Camp Hosting at Fort Peck, Montana

Kathy and I spent early spring 2019 as Camp Hosts at the Fort Peck Downstream Campground – Fort Peck Montana. This is a U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) Project and our campground is just one of the recreation areas at the project which includes Fort Peck Reservoir, Fort Peck Dam and spillway, the Interpretive & Visitor Center and about a dozen other outlying recreation centers that are along the shores of the 135 mile long reservoir where visitors can use the boat ramps, picnic shelters, and camping areas.

Fort Peck Lake Montana

Campground hosts volunteer 24 hours per week to the park in exchange for their camp site and utilities. There are paid Gate Attendants to handle camper fee collection and the park has contractors who; cut the grass, clean out fire pits, and keep the restrooms and bath houses clean.

Our job as hosts are to be another set of eyes on the park when the ranger can’t be here. There are four rangers here at Fort Peck Project who are responsible for about a dozen outlying recreation areas and the Interpretive Center, so they’ve got plenty to keep them busy.

I’ve gathered some pictures to help illustrate what sorts of things we get involved in. Some of these are things we’ve been asked to do while many of these are things we’ve volunteered to do just to help out and to keep us busy.

There’s lots to do here, and lots of “pieces parts” and equipment to do it with. The challenge is having enough staff to get it all done before the onslaught of visitors each spring. That’s where volunteers can help out. We can do the “little jobs” that might otherwise require time from the (4) rangers and (2) maintenance personnel on staff here at the project. That way these folks can utilize their time more wisely doing the types of jobs that their specialized training allows them to do.

One example of the specialized training I mentioned is shown in the photos below. Last year the campground received a new comfort station. The staff here at the project performed the complete operation. They poured the concrete pad for the comfort station to sit on, they did all the trenching and back fill for the supply lines, they did all the rough in plumbing and electrical, they’ll be doing all the final connections, and they will set forms and pour all the concrete curtain and approach walks.

We enjoyed our time at Fort Peck. The folks we worked with and for were very kind, professional, and courteous and they appreciated everything we did to help out.

We also made some great new friends. Dan and Bev came in early May and were contracted as the paid Gate Attendants. They’ve been full time RV’ers for 21 years!

Our new friends Dan and Bev Foster

If you have any interest in working as a volunteer in exchange for your RV site and utilities, go to www.volunteer.gov where you can search by; state, agency, and position type.

Thanks for following along and remember to visit our You Tube channel herbnkathyrv to see some of the videos we’ve published lately.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

So Just What Is Fort Peck?

Fort Peck – It’s a small town (about 250 residents) and it’s an Army Corp of Engineers “Project” that includes a dam, a campground, an Interpretive Center, and multiple fishing/boating/hunting recreation areas.

Oh, and I almost forgot … the reason all of the above is here … the Fort Peck Reservoir. The reservoir (man made lake) was formed from the Missouri River, is 135 miles long and has over 1500 miles of shoreline. It was formed in the 30’s when 10,000+ men built the world’s largest earthen dam to provide flood control for lands downstream.

The dam and the history of how families came from all over the country to work there and the engineering that went into the planning and building … well that’s a story in itself and will require a blog post dedicated to that subject alone. But you can learn all about that right now by following this link to PBS Montana.

For now, we want to share with you a little about why we are here, how we came to find this job in particular, and take you on a tour of the park and show you some of our duties here.

Kathy and I are volunteers … well, kind of. We travel the country volunteering our time at campgrounds and RV parks in exchange for the rent and utilities on our site. We generally provide the park 12-15 hours a week and they give us a full hook-up (elec, water, sewer) site along with utilities. Sometimes we also receive; laundry money, free WiFi and cable TV hook-up, and discounts on purchases from the camp store or nearby attractions.

This arrangement offers us an opportunity to travel and see the country, meet all kinds of wonderful new people and experience new situations in all kinds of environments that we otherwise would not be able to see and do on our limited budget.

It offers the campground owner/operator free part-time employees for no cash outlay, only the loss of rental income for a couple RV sites that might often be vacant anyway. Another benefit: typically there is no employment contract or agreement to sign – only a handshake agreement. It’s called bartering. And it works well for us and the campground owner.

How we came to show up here ..

We knew that part of our “Bucket List” included a lot of the national parks and monuments out west, so we decided we’d search for jobs in that area.

Although we subscribe, either for a small annual fee or sometimes for free, to many of the Workamping web sites and have our resume’ published on a lot of them, there is also another great source for finding government related jobs and volunteer positions. I logged on to Volunteer.gov and followed the easy instructions to search for Campground Host (volunteer) positions available in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. I filled out the online application and with just a few mouse clicks submitted our app to probably 40 or so parks in that five state area.

