State Parks

The friendliest place on the web for anyone with an RV or an interest in RVing!
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.
I don't think anyone would mind a small surcharge like NY charging $5 more for out-of-state campers. But the example of Idaho charging double is way out of bounds.

The last time we stayed in Michigan state parks traveling up the beautiful West Coast along Lake Michigan I believe the camping rate was the same, but, out-of-state residents had to pay an additional $36 for a permit-window sticker to camp in the state parks. I think it was good for a year.
 
The price and reservation practices of any state or other agency with public parks should probably reflect the stated purpose of the having that park. If it is there to cater to the local community, then price and reservation policies should reflect that. If the intention of the park is to attract visitors from out of state or local area, then those policies should reflect that intention. The purposes and intentions of public parks is appropriately the choice of the residents, just as those policies in a private RV park are the domain of the owners of it. We, as users have the right to use or not use any of those campgrounds based on our view of the policies set by the owners.
 
Good point made by Kirk. Was or is the intent of a particular state park's development to attract tourism to an area that perhaps is economically depressed? Or is there a large local population that the park was built to accommodate? It appears a lot of C.O.E. projects have been built to bring tourist dollars into certain areas through the use of recreation resources such as fishing, boating, hiking, and camping.

Many state park projects are political footballs, at least in NY State, where the "State" takes over local projects and developments to alleviate the local governments from the financial burden of operating and maintaining what often is called a "state park" but the reality is they are nothing more the local pol's pet projects.
 
It appears a lot of C.O.E. projects have been built to bring tourist dollars into certain areas through the use of recreation resources such as fishing, boating, hiking, and camping.
Having been an RV volunteer at several different Army Corps of Engineer parks and a history buff, I have become aware of several things about them which are unique. The COE has had some parks for many years, developed to different levels and with different reasons in mind. In the 1950's & 60's the COE was allowed to keep revenue from their parks to spend it on maintenance and improvement of those parks and for that reason many more were added and improved. About 1980-85 a member of Congress brought to the attention of that body the fact that this revenue was growing and that it was outside of the control of Congress, which resulted in the rules changing to where are receipts from park facilities are deposited to the general fund and Congress decides how much each lake or facility will get for parks. As a result the parks have become a burden and expense that some areas would rather not have and so numerous COE parks have been turned over to state or local governments for use, management, and maintenance. There have been efforts to shift the lake functions of the COE to the Bureau of Reclamation but the Army has ardently fought to keep the civil departments because they create about 70 positions for Army colonels and have about 37,000 civilian and military personnel. Because the COE is part of the Army and the constitution prohibits the military from policing citizens, the COE park rangers have no arrest authority and parks are patrolled by a local LEO organization with any control by the USACE lake manager dependent on his connection with that agency's chief. Gate attendant positions are paid but must be bid for and the bidder asking the least pay usually gets the position. Most are for 6 months term. Recently the COE has been improving some of the parks which seems to indicate more interest & funding by Congress. There are more than 2,400 COE campgrounds.
 
Great info Kirk. We have noticed more and more C.O.E. parks have no attendant at the check-in gate, and either the camp host or rangers verify legit campers and dates of stay.
 
Recently the COE has been improving some of the parks which seems to indicate more interest & funding by Congress. There are more than 2,400 COE campgrounds.
Very interesting info, Kirk.

COEs are at the top of our list for stops, not only for the substantial savings they offer (with a Pass e.g.) but most we've stayed have much more privacy (space between sites) than State and most certainly private parks.

We've also noticed the improvements you mention at some parks where whole new sections are developed alongside the older, original sites. Many with level, concrete pads, water/electric and a few with sewer. Can't beat these advantages IMO.

