Rindy an Scott Wohlstadter at 815-626-5376 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and learn more about the site at crowvalleycampground.com or on Facebook.