Saturday, December 10, 2022


Seattle KOA sets bad example for others


By Chuck Woodbury

It’s difficult to find an RV park in Seattle. There are few to begin with, and the good ones are booked much of the year. One park close to downtown Seattle is the KOA in nearby Kent. I visited it twice last month after hearing reports from readers that it was not up to KOA standards. They were correct.

Some rigs in the park are not in tip-top condition.

I have stayed in KOAs for 25 years. As a member of the media, I was often given free passes. I bet I’ve stayed at 150 parks altogether. I had always found KOAs to be of predictably good quality. They were clean, safe and usually quiet. They have served many RVers well.

My first stays were back in the mid-1990s. My young daughter knew the KOA logo before Ronald McDonald.

But in all those years, I never saw a KOA as neglected as the present-day Seattle location. If I were the owner of another KOA franchise, and learned of the shabby condition of this park, I would demand it get removed immediately from the system. What a terrible example it sets for most of the other KOAs as a good place to camp with a family. If I were camping with a child I’d stay in a Walmart parking lot before here. And for $65 a night (full, 50-amp hookup)? Are you kidding?! 

Next door neighbor’s sewer drain a few feet from an RVer’s steps. Would you let your child play on this grass?

In an email I told KOA PR man Mike Gast that on my most recent visit I counted 17 RVs with expired license plates, about 20-25 percent of the park’s occupants. Some had expired two, three — as long as six years ago.

I ask you, would you want to hole up with a bunch of permanent residents with messy sites, whose RVs were not even street legal?

I asked Gast to explain why the park would accept so many RVs with expired licenses. He wouldn’t comment.

How often do you stay at a KOA park? Answer poll below.

He told me the City of Kent wants to condemn some of the park’s land in order to expand and extend the current levy structure along the Green River to enhance flood protections. “The land condemnation,” he wrote, “could involve as many as 40 current sites at the campground. The current legal action precludes the owners from making site improvements, etc. on the park.”

Is this what you pay for when you stay at a KOA?

Does that mean the owners can’t fix the broken washing machines or the unsightly bathrooms? Or maybe repair campsites where RVers step out their front doors into mud on rainy days? Maybe they could fix potholes on the neglected park roads.

I told Gast that comments on from 12 years ago noted similar poor conditions to what I recently observed — an old, tired, congested and overpriced park. Why didn’t the owners fix it up way back then? 

He responded: “I can tell you that our new VP of Franchise Services is planning a specific visit to the campground in the next few weeks, and is taking along his director of quality assurance.” Is it just a coincidence that my note to KOA that I would be publishing this editorial and the promised inspection came at the same time — after more than a decade of critical customer reviews?

On its website, KOA shows off one of its sites. Could it be that many are not quite so gorgeous?

What others say
•Yelp gives the park 2 stars out of 5.
•Trip Advisor gives it 2.5 stars out of 5.
• gives it 2 stars out of 5.
• gives it 2.5 stars out of 5, among the lowest rankings of all parks in the Seattle area.

See for yourself
•Pics of the the KOA along with the run-down bathrooms.
Reviews on Yelp including photo of the laundry room with four broken machines.
Reviews of the park on

What irks me about this KOA is it’s part of a 500-park system that advertises a fun, quality camping experience. With so many poorly maintained RV parks these days, I expect KOA to set the bar high — for independent Mom and Pop parks to emulate to be competitive. The Seattle KOA is setting an example — a bad one. 
I feel sorry for all the KOA franchise owners, often couples who work their behinds off to provide a quality experience for those who stay. You can tell when you visit their parks that these folks take great pride in what they do. Sure, complain if you wish about KOA, about how they are overpriced, but for many RVers a stay at a KOA is normally a pleasant experience. I can’t imagine that’s true in Seattle.

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Greg Murphy
5 years ago

Had rather the same experience in a private campground. Just seems ill conceived and poorly designed. Nice people, not enough grass and the sewer line 5 feet from the table. Sundance WY Mountain View RV.

Jonathan Miller
5 years ago

What also boggles my mind is people that buy half million dollar rigs and then complain about a $50 parking spot. An RV is a luxury purchase not the cheapest way to travel. Those complaining about price should travel in a Prius and stay at the Motel 8.

Jonathan Miller
5 years ago

Is this the one near I-5 Exit 152? I stayed there last summer and my experience was completely different. I saw nothing but nice rigs and didn’t observe any of the deficiencies sited. Maybe I got lucky and it hadn’t rained in a while, and it was very crowded. But for the couple of days that I was there I have no complaints. It certainly is convenient to downtown too.

5 years ago

We have stayed in KOA’s before but not anymore, overpriced and they are dirty and the registration takes too long

Tom P
5 years ago

We had a similar negative experience at the Williamsburg, VA KOA. They had recently purchased an adjacent campground. They were in the midst of some much needed drainage improvements. The site was so soggy we could not venture off the narrow gravel pad. The drainage ditch behind the sites was full of stagnant water. I gave them a very poor rating on trip advisor.
We have had great experiences at many other KOA sites, but now seek other alternatives.

Lydia Bishop
5 years ago

My husband and I stayed at a KOA at the confluence of the Snake and Palouse Rivers. It was immaculate, the staff was friendly and helpful. We’d stay there again in a heartbeat. It’s smaller than many of the others we’ve looked into staying at. You can even take your boat and moor it at that KOA. Lovely little place.

