Set within the Smoky Mountains and located on the Little Pigeon River, this Sevierville, Tennessee, campground is close to the area’s many attractions
When I was researching where I wanted to stay on an upcoming trip to eastern Tennessee, I was looking for an RV park with easy access to the attractions of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, but close enough to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to explore the natural beauty there too. It was a tall order, so I was very happy when I found both in one location.
The River Plantation RV Resort in Sevierville, Tennessee, sounded perfect to me. Sevierville is within a couple of miles of Pigeon Forge, still on the main drag (the Parkway), but with a lot less congestion and traffic than being directly in the thick of the downtown area.
Still, at first, I was put off by the word “resort” because generally my opinion had been that anything with that word in the name was overpriced and had a hoity-toity feel to the property, with RV age restrictions, etc. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this campground truly warranted the resort description, but doesn’t have any of the negative connotations that originally came up in my mind.
Besides my primary requirement as to location, the fact that River Plantation has a hot tub was a big attraction for me. As a full-time RVer without the luxury of a tub in my motorhome, soaking my tired body after a day of hiking and exploring was a very delightful thought.
The property is extensive, featuring 442 total RV sites (some fronting on the Little Pigeon River) as well as cabins for those without RVs. But the layout of the property doesn’t have that paved-parking-lot feel that so many big properties have, and offers plenty of options for shady sites as well as those with more sun for clear satellite TV reception. The park itself sits far enough back from the Parkway that I never noticed any road noise, also something that surprised me a bit.
I wound up staying during the Fourth of July weekend, and by the time my stay had ended, I was sold on this RV resort. When I wasn’t out exploring the area, the activities at the campground were a lot of fun and gave me the opportunity to get to know some of my temporary neighbors. There were cookouts, watermelon socials, weekend entertainment at the pavilion by some really fine acts — like the folks from Country Tonite (a top-rated venue in Pigeon Forge) — and even a patriotic golf-cart parade where people decorated for the holiday and rode around the campground to the delight of kids of all ages.
Besides two pools and the hot tub, the newest outdoor entertainment features a “Lazy River” for tubing, with colored light effects and music in the evenings. There is never a lack of things to do here, day or night, that’s for sure.
But really, it wasn’t until I had met the owner, Jim Conner, and the manager, Mike Hale, that I gained an even greater appreciation for what they have built here.
A true family affair and labor of love, Jim and his father began building the campground from the ground up in 1991 from family farmland. He laughed when he told me they sometimes used MacGyver techniques to make some things work. He paid no attention to advice from others who told him he needed to follow the example of other campgrounds, and he decided to make his RV sites larger than usual with much more space in between than finances alone would have dictated.
They gutted it out during bad economic times, kept the faith and always stuck to their original vision.
When approached by the outdoor hospitality company RVC Outdoor Destinations to inquire if the property might be for sale, Jim said no. While he was interested in expanding their market reach, he was not interested in relinquishing control. He said his question to himself was, “How do I keep the mom-and-pop feel of the place, the many repeat customers who like things just the way they are, yet keep moving forward in terms of expansion, exposure and marketing support?”
When RVC Outdoor Destinations was inspecting properties in the area, the report that went back to their main office was, “You can’t build a better RV park than River Plantation already has.” So upon a mutual understanding of goals, River Plantation RV Resort reached an agreement with RVC Outdoor Destinations and is still an independent operation, but now has a nationwide network in RVC.
RVC’s goal is to redefine the traditional camping experience with upgraded, unique outdoor facilities and amenities set within gorgeous natural environments. “Instead of being a place to stay on the way to somewhere, we are the somewhere,” said Jim. His motto continues to be, “It’s not about the numbers, it’s about the people.”
The two companies have a nice symbiotic relationship that benefits us RVers for sure.
While staying at River Plantation I met some fine folks who were here for a Foretravel rally and they told me that River Plantation is a perfect location for an RV rally. Not only does the campground accommodate even the largest motorhomes, the massive conference center and food service make planning events a breeze.
During the rally’s opening ceremonies, Jim said, “We built this place because we wanted to make friends and take care of folks.” Mike chimed in, “We love this industry — we’re all like family and we’re here to make you happy.”
From everything I saw during my stay and comments from other folks, they’ve certainly met that goal!
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