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The worst part of camping? ATVs, rich people and cows

RV sales have slowed (finally) and fewer people are buying RVs than has been the recent trend. Has that changed campground crowding? Is it easier to find a campsite now, particularly in state and national parks? Campgrounds are changing and evolving, some for the better and some for the worse. RV Travel readers discuss their experiences and offer a few tips to help other campers find that perfect spot.

Here are a few observations from our readers.

Nothing “recreational” in an RV park

Captain G. finds the “traveler’s spirit” missing. He explains, “We tow our newer Rockwood 2109S about 8-10 weeks per year around the western USA, although it has been all the way to Key West, New York, and everywhere in between.

“This past couple of years has been noticeably more crowded. First, it was Covid mania, now it seems to be full-timers who live in RVs because conventional housing is out of their financial range, life situation, and/or work ethic equation. They are not using their rig as an RV. The whole experience has lost a lot of its magic, in my opinion. ‘RV’ is shorthand for ‘Recreational Vehicle’ and there is nothing recreational about an ‘RV Park.’ Now they are basically a ‘trailer court’ or ‘mobile home park’ in the true sense of the definition.

“That ‘traveler spirit’ of actual vacationers is missing, replaced by something entirely different. And many/most RV parks have, like every other business, raised their prices due to inflation, demand and, yes, greed. Just like so many others.”

Extra boats and vehicles reason for less availability in this park

Teri B. owns an RV  park in San Antonio. They share: “I own an RV park near San Antonio, Texas, but outside the city a bit in a country setting. Except for February and March, we always have sites available, long- or short-term. Even in those months, shorter stays are available.

“The biggest issue I see is that, even though our sites fit 40′ RVs easily, we are seeing more and more 44′ RVs with people traveling with boats, and/or two or three vehicles among other paraphernalia. That’s the biggest reason for the lessened availability in our park. We are upgrading with some even larger sites but, y’all, let me say, these upgrades are what is causing our rates to increase.

“We have a mix of seasonal and traveling guests that are in different areas of our park with a bit higher percentage of the seasonals. I am an RVer myself and always look to surrounding areas rather than tourist cities for sites and seldom have an issue finding availability.”

Grow up, people!

Diane S. does a lot of boondocking and is seeing a big change. “We just started living full-time after realizing we would have little retirement money to keep our home. That said, we have been tent campers for decades and now have gone to the life of ‘turtle people’ in an Airstream.

“The worst part is the ATVs and cows. They are destroying our public lands and forests. I heard the BLM is being sued for allowing overgrazing. We don’t use private RV campgrounds as they are overpriced and jam-packed cheek-to-cheek. We boondock mostly. There are mostly polite folks out here. The few that aren’t almost always have massive $250,000 rigs with dogs and/or kids. They light up the sky and let their dogs poop anywhere.

“The gearheads are awful. We get chased out of camping regions, noise, pollution and tearing up trails. There are virtually no trails without dirt bikes and ATVs. The cows are a menace with the nastiness they spread. Now we hear of rich people cutting off access to public lands for their own use (Elk Mountain in Wyoming, for example), and we have seen it in Colorado for the last 20 years.

“The reservation system is a joke and a scam. And we, too, have seen blocks reserved and no one present for the entire time. We also see trailers left for days, parked all over with no one present.

“Abandoned trailers are a nightmare for the park service, which has been gutted in favor of ‘concessions.’ People poop all over and leave trash all over. Don’t get me started on the guns. I have seen the destruction of trees from AR-15s shooting down whole groves.

“We are lucky due to the actions of far-sighted people 100 plus years ago to save so much. We are like spoiled children, breaking our toys, and those types will demand more, more, more without being raised right. We’ll lose it all if people don’t grow up.”

What makes a campground overcrowded?

Rod P. asks a question about crowding: “I’ve been summer camping for around 10 years. Lately, I’m seeing more and more discussions about overcrowding. My question is, what makes a campground overcrowded? If a campground has 50 sites and every site is filled with an RV or campers, is that overcrowded? It may be crowded, but is it overcrowded?”

