The Tiny Red Caravan at W.P. Franklin Campground
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Lock me up, rubber trees and sea cows!

W.P. Franklin North Campground


Camper at W.P. Franklin North
Tiny Red Caravan at W.P. Franklin



The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers almost burnt our house down, so staying at a USACE campground sometimes brings back some not so good memories. More on that later.

W.P. Franklin Campground is the second USACE Campground we’ve stayed at, and I have to say, so far, they’ve done a nice job with the parks. W.P. Franklin sits on a small peninsula on the Caloosahatchee River, part of the Okeechobee Waterway in Alva, Florida. On one side is a lock that was partly built for flood control. According to their website, approximately 15,000 vessels pass though the lock yearly. Although we didn’t see a one? There are 30 rv sites on two loops. We stayed in site 7 which was on the opposite side of the actual lock. We had a nice view of a home and its pet cows! There are also boat dock sites if you have a boat and need a place to spend the night. The campground is in rural area, surrounded by a few horse and cattle farms. Take a peak on the opposite side of the road from where you turn into the campground. There was a field with mini horses, donkeys and lamas! 



So this is the only photo I took of the Edison’s home. It was crowed and I said I would come back and take another one. Oops.


The best of friends..

The W.P. Franklin campground is about 16 miles from Ft. Myers. We spent one day at the Edison Ford Winter Estates.  In 1986, Thomas Edison completed his winter vacation home, called “Seminole Lodge”. Edison good friend, Henry Ford, bought “The Mango’s” next door in 1916. (There was row of mango trees planted on the property, thus the name.) They are both beautiful homes, however you can not go in them which was a little disappointing. You are allowed to peak in windows and some doors are open for viewing through. The surrounding grounds are lovely, including a pool and a moon garden! I have always wanted a moon garden.  It’s a garden that’s planted with white flowers and meant to show off its design in the moonlight. I pictured myself hosting evening teas, with mint juleps and cakes, surrounded by the fragrant night blooming flowers. Yeah, that never happened.

Click on photos to see full versions. 



The laboratory desk of Thomas Edison.


From the desk of…

I find it fascinating to see were famous people worked. I always wonder what they were thinking while working? What were they looking at out their windows while they were coming up with the next big thing. I wonder what they did as they worked? Did they tap their pencils, bounce their legs, lean back in their chairs. Our culture as become such that our “desk’ can be anywhere from the line you are waiting in to the chair in the sand by the beach. (Mine right now is the table top in the Tiny Red Caravan.) So the physical area that was the gathering place of the notes, scribbles and tidbits of these people seems to me to be one of the best pieces of art in museums such as this. If only I could run my hands over their desks and absorb the their talent. 


Were the rubber meets the road..

The other interesting area on the property was the Edison Botanical Research Laboratory. During WWI Edison worked with Harvey Firestone (the tire guy) and Henry Ford to try to find a rubber tree that would grow quickly and help reduce the dependency of rubber from foreign suppliers. They created the Edison Botanic Research Corporation in 1927 with 25,000 dollars each. Edison tested over 17,000 plant samples! There are great examples of the trees they used in their experiments growing on the property. Once again I was loving the laboratory and all the work stations. The light was hitting it just right and it looked like the scientist had just left for the day. 

Click on photos to see full versions. 


Camping in Edison style. 

Edison's converted chuck wagon.
Edison’s converted chuck wagon.


There is a museum at the end of the tour. (Or beginning depending on what you choose.) that has a great collection of Edison and Ford paraphernalia that was quite interesting. One of my favorite’s was the 1918 Ford Model T Roadster chuck wagon he used for his camping vacations. One of the conversions he made was to convert the gas tank to hold fresh water. There was a great quote from one of his camping buddies, John Burroughs a naturalist and writer. that rang true for me.. 


“We cheerfully endure wet, cold, smoke, mosquitos, black flies and sleepless nights, just to touch naked reality once more.”


Did you know that Edison was hard of hearing? I didn’t. He was self described as deaf. One of the items on display was a phonograph that he had a wooden box built around. He would bite into the wood so he could “hear” by feeling the vibrations. 



Green thumbs

There is also a garden center that sells plants at the museum. I wish I had some extra room in the camper to buy some. I had to settle for just taking photo’s!  I’ll post some photos of the plants over on the Tiny Red Caravan Facebook page. 


Sea Cows

About 9 miles from the campground is the Lee County Manatee Park. The county park is at the power plant discharge where the manatees like to congregate because of the warm water that is being discharged. There are walkways along the Orange River that runs by the park where you can try to see a glimpse of one of these beautiful mammals. The park rents kayaks or you can use their put in for your own kayak or canoe. The river is not a clear river so we really only saw a snout here and a tail there. We did paddle about 6? miles south on the river. We saw a some wildlife, birds and turtles mostly. No gators. There was one area that could have been on the edge of a botanical garden with all the beautiful plants that were growing amongst the trees. Keep an eye out along the north side of the river. 

Another put in within a mile near the campground that we constantly saw activity at was Telegraph Creek. 


Final thoughts: 

We really enjoyed our stay here. The campground was nice, even though not extremely private like the campground before this one, Oscar Scherer,, we never felt closed in.  We loved the Edison-Ford museum but would buy tickets online line next time. Luckily we were moved to the front of the long line when a quick rain came through and people ran for cover! We would probably pick a different paddle next time. It was just to hard to see the manatees in the water and I would have preferred a little more twisty turns paddle. 


OH! So the whole Army Corps and fire thing…

We once lived under a bridge. (Yep, kinda’ like a troll!) Said bridge needed repair. Let just say that arc welders, dry marsh grass and windy days are not a good mix. It’s never good to get a call at work from the local fire department saying that they are in your home. Luckily the fire was put out on the back stairs before it reached the gas line. The USACE did follow up and pay for the damages. (Just wish I knew we would be camping at their campgrounds. Might could have worked a deal!)


Notes about the campground:

  • Cell speed was good with Verizon. 
  • Keep track of your laundry time! (You will be tracked down at your site if you are not prompt.)
  • There is a good bench for watching sunsets at the point of the park but you will have to walk along the shore or through a campsite to get there. 
  • Closest grocery store is the Publix, about 8 miles away. (15 min.)
  • Great covered picnic tables! We’ve never had that before. 


Places worth mentioning: 

  • About 4 miles east of the campground is the Caloosahatchee Regional Park. There is hiking, biking and equestrian trails. There is also a campground that seemed to be only tents. 
  • About 19 miles (30 min.) is Log Cabin BBQ. This is a local lunch spot and it gets crowed! Good BBQ, free soup and a friendly staff. 




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