Jim and Joy Cordray have owned and operated White River RV Park & Campground in Montague, Mich., since 1974. Three generations of the family have participated in the business over the years which is a source of pride for both according to their son, Dave Cordray.
They continue to actively work in the business today as it remains a family-owned and operated campground.
The two original owners maintained a personal touch with their customers while staying on the cutting edge of what today’s campgrounds should offer.
“Jim and Joy annually visit with multiple generations of campers whose families have camped here at White River,” said Dave Cordray. “They have continually adapted to the changing trends in camping over the years with larger campsites occupied by larger RVs, 50-amp electric service, electric, water and sewer at the campsites, reservation software programs, reservations made online without telephone conversation and providing the ability of campers access to the internet while on property.”
He added that another key part of the business plan was to stay involved with campground associations at the state and national levels.
“They recognize the value of association membership and its importance to small business ownership,” Cordray said. “and the need for education specific to the campground business and campgrounds being involved in government regulation of campgrounds.”
The site has an advantageous location in the middle of many of Northern Michigan’s Muskegon County attractions. Campers are drawn to the major amusement park Michigan Adventure, as well as the dirt bike, off-road and dune buggy area of Silver Lake Sand Dunes.
“We have vacation rentals, cabins, and campsites including generous pull-through sites,” explained Cordray. Or rustic no-hookup tent sites, but the namesake of the White River attracts lots of paddlers to the site. Here they have an affiliation separately operating Happy Mohawk Canoe Livery on the river.
“We have canoes, kayaks, tubes and raft rentals,” added Cordray. “It’s a couple of miles, three miles down the road from White River Campground where we have 290 campsites of which 20 are cabins. It’s just north of some major population centers in Southeast Michigan so, it’s a very, busy river during the summer months. Then you have the better-known rivers on the west side of the state, which would be the Manistee and the Pere Marquette, and the Pine and Muskegon Rivers to name a few. But our campers are just oriented toward all outdoor activities including paddle sports, but also fishing and hunting. But because we’re located on the west side of the Lower Peninsula, it also includes visiting Lake Michigan and the sandy beaches.
“We kind of jokingly talk about the fact that we don’t necessarily have to provide activities for our campers because there’s so much to do in our area,” he added. “Oftentimes on a Saturday afternoon, you might drive through the campground and you see all these RVs or different types of camping equipment, and there’s hardly anybody there because they’re all out doing stuff.”
Business has been very good for the Cordray family. They keep tight control of the various seasonal ebbs and flow of campers.
“We open May 1, but similar to other campgrounds we take reservations earlier,” Cordray explained. “Reservations have been extremely strong this year. What we’ve found is as soon as they become available on Jan. 1, there’s just a flurry of activity for the first two to three months. May is typically a weak month for us because of students still being in school. But come Memorial Day we are full. Then we see a slowing of camping activity in the first few weeks after Memorial Day because of schools, graduations and whatnot. After that’s passed, that’s when we start ramping up our business.”
It’s no joke that there actually are plenty of things to do at White River Campground.
“We have a heated swimming pool and Sand Creek flows through the property along with the White River,” he reported. “The kids love to wade in the creek, they love to chase the minnows and tadpoles and everything else that’s in the water. During the summer months, you’ll oftentimes see the adults with lawn chairs sitting in Sand Creek or the White River to cool themselves.”
In addition, the site has a couple of playgrounds, a dog park, two separate bath houses, gaga pits, horseshoes, cornhole and basketball and volleyball courts.
“We are known as a family-friendly campground with reasonably large campsites, so we’re pretty well spread out,” Cordray added. “We’re experiencing a greater influx of new RVers which for campgrounds creates different challenges. “So, there’s a lot of first-time visitors that we have. Obviously in the campground industry, like most businesses, repeat customers are huge, but we’re seeing more first-timers in the last year or two. The average length of stay at White River Campground is three to four nights. And so, on the 290 campsites, 200 are for the transients and 90 are for seasonal campers.”
The Cordray family is reinvesting in its legacy during these peak times.
“This year we’re opening a brand new retail store location, which includes a new laundry facility, a community room and additional bathroom facilities,” said Cordray. “We are clearing additional wooded areas to add more campsites at some point in the future.”
For more information call 231-894-4708 or go to www.whiterivercampground.com.