Thousand Trails, Lotus, CA

Thousand Trails, Lotus, CA

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Ponderosa RV Resort in Coloma or Lotus California

Jun 5, 2008
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Worthy investment if you like camping with family and friends, well managed facility.

Cons:No campfires during high-risk periods, maxed-out on major holidays with more dogs than members.

The Bottom Line: The most fun you can experience year round, something for everyone to do. Most of the on-site staff are professional and experienced. But rarely there's a glitch.


I can’t say I’ve ever had a really bad camping experience, maybe because we have so much fun. I’ll say the worst part though is having to pack up and leave. This review will be on the Ponderosa RV resort located in Coloma California, owned and operated by NACO-Thousand Trails. Ponderosa RV Resort can accommodate most any sized RV down to the basic tent campers. The park is split up into several sections as well as different levels. There are river front sites (Wilderness) , pool side, hill top (Boot Hill) and (Poker Flat), rental trailers and cabins. Not all sites have full hookups, some have 50 amp service, but most all have water and 30 amp electric. Most of the sites are not level but I carry a few 2X4s and place them under the tires on the low side, works well. Some sites are big enough to accommodate an RV and a tent, we did this a lot when inviting guests. The link below is a plot map of the campground. 136 hook-ups - Rentals: 4 trailers, 2 cabins, 2 Hideaway cabins, 2 Getaway cabins.

.:Camping at Ponderosa RV Resort:. Coloma California:

My family has had some of best of times camping and the most fun since we signed up back in 1992 with Ponderosa RV Resort. For the past 3 years the campground has been owned and operated by NACO-Thousand Trails. The resort has steadily improved since NACO-Thousand Trails took over. I’ve observed how well new management prioritized some of the obvious deficiencies within the first few months of ownership. How important would you say your RV’s air conditioner was on a HOT day? From our first experience on Labor Day weekend in 1992 (when it was privately owned) to within the first few weeks of ownership NACO-Thousand Trails, they finally added more desperately needed power to the main “Wilderness” area. Imagine almost 70 RV’s with their A/C’s going, drawing 12 to 15 amps each from a wimpy 400 amp main electrical supply. The “main” fuse breaker tripped a dozen times a day. Over the years, that was the only problem we had when the campground was at or near full capacity every 100 degree plus day.

Recently on our latest Memorial weekend outing, and having not being to the resort since last October, I noticed a few new additional amenities and a couple additional staff members, one of which had a Bachelors degree in recreation! The scheduled activities were endless, early morning until about 9:30 in the evening. Most every one of these activities included every one of all ages. Here’s just a few they offered throughout the day:

At 1:00, rock painting at 2:30, Frisbee golf at 3:30, and later at night outside the family lodge there was a “D.J.” that played 70’s-80’s disco. He even had the disco ball! In the years prior to NACO-TT ownership, there were a few structured times for both “Horse shoes” and “Bocce ball”. These were listed in the activities sheet as “tournaments”. Although the two original Bocce ball courts (one is official size) and the (now only one) double Horseshoe pit exists, it was determined in the best interests by park management to be deleted from the scheduled “family” activities sheet. So many unforgettable memories with Bocce and Horseshoes, I always looked forward to those major holiday tournaments, usually 12-18 of us played for 3 hours or so, and I might add “in the shade”.

The main attraction to Ponderosa RV Resort is of course is the American River. Kayaking and fishing are the main activities, swimming if you can handle 45 degree water. If you want to try kayaking, it’s best between Memorial weekend, through Labor Day 11:00am-5:00pm. Bring a or better
kayak, paddle and life vest for the short run that everyone starts out with. We shuttle up the road about a mile to “Marshall Gold Discovery State Park” and launch there, then float back to Ponderosa or continue to the next state park “Henningsen Lotus Park”. This is a good 15-20 run that anyone can do, only one whitewater (class I-II) rapid called “Old Scary”. If you’re real daring I suggest getting dropped out at “Trouble Maker” (class III-IIII). This is also a “Must see” just to watch the other commercial kayakers get through or get dumped…..Bring your camera!

