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Free camping in five states? Just be a camp host!

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Reports from RVers across the country tell us that campsites are getting as scarce as hens’ teeth. How would you like a FREE campsite? If you’re willing to volunteer as a camp host, putting in a few hours of labor, you could have a free campsite and, at times, bonuses as well. Here’s a list of details from five states where camp hosts are needed. But be warned—these positions may fill quickly!

IDAHO

Jennifer Simler on google.com

Camp hosts are needed in several campgrounds in the Nez Perce–Clearwater National Forests. What’s your job assignment? Typically you’ll be an information provider to visitors. You’ll probably cruise by the sites in your campground to make sure everyone has registered. Yep, a little bit of light maintenance may be needed as well. Here’s a list of posted openings:

  • PALOUSE/DEARY/ELK RIVER (208-875-1724): Laird Park, Little Boulder & Elk Creek campgrounds
  • NORTH FORK CLEARWATER RIVER (208-476-8293): Washington Cr. & Kelly Forks campgrounds
  • LOCHSA RIVER/U.S. HIGHWAY 12 (208-926-8926): Wilderness Gateway & Powell campgrounds
  • SELWAY RIVER/LOWELL (208-926-8926): O’Hara Campground
  • GRANGEVILLE (208-983-4018): Fish Creek Campground
  • SALMON RIVER/RIGGINS (208-983-4018): Spring Bar Campground
  • RED RIVER (208-983-4018): Red River Campground
  • SOUTH FORK CLEARWATER RIVER (208-983-4018): South Fork/Castle Creek Campground

Applications for camp host positions will be accepted for as long as they are vacant. Applications are typically reviewed in March, with hosts selected in early April. To find applications click here.

BUT WAIT—THERE’S MORE IDAHO!

There’s competition for camp hosts in the Famous Potato state. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also needs camp hosts at Egin Lakes Campground. It’s both a campground and day use area for the St. Anthony Sand Dunes. You’ll find 10,600 acres of clear, shifting, white quartz sand that attract thousands of motorized users annually. The camping season runs from April to October.

A host is also needed at Byington Boat Access on the South Fork of the Snake River. The fee season runs from May to September. What’s the assignment? Welcoming visitors and providing information. Performing upkeep and maintenance of campground facilities, including cleaning and restocking restrooms, picking up litter, and restocking fee envelopes at the fee stations. You may assist with fee collection, cleaning ashes and trash left in fire rings, and informing the visitors of campground rules.

BLM volunteer hosts live on site in their own RVs. The BLM provides varying levels of services such as water, septic, phone, and power connections. There is no salary, but the BLM provides a stipend to cover living expenses.

For questions about Egin Lakes, contact Mike Setlock at 208-524-7529, or send an email to msetlock@blm.gov. Or visit https://on.doi.gov/3ALgsv3

For questions about Byington Boat Access, contact Danielle Winterholler at 208-524-7525, or send an email to dwinterholler@blm.gov. Or visit: https://on.doi.gov/3ofzlBb

OREGON

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is looking for camp hosts for the area served by their Klamath Falls Field Office in the Gerber Recreation Area. It’s a super job for someone who wants to be near the water.

Duties of the camp host here include making visitor contacts and helping with minor maintenance like painting, cleaning restrooms, cutting weeds, and restocking permits and fee envelopes. The assignment runs from mid-May through mid-October. The BLM will provide the selected host an RV camping spot, propane, and sewer. The camp host chosen will also receive a small stipend to help cover incidental expenses.

Becky Ailes on google.com

Gerber is set on a vast plateau in the high desert about one hour’s drive east of Klamath Falls, Oregon. Mountain ridges and scattered Ponderosa Pine forests add variety and texture to the area. Gerber offers opportunities for camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. Add access to 100,000 acres of backcountry suitable for exploring, hunting, wildlife viewing, and scenic OHV driving. Developed campsites are available at Gerber North and South Campgrounds. The area also offers primitive campsites, a horse camp, and a day-use area as well as two boat ramps.

More info on the assignment and the point to apply are found here.  Or contact Assistant Field Manager Mike Limb at (541) 885-4144. Interviews will begin in early March. A federal background check is required for all new BLM campground hosts.

CALIFORNIA

Ty White on google.com

Camp hosts are needed in the Mendocino National Forest’s Upper Lake Ranger District. The opening is at the Middle Creek campground. A statement from the Service says, “Volunteer campground hosts will have water, trash, electrical and septic hook-up services. Campground hosts must have a self-contained trailer or RV and be willing to provide visitor information and perform light maintenance work.”

Additionally, the Grindstone Ranger District is recruiting campground hosts for Fouts and Letts Lake Campgrounds. Interested? Visit www.volunteer.gov to create a volunteer profile and apply for positions in the forest.

MICHIGAN

Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources, which oversees the state’s parks, is currently accepting applications for campground and harbor hosts at locations across the state for summer 2022.

