Monday, November 28, 2022


Birdwatchers want earlier access to campgrounds

Dear RV Shrink:
rvshrinkWe are avid birdwatchers and full-timers. This makes us full-time birdwatchers. Our travel lifestyle puts us into a lot of boondocking/dry camping situations. What we have discovered, especially in the spring, is a lack of opportunities to use public campgrounds in excellent birding areas. Many state and federal campgrounds are gated off and do not open until mid-May or even June.

These are pit toilet, self-pay sites. Why can’t they just open the gate and let us early bloomers in? I hear all the whining about budget restraints, so why not make some early spring revenue and give us access?

I guess I am whining, but doesn’t it just make sense to open these areas earlier? —Fenced out in the Outback

Dear Outed:
I have given this same issue a lot of thought over the past few years. It seems the traditional usage of these facilities is changing rapidly, but the mindset of management has not caught on.

These are not campgrounds that have water pipe issues. There is no need to winterize in the fall and fire back up in the spring.

I first noticed this several years ago coming out of Yellowstone’s East entrance. It was fall and the park was still very crowded with RVs. The weather was beautiful, and the need for RV accommodations was definitely still in demand. There were several Forest Service campgrounds between Yellowstone and Cody, Wyo. All were gated up for the season.

As many RVers leave the sunbelt each spring and head north they find the same issue with State and Federal campgrounds as you pointed out. It seems they could and should open as soon as weather permits, which seems to be earlier all the time.

Another option for you would be National Wildlife Refuge camping. Not many have designated camping areas, but some do and would be perfect for your activity.

Using one of several available apps you should find State, Federal, County, City, BLM, Corps of Engineer options near your birding hotspots.

We can only hope that as more people hit the road and have a desire to camp earlier in the spring, and later into the fall, public campground managers will try to accommodate them. —Keep Smilin’, RV Shrink

The RV Shrink is not really a psychologist (or professional RV technician). But he does know a lot.



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6 years ago

There could be many reasons.

The campground could be close to a wildlife nesting site or calving grounds (commonly in Spring), and the campground is closed until the young’uns are older.and able to handle hundreds of people nearby.

The plumbing issue has been already mentioned.

If the campground is operated by a concessionairre the operator may not want to open until there is enough users to justify hiring the seasonal staff. The opening date is then negotiated between the agency and the operator.

The agency could have spotted a hazardous situation (dead trees, buildings needing major repairs) and the site is closed until the hazard is mitigated.

Could be budget cuts.

Phil Biggs
6 years ago

I’m sure the closures have more to do with the people who gleefully destroy everything they come in contact with, shooting up restrooms, starting fires, stealing anything and everything. It isn’t so much about “them” as it is “us.” (“us” being a big enough portion of the American population to ruin it for all)

6 years ago

I’ve wondered the same thing about rest stops with no services, just a garbage can and maybe a picnic table. They are gated off so you can’t drive in. No one needs to rest or use their on board facilities in the off season?

Calvin R
6 years ago

My solution does not involve moving under-funded State agencies. I boondock. You might need a porta-potty; I use the “hassock” type.

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