Here's some shots of COE parks we stayed at this last trip (but please don't share this kind of info with anyone and if they ask, just tell 'em how horrible COE parks are. You know why. :ROFLMAO:)



coe1.jpg

coe2.jpg

coe3.jpg
 
Last edited:
Last year, I spent a great deal of time updating and pricing (along with major editing) a POI file from poi-factory that was for public campgrounds in 10 to 13 states. In doing this, I realized that a growing trend was for state parks to increase their prices to match or exceed "typical private park rates in the area" (that was how it was phrased when I would find news regarding the price increases). In many areas, I could find private and city/county parks with the same or more facilities than the state parks (ie: W/50-30AMP/S vs W/30AMP/DP) for less per night fees. In my idiot state (NM), apparently the state wants to double the rates. I've yet to see a NM state park that was worth a $30 site fee. But our local state park has closed it's campground reservations so it can "improve the electric" all the sites. Last year it was $14 for a W/50-30AMP site. The park has a dump station. I think they have wifi up next to the bathhouse (weak signal, I use my cellphone as a hotspot). If they go to $30 per night, I will go elsewhere. It's convenient to drive 30 min to a campground but it's also a bit lazy since there are other places to go as well that are close. Also I've decided that we need to start heading up into the mountains to stay cooler in the summer and play tourist there. I just paid $30 ($33 with taxes) for a site that was under a big tree (yea tree!) had W/E/S (didn't connect to the water) and wifi and was walking distance to the attraction we were going to as well as walking distance to a couple of restaurants. Twice the distance though (1 hour drive).

I've seen state parks with rates of $60 to $100 per night while there are nearby campgrounds with lower prices or that offer discounts on their "normal" prices. The people who think that "public parks are cheaper" need to rethink that. Don't blindly follow old ideas. Do your research. I figure I bring my own bathroom, kitchen and bed with me. I'm not paying hotel prices for a campground/rv park. But there are plenty of other people who will. So no one will lose out simply because I'm cheap. And don't forget, those campground/rv park review sites don't always show all the campgrounds in the area. Sometimes you have to look really hard to find places. Being completely self-contained makes so many options available. All we need an electric hookup for is to run the air conditioner. During the summer, going up in altitude generally means cooler weather. Lots of no-hookup NF campgrounds in our area. Time for ME to leave the State Parks behind. What other people do is up to them.
 
Last edited:
As a result the parks have become a burden and expense that some areas would rather not have and so numerous COE parks have been turned over to state or local governments for use, management, and maintenance.
We stayed at a park that I believe was a COE and was either turned over or sold to a private individual/company. It was expensive. Grand Ecore RV Park 1071 Tauzin Island Road Natchitoches, LA . The other COE we stayed at was Pendleton Bend Campground 426 AR-212 Dumas, AR. Both were nice, Grand Ecore the spots were really close together, Pendleton Bend was quite spacious and right on the river. Not expensive.:

1713640177596.jpeg
 
In doing this, I realized that a growing trend was for state parks to increase their prices to match or exceed "typical private park rates in the area"

I've seen state parks with rates of $60 to $100 per night while there are nearby campgrounds with lower prices or that offer discounts on their "normal" prices. The people who think that "public parks are cheaper" need to rethink that.
Interesting. II have not seen this kind of price differential between State and Private parks in areas that we travel.

$100 per night at a State Park? What park was that?

Everyone has their own preferences of course but we simply do not consider any private park as an option if at all possible. I expect there's private parks out there that don't pack 'em in as close as possible, but we haven't experienced any.
 
$100 per night at a State Park? What park was that?
I saw that recently too. I spent a few minutes looking around, I want to say it was when I was looking to go to Custer and Badlands, but I couldn’t find it. I was shocked.
 
Are COEs open to anyone?
Absolutely.

The America the Beautiful Passes (there are several kinds) are available to provide free or discount admission to National Parks and other FEDERAL facilities (and a few states actually honor them too!) However, as noted below a non-citizen cannot purchase a Senior Pass which gets you half off on camping in addition to reduced or free admission. However, since many national parks charge $20 or more for admission now, its a no brainer to buy a regular Annual pass if you intend to visit several National Parks. Some National Parks such as Mt Rushmore do not change admission, just a parking fee, however the Badlands NP charges $20. I made good use of my Permanent Senior America the Beautiful Pass the first trip I made in 2017 and since then

While you can purchase the Annual Pass online, it is probably better to wait until you go to enter a National Park that charges an entrance fee and purchase it at the gate.