If you don’t like river water, there’s a full size (well maintained) swimming pool (40 person capacity) that’s kept at around 80 degrees year round. Something else NACO-TT did as an upgrade was get the right sized pool filter. The one originally installed in the late 90’s was for “homeowner” and not for commercial or public usage. I knew something wasn’t right, later in the day the water always had this cloudy gray haze to it. Each corner of the squarely laid out pool area has a 4 foot round plastic table (umbrella & the only shade) with 4 (cheap) plastic chairs. There are 2 separate bathrooms about 150 feet away from the pool in each direction. At the end of your swim you can rinse off with the exterior fresh water shower. The only downside to the pool I can think of is the “Adult” swim time, I think it’s between 4 to 5 pm daily. This is good for some but is a pain for most anyone who brings the kids to the pool around say 3:50 (and do not see the sign) then only to be asked by a childless guest to get their kid(s) out of the pool, it’s “Adult” time.

There is now only one Swimming Beach as the one in the Wilderness area (my favorite) was washed away from a major storm, it will return someday. Yes, Mother nature works in mysterious ways. The main swimming beach is approximately a 250X20 foot long natural (nature made) solid stretch of “decomposed granite” or DG. Most of the swimming area is separated from the main current of the river by a peninsula in the center of the river so in case you fall asleep on a flotation devise you won’t wake up miles downstream.

I don’t fish that often or as much as I'd like to, but over the 16 years I’ve been going I’ve found the right combination of bait and the “secret spot” to guarantee a strike within 10 minutes. The Department of Fish and Game plant trout upstream on a regular basis. The little Rainbow trout are about 10 inches on average, perfect pan sized, and once in a while I’ll catch a big 12 incher. Very rarely someone gets a natural “German Brown”, so big they can snap your rod or take your pole! The only other fish I’ve seen pulled out of the South Fork was something that I can only say resembled a Pike. Some little 8 year old boy caught one of these with a one inch piece of hotdog. When he pulled it out of the water so proudly it was almost as tall as he was. Nobody really knew what it was so they released it back. By the way, if you need a fishing license they do sell them at the store, I think they’re only good for one day.

.:The campgrounds fully stocked general store:.

Deli sandwiches and “Broasted Chicken” are specialties, beer on tap too! There’s just about anything you’ll need, from fishing poles to flip flops, plus other various water gear. And of course the things you’ll probably run out of and need, firewood and ice, even propane….Did you forget to bring chemicals for the holding tank? No problem. The stores hours vary, use to be late like 10pm on the weekends during peak season, now it’s 8 or 8:30. Same with the mornings, was 6am now it’s 7:30? I just discovered they offer internet via “Wi-Fi” You can receive the signal free in three locations: General Store-Family Lodge-Adult Lodge. You don’t have to be in the building to get the signal, you can be in a nearby site and there it is, internet in the boonies! There’s even a outdoor “Beer Garden” and eating area, smoking is allowed in this section.

.:Other Food:.

I’ve gone to Ponderosa several times towing my RV, barely stocked with food or supplies and was simply accommodated with the offerings from the resort. Below is an example of the “Family Lodge” menu, very basic and fairly priced items. There are nearby cafes, restaurants, even a pizza joint across the street with a few arcade games to play while you’re waiting.

.:Other amenities:.

Restrooms are everywhere, some include showers that are clean and never run out of hot water. There’s a medium sized semi-shaded playground for kids that includes a fairly new wooden swing set and slide. I noticed they added a new permanent Volley Ball court next to a newly added dog run. I haven’t seen any action for a few years now from the relocated horseshoe pits. The fact these are out in the blazing sun might have something to do with it. I personally didn’t care for the fact they were being used as litter boxes from the local stray cats. My suggestion to keep the sand pits covered went unanswered. I miss the old pit area that was cool and shaded plus had a single row of ringside bleacher seats. When the pit was back filled they added a new lawn area, (near the family lodge) about 6,000 square feet. This is the only man made turf area on the site and a sign posted to keeps pets away.

Speaking of pets, they are welcome but I found this last visit that there were more dogs then park members. I even took a picture of a husband and wife pushing 4 pooches in a custom made dog stroller. There’s also quite a bit of barking noise, everyone taking their pet(s) for a walk and barking at each other (not the members), this does get annoying at times. I noticed almost everywhere they have a waste bag dispenser so you can pick up immediately after your pet.
Something I found out on my last trip was someone asking about a laundry-mat, just bring extra clothing, 12 miles to the nearest one. If you need special services, the closest major towns are Auburn and Placerville which are 20-25 minutes away.

