Our first visit to Marval Resort https://marvalresort.com/ was in June 2014 coinciding with our 25th wedding anniversary. It was just the two of us and we were just starting our road trip to Cadott, Wisconsin for a country music festival. Marval was a place we knew the grandkids would enjoy. In July 2016, we returned with Luke our grandson who was 14 years old at the time. Luke still talks about what a good time he had floating the Illinois River and meeting friends, including one that he still occasionally talks with by phone.
This year Addison and Lily’s choice was Marval Resort, so now our visits look like every 2-years, so far! Although, at the end of this year’s visit, we have been told many times that the girls want to make Marval their annual summer camping trip with Papa and Nana.
Marval Resort is similar to Jellystone Park with it’s scheduled activities for the kids. When you check-in, they provide you with a calendar of events. Like Jellystone Park, there is an activity room open during the day for painting ceramics which you purchase. In addition, Marval does tie-dye shirts (you purchase the base white T) and their staff assists with the project. Both Parks also have candy bar bingo on their schedule. Marval has a 9-hole, putt-putt golf course that only cost $1.00 per person. Marval has two nice size swimming pools and of course, floating the lower Illinois River that runs through the park is a lot of fun. Many campers bring their own kayaks or small motor boats because there are no water craft rentals at Marval. Trout fishing is supposed to be good at Marval as the river is stocked, but no one we talked to was catching anything while we were visiting this time. Marval does rent golf carts, but it is suggested to reserve a cart with your reservation as during the summer months, they fill-up.
On Sunday, July 15, as we returned from Parker’s Beaver Bend camp out, we dropped the RV off at Choctaw’s KOA in Durant, OK. Our plans were to drive Parker home in the truck without having to haul the trailer all the way home, only to leave again the next morning with the girls for Gore, OK. As it turns out, we dropped Parker off at his house, did a few loads of wash and turned around the same day, taking the girls with us back to the KOA to spend Sunday night. It was a long, busy day, but the girls were so excited to begin their trip a day earlier than planned.
Our reservations at Marval Resort began on Monday, July 16 with check-in no earlier than 2 pm and we were only a 2 ½ hour’s drive from Durant. It gave us time to relax a little Monday morning and make a run to the store to restock our groceries.
We arrived at Marval Resort Monday afternoon, as we set-up camp, the girls couldn’t wait to rent the pedal carts to ride around the park. We allowed them to ride the pedal carts a few times, however, we decided something else needed to be worked out because the carts were $5.00 each for only 30-minutes.
We keep our two-bicycles on a rack on the back of our RV. For Beavers Bend we brought Parker’s bike so the three of us were able to ride together. We knew that Lily could ride Nana’s bike because she had in the past, but we had not brought Addison a bike, so we were considering driving to a Walmart and purchasing her a new bike. Lily spoke up saying that she could ride Papa’s bike and Addison could ride Nana’s bike. Sure enough, Papa was able to adjust Nana’s bicycle seat to the lowest position, and although a little bit of a struggle, Addison did just fine riding Nana’s bicycle. The two girls thoroughly enjoyed riding bicycles all through the park and stayed on them most of the time. Addison commented it was one of the most-fun things she did as she does not ride bicycles very often.
We swam at the pool(s) every day. Papa, Addison and Lily floated in the 50-60 degree, cold Illinois River on our inflatable tubes most every day, it was way too cold for Nana even in the 100+ degree outside temperatures.
Addison loves art. She and Lily each painted two ceramics and we purchased three tie-dye shirts for them to make. We were celebrating Bill’s birthday on this week’s trip and the girls decided they wanted to make Papa a tie-dye shirt for his birthday.
One of the activities for the kids is Water Tag (initially confused with another activity called Water War). The Resort Staff explained Water Tag is basically a water-gun battle with vests and water guns they provided. Wow, did the kids have such a fun, fun time. It was at this activity that we met a family with 4 children, two of which were close to Addison and Lily’s age, Matthew and Reyna Mendoza. Chelsie, their Mom, and her mother, Theresa rented a cabin at the resort for their vacation.