Never paid more than $50

Randy G. has some great ways to cut campsite costs. He says, “We rarely stay in commercial campgrounds. Even when we have, we never paid more than $50 a night, which is a lot cheaper than any hotel we stayed at in recent years. We prefer to stay at federal or state campgrounds. We prefer COE or Forest Service campgrounds.

“Last August we stayed at Tionesta Lake in northeast Pennsylvania. It is a Federal Campground and honors the Senior Pass. Normally it is $40 a night for full hookups. We paid $20 with the pass. We go to Texas every spring to visit our grandkids. In Arkansas, we stay at Beard’s Bluff, which is a COE campground. Normally water and electric sites are $15 a night. We pay $7.50 with the pass. In Texas, we stay at Canyon Lake. A site with water and electric right on the lake is normally $38 a night, but $19 with the pass. We prefer to go in spring or fall when there are fewer people camping, making it easier to find a site. Also going on a Sunday and coming back Thursday or Friday makes it easier to find the sites we prefer. The only thing affecting our camping is the price of fuel.”

Now, some questions for you:

  • Are you finding campgrounds booked up? Or is finding a place to stay not a problem?
  • Are campgrounds changing for the better or for the worse?
  • Are you seeing more permanent and seasonal RV parks?
  • Are rising costs affecting your camping style?
  • If campgrounds continue to be crowded and RVing continues to become more popular, will it affect how or when you RV?
  • Do you have any tips or secrets you’d like to share about finding campgrounds that aren’t as crowded?

Please use the form below to answer one or more of these questions, or tell us what you’ve experienced with campground crowding in general.

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.

Read the last issue of the Crowded Campgrounds column: One RVer’s solution to campground crowding and no reservations: Own two RVs

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Chuck
19 days ago

Rich people and cows. Two of my favorite things but not in that order. Cheers Diane. Love your perspectives.

Admin
Diane McGovern
19 days ago
Reply to  Chuck

I’m assuming you’re referring to Diane S., quoted in the post, and not me with my story to Kelly about camping with the cows in the Hoh Rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula, WA, more than 50 years ago. 😆 Have a good night, Chuck. 😀 –Diane at RVtravel.com

Chuck
18 days ago
Reply to  Diane McGovern

Both, actually. It’s the unique and strange experiences that make camp life so great.
Mooo.

Suru
19 days ago

Awww, I like cows . . . and deer and elk and bison and raccoons and skunks and any other critter that wanders into my campsite.

Jeffery H.
20 days ago

I accept the challenges that the RV lifestyle sometimes presents, and if I end up not liking a particular setting, I utilize the wheels that came with my rig. But, what I find offensive are those who disregard the quiet hours.

UpriverJouce
20 days ago

Mooooo….I have a comment, but I don’t want anyone mad about a wet rock…Hmmm, what can I say?
I’ve stayed at a Hot Spring resort in Idaho many times. The prices are just swell compared to what we are charged these years.
There is a field across from the campground with……COWS.
Really swell looking heifers, any colors, you know they wear.
In the A.M. I heard a loud moo right outside my rig. Somehow Betsy..( what is a usual moo-lady’s name?)..She seemed to be asking me for a ride out of town, or just for a date?…I have issues speaking arfs & meows, moos are out of my range.
So, We had to leave without Bessy..( I remembered), my wife told me “NO”…We have arfs and meows, no moos David..
She was a very pretty cow, and I love Chocolate Milk in the A.M.
She seemed to have escaped her pals on the other side of the fence…
I hope she found her pal….(;+)…..sorry I couldn’t resist anti-Mooozers.

KellyR
20 days ago

Yep, those cows spread nastiness everywhere, evidently all over public land? I guess they eat grass and poop?,, and ride ATVs? I will check my fences when I get home to see if some got out. Or are they Bison on the public lands that are so nasty? I’m sorry, but after reading some “legitimate” gripes the nasty cow comment got me lost in the weeds. I still like beef, milk, butter, cream, yogurt, and leather boots — nasty cows!

UpriverJouce
20 days ago
Reply to  KellyR

Hi KellyR…Can you tell I’m on your side of the barbwire?..(:+)..

KellyR
19 days ago
Reply to  UpriverJouce

OK, now we have at least two RVers/Campers that do not have cows on their list of RVing annoyances. A MOOO in the morning with that first cup of coffee is SO refreshing.