.:Other Wildlife:. The birds and the bees, and the bugs….

Bring your favorite bug spray repellent, and during peak bug season a fly swatter for each member in your site. I hope you like getting woke up by the sounds of chirping birds at the crack of dawn. Not so bad if you’re in a RV, a heavy sleeper or hard of hearing. Later in the season (August-September) when Yellow Jackets are in full swing expect them to join in at every meal, they love it when you Barbeque!

I’ve never heard of anyone spotting Mountain Lions, Black or Brown Bears, but they are a few (20) miles away. Bring your binoculars for lots of bird watching and the deer across the river. Rattlesnakes are found occasionally, I had a baby make its way to my site once. One of the rangers took care of it. The rest of the wildlife is harmless and can be a nuisance for tent campers. If you leave your door open expect a visit from a frog or toad. Lizards by day and Bats at night will keep down the insect population, except the ants. They will leave you alone if you tidy up.

My cell phone gets a signal, wife’s Verizon and my new Sprint, that’s it. No other carriers work, I asked others. Use to be just Verizon. The reception we do get is decent. When camping in the Wilderness Area, (lowest weakest signal area and furthest from the General stores pay phone) and wanting to stay in communications with the outside world might be a problem. Only a few TV stations are received, I never watch TV but bring along a few DVD’s and a laptop if you’re into that. Wife likes to watch a movie to help her fall asleep. Again, Wi-Fi available in 3 locations.

.: 24-Hour Security and Gated Entrances:.
The first image you see as you approach the Park is the General Store, no sign of a campground as its behind the gated entrance. As you approach the gate it opens and you’re waved on to proceed the ranger station. Provided you made reservations you’re then given your paperwork that includes a gate code to come and go plus all the scheduled activities and entertainment. Prior to the ranger station non members found their way into the park by waiting outside until someone tripped the automatic gate. They’ve really done a great job keeping out these violators.

.:Friendly Helpful Staff:.

Most of the personnel you see on the premises are maintenance or security or they function as both. There’s always someone driving about in a golf cart or utilitarian vehicle performing some sort of task, usually exceeding the 5 MPH posted speed limit and kicking up a plume of dust. Whatever the maximum speed a golf cart can travel, that’s how fast their going. They will even fetch a fire-ring, refill a propane bottle, or even shuttle you to and from the General Store. If your holding tanks get full you can schedule a visit (currently $15) for the “Honey Wagon”.

.:Onsite Storage:.

Limited availability and affordable storage for your RV, on and off season. Risky during flood season as well as the possibility that it will get broken into like mine did in 2005.

.:Final thoughts and recommendations:.

Most all of Thousand Trails resorts are membership only and camping is not available to the general public. They do offer little to no cost 3-4 night stays to potential new members and I suggest calling them for details. The cost to join varies depending on the level of membership. A typical plan would cost $1,000 and up plus annual dues of approximately $499. Reservations are required and the sites are available on a first come first serve basis at this location. Cabins and rental trailers are available to those without RV’s or tents for an additional fee. Not once have any on or off site sales staff approached us to upgrade our current membership. The one negative I’m experiencing as well as other long time Ponderosa Park members is the resort has been filled to capacity on major holidays with the best sites taken by “full timers”. To me down in the wilderness or practically any site you can get into, there really is no such thing as a bad site in this resort.
For me, weekend getaways or a week long stay at 1 campground is all I need for now. NACO-Thousand Trails has approximately over 80 resorts throughout United States and Canada. Please visit their website to see if there’s one near you, or if you’re a full time RV’er looking for a campground resort system , NACO-Thousand Trails may be a cost effective way for you.

.:Bottom Line:.

A worthy investment at an affordable price for you and your family to enjoy the outdoors in a controlled safe environment. So much to do when camping, whether it's the activities they offer, or just kick back and relax. You deserve a break and the finer qualities this resort offers. There’s nothing like meeting new friends and at the end of the day sitting around the campfire with the kids making S’mores or roasting marshmallows.

Note: The campground may list a different address such as “Lotus” Their direct phone number can be found via the above link. And during the off season or during the winter both the Wilderness area and river front camping sites may be limited or unavailable for your safety. Storing your RV in the lower areas of the park will need to be addressed.

Recommend this product? Yes

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