Lydia Bishop
5 years ago

Late for the comment thread, but here’s my two cents worth. The Kent KOA property owners are probably getting squeezed by rising state and county property taxes! The Kent Valley used to be agricultural, but is now a light industrial warehouse forest. Commercial land is becoming scarce in the south end. Combine that with the uncertainty regarding the City of Kent’s pending land grab, as a business owner I’d be reluctant to do much in the way of maintenance too. Maybe they’re getting ready to sell or if the KOA is on leased land, the landlord is getting ready to sell.

Another thought about the campground’s deplorable condition is the lawless transient population in King County. The RVs in horrible disrepair and tabs years expired is another symptom of the problem plaguing Seattle and adjoining areas.

To me, it looks like it’s turned into an “upscale Jungle (the druggie camp and its spin-offs near downtown Seattle) I wonder how many of the “campers” have been at the Kent KOA for longer than ten days? Has evidence of drug use, dealing, and manufacture been seen there?

It’s sad. I used to live in Kent and would drive by ithe KOA regularly and it was tidy and well kept. But that was in the 1990s. The Seattle metro area has changed a lot since then, and in the case of the Kent KOA, it’s changed for the worse.

5 years ago

What gets me about a lot of RV park and resorts is the pictures on their websites. Most of the pictures are of a clubhouse, the office, the pool, people sitting around eating/drinking, but not a lot of pictures of the actual RV sites. It would be nice if the parks/resorts would put actual pictures of the sites to be able to see where and how the hooks ups are, how much space between sites and
Length, trees , no trees, etc. This is frustrating when the description is one thing ad you get there and it’s not even as described.

Anita P
5 years ago

Went to one KOA – Seaside , OR. Over priced, crammed in with a shoehorn. My research shows that most KOA’s are over priced, and many have bad reviews. Why would I want to spend my money on an RV park knowing it probably won’t be a good experience? We are full-timers and would stay in a Walmart parking lot or truck stop over KOA.

D,. Gremlin
5 years ago

I am at the Seattle KOA now. It is truly horrible. Wished I’d seen this and read reviews before stopping! I am leaving tomorrow. I am asking for a refund! This place should be closed!

5 years ago

Homerville, Ohio KOA is awesome. Admittedly we are fairly new to RVing. We’ve travelled from AZ to Erie, PA and back for the July Roar on the Shore rally. Stayed at KOAs every night. Never a problem. I liken KOAs to Denny’s restaurants. Predictable. I am concerned the Seattle KOA may become the norm. I hope this doesn’t happen. My wife and I are more concerned with quality than price. I think $35.00 to $45.00 is a bargain to sleep in our own house on wheels rather than sleep in a room priced from $150.00 and up. Yes, we stay in nice hotels rather than motel chains. To reiterate, PLEASE KOA, dont let your “camp” sites turn to {bleeped}. Thanks.

5 years ago

12 years ago I stayed at a KOA in Wilmington NC. The pool had green stuff growing in it (besides Alga) + frogs & salamanders. every bit of equipment in the weight room was non functioning, there was maybe 10 items on the store shelves and a premium price being charged as the place had a pool, weight room etc..

L. Dean
5 years ago

OVERPRICED. Fulltimed for 8 years. Spent, maybe, 5 nights in a KOA. WHY?

5 years ago

My wife and I retired from the Seattle area in 2006 when we started our full time adventure. We’re still on the road and have never ever stayed at a KOA.

Our kids still live there, so, we have to go back. We’ve found that Tall Chief in Fall City isn’t bad, and Sunrise Resorts in Covington works too. There’s also a mobile park called Willow something in Kent……..much cheaper and better than KOA, but not great.

And……there is boondocking near Enumclaw…..worth the drive to be there.

Nancy Schaut
5 years ago

Similar experience at the KOA at Sam’s Town in Las Vegas. The South Park is very nice, and we enjoyed our stay there. The North Park is another story, with permanent residents, rvs that haven’t moved for years, cars up on blocks, etc. If you make a reservation, be sure to specify the South Park.

Kay K.
5 years ago

If you think the Seattle KOA is bad….Check out the Acton, Ca. KOA.
What a mess. Bathroom have dry rot, pool is slimy. Residents-old expired rigs.

5 years ago

There’s an easy fix. If it’s next to a river file a complaint with the City’s Board of Health over sewer pollution. Wait. This is Washington. File a complaint with the State‼️ Had to Zviolate dome “Clean” rule of dome kind?

Cindy Trombley
5 years ago

We will stay at KOA only if something else is not available. We have not had a bad camping experience just think they are overpriced and charge for everything. We have a weekend at a KOA with our son & his family coming up and I was really hesitant about booking it. Back in December we had to cancel a KOA reservation and received no refund. It was cancelled 3 weeks before arrival due to health issues of a family member and had to be on the other side of the country from the reservation. It was too stressful for me to fight with that KOA at that time. Hence my reservations about this trip.

5 years ago

There are awesome KOAs and then there the KOAs you really want to say to yourself….seriously? Total seriously? Wow. Yellowstone and St Mary in Glacier Montana are wonderful. Quiet and nice. The one in Quebec City also nice. Then there is the in South Montreal. Stay away. The owner is nasty. Philadelphia is awesome. I do stay in some and have had a great experience. And this is in the last 5 years. I guess we need to post where we stayed and why it was great. IMO

Bill Patterson
5 years ago

2011 we traveled across the country about 8000 miles and stayed almost all the time at KOA’s. We would call as we got tired and always got a place and they where always clean and nice. The price was not over the top either. Guess things have changed. Sorry to hear as we have gotten used to them being there when we need them.