Admin
Diane McGovern
19 days ago
Reply to  KellyR

Hi, Kelly. Or should I say, “Moooo.” This reminds me of when my then-husband and I went camping on the Olympic Peninsula one weekend (more than 50 years ago!). It was late on a Friday night. We followed a dirt road (no indication that it was private property, and no signs to stay out) through the rainforest as far as we could go. We found a cleared-out location on the bank of the Hoh River to set up our tent (where obviously it had been used as a campsite for many years). Got up in the morning and we were surrounded by a herd of cows, happily munching away on the grass. (Free range cows?) They weren’t concerned at all about us. That was one of my most unusual camping experiences. Moooo! 😆 –Diane at RVtravel.com

KellyR
19 days ago
Reply to  Diane McGovern

Lucky you. FRESH milk in that morning cup of coffee and breakfast cereal, with that touch of cream.

Admin
Diane McGovern
19 days ago
Reply to  KellyR

Yep. Except that I don’t drink coffee (my grandma said it would stunt my growth, and I think she was correct because I grew to 6’2″). Anyway, we usually had bacon and eggs when camping, so no cereal to put it on. Plus, I didn’t want to steal someone’s milk from their wandering cows. My uncle had a dairy farm, BTW, so I had milked a cow before. And I even had one named after me! What an honor for a little kid! Have a good evening/night, Kelly. 😀 –Diane at RVtravel.com

Sheri Ken
20 days ago

Comment to:
Grow up people by Diane S.
You have an opinion and it’s negative in my view (Yes, I have an opinion as does everyone.). Unfortunately, Diane your circumstances has led you to become recently full-time due to financial reasons and abandoning your stick/bricks home.
Your observations are in a limited area as to where you choose to park. You want to have the feeling back of a sticks/bricks home but that’s not possible for you. Boondocking is exactly that you get to stay in an area with your RV, possibly with Groups of Family, Friends and pets – including Children and toys, if legal, target shooting and hunting too! Cows and non-domestic animals are there too! Livestock owners must pay “grazing” fees. RVing is not for everyone perhaps it is not for you. Diane go live in a controlled environment an apartment. You most likely won’t be able to Tow your Airstream soon enough.

Chuck
18 days ago
Reply to  Sheri Ken

Diane, do you. Your life and your choices. One time around (that we know of) to make the most of the gift we each have received. By ‘each’ I mean we each have our own story, memories and have left our footprints where we have placed them. Some leave footprints behind, others don’t. I prefer the footprints others leave on me.

Donald N Wright
20 days ago

The Texas Aliner club has a perfect secret campground. There is a field with cattle to the north, a peaceful lake to the south, a highway nearby, you can hear the trains at night, and Fort Hood provides nightly activities.Prices are good too.

secessus
20 days ago

I don’t mind the cows. I try to get far enough into the boonies that the giant toy haulers with loud outdoor media centers and generators can’t follow.

Jack
20 days ago

My problem is everything is closed in the winter around here, I don’t mind winter camping, in the summer I can’t take time off from work and everything is booked on weekends, I could drive 6hrs away, I would rather not, I thought about buying my own land to camp on but there’s nothing or it does not have an access road. NJ sucks for camping. Just got a new Geo pro , I have more options this year but I’m still going to run into the some of the same problems.

Sheri Ken
20 days ago
Reply to  Jack

Sorry about NJ. Congratulations on your new RV and obviously you are enjoying life to the fullest. We enjoyed NJ as tourists.

UpriverJouce
20 days ago
Reply to  Jack

This may not be the place, I’m looking into a 19-20 FDS, are you happy with your rig?..I trust this place rather than (you-know-sites), as far as the open net.

Virginia
20 days ago

What, exactly, do we mean by campground crowding anyway? 

Is it the lack of availability of open sites? 
Is it the continued reduction in the size of sites? 
Is it larger numbers of people (i.e. one couple finds the site, then invites local friends/family for day use with the single campsite as a meeting spot?) 
Is it campers taking up more physical space: bringing more toys, more outdoor expansions (such as entertainment add-ons, outdoor kitchens). more pets, more friends? 
Is it campers looking for more activity vs. less of doing nothing? 
Or is it the rude behaviors that may very well come from the stress of dealing with all of those things!