Exchange 30 hours of service per week for a minimum of four weeks, such as answering visitor questions, planning activities and performing light maintenance duties for camping and boat slip fees.

The campground hosting program includes more than 100 state parks, state forests, and recreation areas. Harbor hosts are being sought for at DeTour, Presque Isle, Straits and Tawas state harbors. Applications are accepted year-round until vacancies are filled.

More information on hosting opportunities, including eligibility requirements and how to apply, can be found on the DNR’s website.

MONTANA

If you want to get away from it all as a camp host, then rural Montana may just be your ticket. Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest is looking for camp hosts for the summer.

Karla Seaman on google.com

Campgrounds are in the Logging Creek, Many Pines, Dry Wolf Campgrounds, Thain Creek Campground located in the Highwood Mountains, and Crystal Lake Campground located in the heart of the Big Snowy Mountains. All are in need of camp hosts. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the job is easier now. Cleaning and maintenance assignments are currently waived. What’s left to do? Camp hosts will have to reinforce rules to stay at the site for the whole summer, which runs from before Memorial Day until Labor Day weekend. They’ll also answer the myriads of questions campers have.

The hosts are volunteer-based and can leave for a few days during the week, but they have to be back at their site by the weekend. Bring your RV, and you’ll have access to water, but you’ll need your own food and generator fuel.

“It’s a really kind of unique way to spend a summer, and we are looking for folks who share our values as an agency, and one of those values is diversity. So someone who’s welcoming and can make people feel the connection with these special places,” said Chiara Cipriano, Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest.

Hosts are required to be at the sites before Memorial Day and stay until Labor Day weekend. If you are interested, you can call Danillo Figueroa at 406-547-6011.

AND YET MORE CALIFORNIA!

Mendocino National Forest needs camp hosts.

  • The Upper Lake Ranger District has a camp host opportunity at the Middle Creek campground. Volunteer campground hosts will have water, trash, electrical and septic hook-up services. Camp hosts must have a self-contained trailer or RV and be willing to provide visitor information and perform light maintenance work.
  • The Grindstone Ranger District will soon begin recruiting campground hosts for Fouts and Letts Lake Campgrounds.

If you’re interested, agency representatives say you need to visit volunteer.gov. Once there, create a volunteer profile, and apply for any positions you’re interested in.

Information about volunteer opportunities in Mendocino National Forest is available here. For more information about Upper Lake District volunteer opportunities, please contact Laura Bates at 707-275-1423. Email laura.bates@usda.gov. For more information about the Grindstone District volunteer opportunities, contact Paige Makowski at 530-963-1327. Email paige.makowski@usda.gov.

Have you camp hosted before? Like to share your experiences and photos? Fill out the form below and enter “Camp Host” in the subject line.

Other stories by Russ and Tiña De Maris

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tom
7 months ago

Be careful of actually accepting a California position. They will come for State Income Taxes on ALL your other income. I think Oregon will also dunn you.

Virginia
7 months ago

Sorry to be the spoil sport, but that headline is what makes volunteer coordinators everywhere gnash their teeth! As a volunteer and former HR Manager, I can share that the LEAST likely employee for hire is the one looking only for what the employer can offer to him.

Emptying still smoking or waterlogged ashes from fire pits that are also used as a convenient dump site is not fun. Being cursed for politely reminding campers of the rules is not easy for everyone. Being expected to be available 24/5 (we do get days off) does not allow for all that sightseeing you planned. (You may only officially “work” 4 hours a day, but those hours are likely to be scattered from 7am-7pm and you need to be there when needed — not when convenient to you).

While there are a lot of great work campers out there, approaching these jobs as a free ride does a disservice to those volunteers who work, often above and beyond, for the love of the camping and the joy of giving back.

Edward Spiess
7 months ago

I’d like to find a winter position, somewhere south. I’m guessing I need to be looking now, before all the spots are filled. All help is appreciated, thank you.

RAndy J
7 months ago

Also, the U.S. Army COE is recruiting Visitor Interpretive Host at the Bonneville Lock and Dam in Oregons Columbia River Gorge

Silas Longshot
7 months ago

From the videos about camp hosts and their experiences, I guess you put your money down and roll the dice. As a camp host, you will be doing several things per couple, the only way to cope with being hosts. You’ll be expected to check in and check out guests, do the office paperwork, man the storefront (if they have such) maintain the laundry, pick up after trashy slobs, mow the campsites, clean the bath houses & toilets, get in between drunk guests to stop fistfights, the guests will be on you 24 hours a day ‘because you are there’. Your work hours will be 30 or less per week, ‘officially’, but you can count on it almost always being closer to 50 so you should contract to get bonus money for over 30 hours, on weekends and holidays, otherwise you’ll find your wages to be about $2 to $6 an hour after your “free site”.

Rey Lavalle
7 months ago
Reply to  Silas Longshot

Thanks for the heads-up. 😝

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