THIS is a list of all the places passes may be purchased. Not all locations sell all versions of the passes, so check carefully. I bought mine on my 62ed birthday at the Project Office for the West Point Georgia Dam and Reservoir. It was still $10 but about three months later the price went to $80.

Who qualifies for the Senior Pass?​

U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are 62 years or older. (You must have turned 62 before you can buy the pass).
NOTE: Owning property or paying taxes in the U.S. does not automatically qualify you for a Senior Pass. You must be a permanent U.S. resident, or a U.S. citizen with identification such as U.S. Driver's License, Green Card or U.S. Passport.

Who qualifies for the Annual Pass?​

Anyone 16 years or older may purchase the pass; children under 16 are always admitted free.

Where can I use my Senior Pass?​

Where can I use my Annual Pass?​

Please contact a site directly if you have a question about pass acceptance and fees.
The Forest Service, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and US Army Corp of Engineers honor the Annual Pass at sites where Entrance or Standard Amenity Fee(s) (Day use fees) are charged.

In addition, the Tennessee Valley Authority may honor the Senior Pass for entrance or camping discounts.
Pics below are two COE or USACE campsites I have been in. Left Tailrace Campground below Lake Sharpe Dam, Ft Thompson SD, and White Oak Creek Campground (Alabama side of the lake) on Lake Walter F George (locally known as "Lake Eufaula" which is NOT its proper name) anyhow, on the Chattahoochee River.

Reservations for COE campgrounds are made on Recreation.gov

This is the official website for the COE lakes and recreation areas, where you can select by state and get a chart of locations and various facilities available at these locations. The book Kirk referenced above is derived from this website.

Charles
 

Attachments

  • Site 18B at Left Tailrace COE Campground Ft Thompson SD.jpg
    Site 18B at Left Tailrace COE Campground Ft Thompson SD.jpg
    207.8 KB · Views: 1
  • truck and trailer full size.jpg
    truck and trailer full size.jpg
    285.9 KB · Views: 1
I also have never seen a state park costing $100, so I would like to know where that was. I do know that California state parks are very expensive, up to $70, but in California, I tend to stay at COE or regional campgrounds. The person who posted $100 lives in NM, and I know their state parks are very reasonable--$14 for electric sites. NM also offers an annual pass for $180 for residents, $100 for resident seniors, and $225 for non-residents. I have used that pass several years, and you do have to pay a small utility fee, but checking their site, it looks like they might raise their prices.

Also, I used to be a Michigan resident, but am now an Ohio resident, and I get 50% off the regular rate on Sun-Thursday, and 10% discount on weekends. That really helps my budget.
 
We have bought an America the Beautiful pass since our first trip in 2006. Even for 2 weeks vacation it was worth every penny. We want to support the parks even if we were only to visit one we'd buy a pass.

I'm confused now about the COE after several comments - thank you all.

From Judy's commerce it seems you need to be a US Citizen to use one?

If so then that's ok. I'm not sure we've seen any but they do look nice and affordable.
 
In SC (all public parks):
River's End Campground Rates in Tybee Island, GA 31328 (peak season $100; holidays and event $108 per night) on Tybee Island (I think this is a county park)

Hunting Island Camping | South Carolina Parks Official Site Hunting Beach is a mere $85 per night during a holiday

While Huntington Beach is $125 Huntington Beach | South Carolina Parks Official Site

Most of the coastal SC SPs are running over $70. High demand I guess.

Sorry but the dog is wanting for her share of the pepperoni off the pizza and she is very insistent. Any others, you can look up for your self. I think I found more of the price public parks (often state park) in AL, LA and TX. Those parks did NOT make my lists. You need to look up dates for the peak season, holidays or "events".
 
I recently made reservations at Hunting Island for January 2025, 2 weeks at $50, $55 or $60 depending on the day. Huntington beach 2025 $80 per any day. Beach parks are expensive. Rivers end was expensive, but not a state park, skidaway state park $50.
 

Latest posts

Forum statistics

Threads
132,254
Posts
1,392,831
Members
137,969
Latest member
Ken N
Back
Top Bottom