With so broad a definition, it seems likely we will be dealing with these issues for a long time to come and answers won’t come easily.

Impavid
20 days ago

Two words caught my eye, “greed” & “overpriced “. You have the option not to stay in these parks. If I were in business I would charge whatever the market would bear and so would you. It’s called profit. It’s the same for fuel, groceries or any other service not regulated by government. Save where you can but businesses don’t stay in business by undercutting their own costs.

Sheri Ken
20 days ago
Reply to  Impavid

We LIKE your Post! Agree!

Heather
20 days ago
Reply to  Impavid

People complain too much about government & not enough about greedy business tactics.
Corporate outsourcing jobs, using offshore taxhavens & treating the market & banking system as their own personal casino has done more irreparable harm to America than good.

Sharon Tagle
20 days ago

Someone in the above article mentioned a “senior pass.”. What is this and how can I get one? Hubs and I are over 65 and would love to get a discount. Is it just for national parks?

wanderer
20 days ago
Reply to  Sharon Tagle

You can get them in person at National Parks, Corps of Engineer parks (the ones that still have attendants!), some US Forest Service offices.

If you want to go the online route there are also different options since 6 agencies participate. Here is one:

https://store.usgs.gov/lifetime-senior-pass

Bob M
20 days ago
Reply to  wanderer

Not all National Parks sell them. I’d call before going for a pass. Steamtown National Park in Scranton, Pa don’t sell them.

DW/ND
20 days ago
Reply to  wanderer

There is also a new Military lifetime pass. I believe it is at that same website you noted above. Cost is $10.00 processing fee. Verification of service is required to be submitted on-line. I received mine in about 10 days.

Last edited 20 days ago by DW/ND
Virginia
20 days ago
Reply to  Sharon Tagle

State parks have their own senior passes for their state. There is a federal parks pass for seniors and disabled. Particularly if you do a lot of day use activity, they are well worth it.

But be aware that the America the Beautiful/National Parks pass is not a blanket discount. We are finding more and more campgrounds that do not allow them to be used toward camping fees, only for entrance to the park and certain activities. (The military campground at which we have stayed for years used to allow the discount which helped us tremendously; two years ago they abandoned it and allow 0 discount.)

Kevin C
20 days ago

Sounds like Diane should just stay home. Oh wait she is using the forest as her home, which it was NOT intended for. Early 2023 entry for the worst article of the year. Maybe the loggers ought to start using AR’s for their operations vs saws. Who knew? Safe travels everyone.

Bob M
20 days ago
Reply to  Kevin C

Diane makes good points. People don’t care about other peoples property. They ruin it for everyone. I didn’t realize how ATV tear things up till my wife bought one for my son. They illegally ride them on the street and have no insurance. Cops are afraid to stop them.

Jake
19 days ago
Reply to  Bob M

The cops are “afraid to stop them”?!? Where is your city recruiting their officers from?

Sue
19 days ago
Reply to  Jake

I imagine she means the atvs take off and riders may be be injured in a chase.

Goff
14 days ago
Reply to  Jake

Philadelphia pa

Royce
20 days ago

Diane S. Maybe the growing up part needs to be on your end. You must have been a city dweller to long.🤦‍♂️

Engineer
20 days ago

Is there anything left for Diane to complain about? Geez, why are these article even allowed public exposure…this is a big country and we haven’t experienced any of this stuff….but these types of articles only perpetuate nonsense.

T. Hudson
20 days ago
Reply to  Engineer

My thoughts exactly.

Jake
19 days ago
Reply to  Engineer

“Is there anything left for Diane to complain about?”

Thanks. This gave me a chuckle. Spot on observation.

Last edited 19 days ago by Jake
John S
20 days ago

Cutting down a grove? (forest?) of trees with an AR15…interesting.

Bruce
20 days ago
Reply to  John S

She had me until then.

Jake
19 days ago
Reply to  John S

She jumped the shark with that doozy of a tale!

Tommy Molnar
20 days ago

Did Diane S miss anything to complain about? It sounds like she wants a spot just for her, with nobody allowed within miles. Also, a spot devoid of any grazing too. Let me know when you find that spot.

Jim G.
20 days ago

The title missed “Dogs”.

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