It was a little confusing on the activity schedule, as Marval has an actual Water War game set-up beside the activity center that requires water balloons. We learned that they call the water-gun battle Water Tag because the actual Water War game set-up requires water balloons which they do not supply and they do not organize. You can purchase packages of water balloons at the Camp Store or bring your own and you can play on your own without Resort Staff which is what we did. Papa purchased two-packages of 50 each, the girls and their new friends, Matthew and Reyna, shot water balloons across the platform at each other. Papa and Nana assisted with filling the 100 balloons and tying them for the kids. Another family joined us and they had a large bucket of water balloons they had purchased at Walmart and brought with them, as they had learned the year before they needed them for this game.
Addison, Lily, Matthew, and Reyna became inseparable after their fun time with their water-gun and water-balloon battles. If Matthew and Reyna’s family were going to the pool, that’s where the girls wanted to go, anywhere they were going, the girls were right behind them or asking where they might be.
Wednesday, July 18, Bill’s actual birthday we went to dinner at South Fork Café in Gore. It’s a new restaurant with a grand opening only about 5-months ago. The service was great, food was average. They brought a cupcake to the table and we sang happy birthday and shared the cupcake. After returning to camp and wanting to make the day special, Nana asked the Mendoza family and another family we met camping near us (Evette-Mom, Michael-Dad, and Halee, their 11-year old daughter) over to roast marshmallows and make s’mores. Papa built the fire just before dark, Nana pre-packaged the marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers in baggies for all the kids with plenty of extras for the adults. At dark, Papa plugged in the Star Shower projector, something we learned about last year at Beavers Bend. It’s advertised as a decorative spotlight to shine on your house at Christmas time, but the effect is greatly enhanced and looks awesome shining up in the trees while at a campground. The kids are always amused by the lights in the trees as the effect looks like hundreds of fireflies.
We all four played candy-bar Bingo. For each candy-bar you get a Bingo card, so we each brought two candy bars and played two cards each. There were four games and Bill’s birthday luck paid off and he was a winner in all four games with a three way tie in game two with Lily and Addi. In game four (the cover-all-numbers grand prize game) he tied with another family, so we had lots of candy-bars which was obviously the prize. Nana decided that we needed to share our candy bars with the few other tables of people playing, one was the Mendoza family, and Halee was sitting at our table with us, so we gave her a few bars too. We still ended up with quite a few candy bars and when we got home from camping. Of course, Papa was still trying to figure out where his prized candy bars went! Addison, Lily, any idea?
We all four played a game of putt-putt golf and although it was small and not the newest-greatest putt-putt course, most of the holes were quite difficult. Also, it was very hot the day we played even though we started early, about 9:30 am so we were ready to quit after the 9-holes.
There were heat-alerts coming across our phone for temperatures to reach 106-108. So, one day we drove over to Ten Killer Lake. We went to Pine Cove Marina for a cold drink, Papa checked out the pontoon rentals and Nana asked about any nice swimming areas at the lake. The pontoon rentals are much more reasonable than at Broken Bow Lake at Beavers Bend, and Ten Killer marina rents paddle boards, kayaks and other water toys too. We were not prepared to rent anything on this visit, but will consider on our next visit to Marval Resort. There is a nice swim area at the lake which is not as cold and has more comfortable temperatures to swim than the Lower Illinois River. We followed directions provided to us and checked it out. You take the road past the Pine Cove Marina, follow it around the park until it the road dead-ends, near Hickory Flats camp area. You know you’re there by the large Pine Cove Marina signage off the pier that runs out on the lake. It was not a designated swim area with a roped off area, but certainly was a nice area to swim and accessible by car when you not in a boat that has access to many more swim areas. It wasn’t crowded and had a nice rocky beach. We saw a large catfish swimming in shallow water close to shore and many perch, small fish.
It was such a fun week with the girls at Marval. When asking them what their favorite thing about the week was they both said it was meeting new friends, the water-gun and balloon battles and riding their bicycles. It was unanimous that they want to return next year too. Maybe next year, we’ll rent cabins for all the family to come along . . . parents, siblings, and pets!