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Peace and quiet draw visitors from afar to Elk River campground

Kenny Keiffer makes the rounds to check on visitors at Lazy K’s Campground, across the Elk River from Elkview. He and his brother, Ted, bought the land more than a decade ago.
Tent campers take a break from fishing to relax and take in the scenery from one of Lazy K’s primitive campsites.
KENNY KEMP | Gazette-Mail
A handcut stone tunnel passing under a long-unused railroad line provides access to Lazy K’s 2,000-foot stretch of the Elk River.
KENNY KEMP | Gazette-Mail photos
Emma Lou Fowler walks along a section of the Elk River shoreline at Lazy K’s Campground near Elkview.

After buying some land with 2,000 feet of Elk River frontage and a shady hollow with a year-round creek, Kenny Keiffer and his brother, Ted, built a road to connect the property to the state highway system with the intention of selling it.

“We bought it 11 years ago and spent quite a bit of time on it before we built the road,” said Kenny Keiffer. “We loved fishing in the Elk and just being on the river long before we bought the land,” said the Cabin Creek native. “By the time the road was finished, we decided we kind of hated the idea of selling it and came up with the idea of making it a campground.”

Lazy K’s Campground opened seven years ago across the river from Elkview with four sites for RVs and camp trailers. It now has 21 sites equipped with power, water and sewer service, including four pull-through sites for larger RVs, plus two cabins, two camper shelters and a playground. It also has a loyal following among those in the motorized camping community who prefer peace and quiet in a natural setting over paved bike trails, tennis courts, swimming pools and water parks found at larger RV campgrounds.

“We’re open year-round and we’re pretty full most of the time,” said Keiffer, who lives on a ridge overlooking the campground. “I’d say more than 90 percent of our campers come from out of state. Most of the people coming here for the first time are driving through and looking for a place to stay in the Charleston area, and find us by Googling. Many of them come back when they pass through the area again. We also get a lot of contractors who stay here long-term while working on projects in the area.”

In online reviews of time spent at Lazy K’s posted on social media and camping websites, including Lazy K’s, campground visitors frequently cite peace and quiet, a natural wooded setting near a river, proximity to Charleston (about a 20 minute drive from the campground) and a friendly, attentive host as their top reasons for recommending the campground to others.

“We don’t get bad reviews,” Keiffer said. “People read them and they help them make up their minds to give us a try. I’ve become lifetime friends with some of our campers. We keep up with each other throughout the year.”

During a recent weekday morning while making a circuit of the campground in an ATV, Keiffer stopped repeatedly to answer his cell phone to either respond to questions from prospective campers or give directions to campers who booked space online but needed extra help locating the campground.

“You need to turn around when you get to the Clendenin exit and take Exit 9,” he calmly told a Wisconsin man pulling a camping trailer on Interstate 79 who had overshot the Elkview exit. After giving directions from the Elkview exit to the Blue Creek Bridge over Elk River, Keiffer patiently emphasized the need to take the first right turn immediately after the crossing and avoid any turns away from the river from that point on in order to reach Lazy K’s. “When you get here, we’ll put you in Site One,” Keiffer said.

While Lazy K’s Campground draws an increasing number of visitors from outside the state, it remains little known in Kanawha County, according to Keiffer. There are no signs on I-79, just three miles from the campground, to draw attention to the site, and the campground can’t be seen from U.S. 119 in Elkview, just across the river. The campground attracts enough business through search engine searches and word-of-mouth endorsements that it doesn’t need to advertise locally, Keiffer said.

Among Kanawha County residents who are aware of the campground is Jody Easter of Spring Hill, who was with a small group of tent campers spending time on a sandy bench within casting distance of the Elk.

“For me, this is heaven,” said Easter, as he reclined in a lawn chair next to a smoldering campfire at Lazy K’s riverside primitive camping area, his fishing gear propped against a nearby tree. “Whenever I come here, it seems like it’s never long enough.”

“It’s peaceful and quiet and the people here are friendly,” said fellow camper Mike Wiley. If the fish aren’t biting, he said, “you can sit in the shade and relax and look at the river, or see what the turtles are up to at the beach across the river.”

Wiley said he’s fished the Elk all his life, but it still can be a challenge to know what will entice fish in this lazy stretch of river to bite. “So far, we’ve tried top lures, worms, chicken livers, fingers and toes,” he said with a smile.

“This is a good stretch of river for bass, muskie, catfish and believe it or not, trout in the spring,” Keiffer said. A newly built fishing pond is nearly ready to open, giving campground anglers another fishing venue, which should be particularly welcome during times when the Elk is running high and murky.

Keiffer, who works as an insurance adjuster when not overseeing activity at the campground, said more growth is planned for Lazy K’s during the next several years, including the addition of six to eight new RV sites and two new cabins.

Keiffer said he hopes to see plans revived to build a rail trail on a section of unused and overgrown former B & O Railroad line stretching north from Charleston and Coonskin Park and extending through the campground, giving visitors a new hiking and biking option.

“We’re doing really well and we’re still growing,” said Keiffer. “We know peace and quiet, and people seem to love it.”

To reach Lazy K’s Campground, call 304-552-3536 or 304-380-8812.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5169, or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

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