There are three military campgrounds in the area of Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). The Army Travel Camp at Lewis North, the Holiday Park FAMCAMP at McChord Field, and the Camp Murray Beach Campground. While the Army Travel Camp and Holiday Park are operated by the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) Program at JBLM, Camp Murray Beach is located at the National Guard Headquarters at Camp Murray, and operated by the National Guard Association of Washington.
Camp Murray is our favorite of the three and I hesitate to tell everyone about this hidden gem. It is tucked away on the shores of American Lake. The shoreline of the campground is a channel between the mainland and Barlow Island. This channel is blocked by mooring buoys, making it a safe place for swimming and other kid activities.
All of the sites are full hookup sites and, with a couple of exceptions, are pretty spacious. When we first arrived we were fortunate to get into site A-1. I consider this to be the best site in the park and could not believe we were lucky enough to get it. It is right on the lake and your door opens directly onto the beach area. Later in our stay, we moved to C-5 on the back row. The “backyard” areas here are huge with three community fire pits.
As opposed to the other two parks that are limited to 14-day stays, you can get a reservation at Camp Murray for up to 30-days. When your time is up you have to leave for a minimum of three days before you can return. Another benefit is that you can wash and do maintenance on your RV in the park, which is not allowed at Lewis or McChord.
American Lake is a popular destination for boating. Many of the service members live in the housing areas near the lake and take advantage of this great recreational resource. A marina on base supports JBLM families. Weekends find the portion of the lake surrounded by JBLM property a popular spot for boaters to relax and swim. We like to kayak in the lake and found some of the best blackberry plants along the shore for easy picking.
A special attraction of Camp Murray is the opportunity to watch military exercises on American Lake. We have been able to watch helicopter helo-casting by the 2nd Ranger Battalion and helicopter personnel recovery winch operations.
At Camp Murray, there is a green space between two rows of campsites that forms a natural amphitheater. I took advantage of this to present two folk music performances to our little RV community.
We enjoyed bicycling in the area. From Camp Murray, it was a short ride over Freedom Bridge to Lewis Main (the old Fort Lewis) and Unity Bridge connects Lewis Main to McChord Field. Most of the roads in the area have paved bike/walking paths or bike lanes on the roads. On occasion, we would combine our biking with shopping at the Base Exchange or Commissary.
Obviously, we enjoyed our time at Camp Murray. The staff is friendly and cooperative. It was fun having the family join us for fun in the water and dinner.
However, in life all good things come to an end and we hooked up our trailer and started our journey east on September 7th.