July 17, 2020
Firefly Creek Ranch
Nice Farm Setting
A nice farm camping site on what has previously been a residential facility. Chickens, ducks will check you out, but aren’t aggressive and don’t let you get too close. Horses grazing in a pasture. Quiet. Leah could not have been more welcoming. Bathroom, including shower, was very clean. I would stay here again in a heartbeat.
June 13, 2020
Firefly Creek Ranch
Tent camp with amenities steps away
Our stay at Firefly Creek Ranch was AMAZING and we would stay there again in a heartbeat. Brenda the host and Leah the caretaker / all around farmhand were so welcoming and helpful. The grounds are beautiful and the animals are lovely. We got to meet horses, ducks, chickens, and Cora the dog!
The property we camped on is adjacent to the old county home, which Brenda is in the process of turning into an event and retreat center. It is such a lovely place and all the amenities are more than what we expected for a hipcamp. She graciously allowed us to use the bathroom and shower facilities (with drinkable running water!) and a kitchen fridge and freezer for when our cooler ice melted. Everything was very clean, and there were even towels and toiletries available to use. It was amazing to have the experience of camping outdoors and waking up to bird songs and distant cow moos, while also being able to take a hot shower and brush your teeth in a sink with running water.
That said, the only things to be aware of is that it is a working farm, so someone needs to be there daily to take care of the animals. Also, some rooms on the opposite wing of the building have permanent residents who will come and go through the nearby parking lot. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and friendly, and we always felt very safe, but be aware if you are looking for 100% solitude, never-see-another-person type of camping, this might not be for you. Also, there was only one shower, and while this wasn't a problem for just the two of us, with a larger group you might have to manage who gets to shower when. But this absolutely does not diminish the experience of staying there!
The day we arrived the weather was a little dicey, and that's when we learned she also rents a few rooms of the building Air B&B style. As no one else was staying there (we came on a Wednesday) she said we could use one if we didn't feel comfortable camping outside (for an extra fee of course, which is only fair). During our tour we saw the rooms and they were very nice and homey, with single or double beds depending on the room, and dresser / wardrobe storage space, but the weather cleared up and we didn't take her up on the offer even though it was much appreciated.
The property is only about 5 minutes (by car) away from Panora, which has a great little grocery store should you forget anything, and the trailhead to one stop on the Raccoon River Valley Trail (a 72 mile bike loop on a trail that used to be a railroad. It can be 90+ miles if you take a spur to the North Raccoon River, but when we went the bridge was out due to flooding so you can't quite make it to Jefferson).
It is also about half an hour away from Whiterock Conservancy, which has amazing stargazing opportunities, hiking, horseback riding (byo horse), and mountain biking trails through prairie, forest, and agriculture land, kayaking / canoeing on the Middle Raccoon River, and a historical farm with cows, bison, sheep, goats, and a llama! You can easily spend a full day or more just at Whiterock exploring the trails.
Both of those places also have fishing, and I hear there are lots of local lakes available for recreation as well, but we don't enjoy water activities as much so we weren't looking for that. Everything we did is very inexpensive as well, $2 per person per day on the bike trail, and suggested donation of $2 a person for hiking at Whiterock and $5 each for biking. The grounds at Firefly Creek are incredible as well, and we spent an afternoon just hanging around our campsite and the farm, but you could easily spend a relaxing day there as well.
10/10, we would gladly come back in the future!