Within a week or two we started getting emails and phone calls from campground managers and rangers throughout the 5 state area. We chose to come to Fort Peck because we were already committed to South Dakota for July, August, and September and Ranger Scott here at Fort Peck was willing to work with our schedule. We left our leased RV lot in Casa Grande Arizona on April 1st and showed up at Fort Peck on April 15 just after the snow melted.

It’s been fascinating to learn about the local history. The town of Fort Peck was built by the corp to support the nearly 50,000 people that would come here to work on the building of the dam over the 10+ year period of 1930 to 1941. There were as many as 11,000 men working on the dam at any one time during that period and eight men lost their lives during “the Big Slide” of 1938 and are permanently entombed in the dam to this day.

To learn more about the dam building and how the town and local area and people from far and wide prospered during the depression, I encourage you to follow this link to visit the PBS web site with some great pictures from the era and a video about the building of the dam.

Our Camp Host Site on day one – April 15th
The theatre operated 24/7 during construction of the dam with newsreels, movies and live plays to entertain the workers and their families and still offers summer plays to locals and visitors to the area.
The Northeast Montana Veterans Memorial Park in the center of town
The world’s largest earthen dam, 4 miles long, 3/4 mile wide at the base, and 250′ tall.
The Spillway located 3 miles east of the dam. Yes, that’s ice on the downstream side
The Interpretive Center contains displays information on the dam, local paleontology, and local fish and wildlife along with an educational movie theatre

There was a T-Rex discovered here (now on display at the Smithsonian) with a full-size replica here in the Interpretive Center.

The Fort Peck T-Rex in the Interpretive Center

Here’s a video that gives a tour of the campground and some of the surrounding area along with a little bit of what we’ve been doing at the park these first couple of weeks.

10 minute video on the Downstream Campground – Fort Peck Montana

Thanks for riding along and visiting. We’re having fun and intend to keep posting to share a little of our time here. Please leave any comments below and be sure to subscribe to our You Tube channel so you always get the latest videos as soon as they are published. I usually try to make the videos available here via the blog as well.

Until next time, best wishes to you and yours from HerbnKathy

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

The Landscape Keeps Changing

As we travel north to Montana, we are constantly blessed by the natural beauty that surrounds us.

Kathy and I were born and raised in the midwest and the beauty we saw there was in the Great Lakes, especially Lake Michigan shoreline along northwestern Michigan. If you haven’t spent any time in Michigan, you must do yourself a favor and take a driving tour along Michigan’s northwest coast.

But the scenery we’ve been exposed to these last few months has been so colorful, so impressive and awe-inspiring that I just had to share a few pictures here.

This is a short video showing the landscape up RT 89 north of Congress AZ where we spent our first night at the Escapees North Ranch RV Park.

An overlook of Congress, AZ just across from the Yarnell Memorial to the Granite Mountain HotShots – Nineteen men who lost their lives on June 30, 2013

Our second stop wasn’t really “natural” but man-made. When you take in how massive this project is and what man created here … that alone is beauty in it’s own right.

Hoover Dam is an arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between Nevada and Arizona. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression and was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.


Hoover Dam is 726 feet high. It is 650 feet thick at the bottom and 45 feet thick at the top. The purpose of the Hoover Dam is for power, silt and flood control, irrigation, and water for both industrial and domestic use. When Hoover Dam was finished in 1936 it was the world’s largest hydroelectric power station. The four intake towers (penstocks) on the north side of the dam take in water from Lake Mead and feed up to 91,000 gallons (each) of water per SECOND to feed the two banks of seventeen hydroelectric generators that produce over 2,000 megawatts of capacity and produce a yearly average generation of 4.5 billion kilowatt hours to serve the annual electrical needs of nearly 8 million people in Arizona, southern California, and southern Nevada.

One of the most interesting facts I learned about Hoover Dam (originally called Boulder Dam) is that the design included a HUGE refrigeration plant to cool the concrete as it cured. We were told during our tour that had they not provided artificial cooling to the concrete it could have taken a hundred years or more to cool and cure correctly so as to avoid premature cracking and failure.

Here’s a few pictures of Lake Mead and Hoover Dam showing how much lower the water level is than it was in the past. (It’s gone down 75′ in the last twenty years)

Remember, clicking on any of the individual images below will open a larger view.

Here’s a view from one of the overlooks at Lake Mead showing the marina. You can see how much lower the lake has become in recent years.

As we headed north from Boulder City Nevada and Hoover Dam, our next stop was Zion National Park.

We actually parked the coach at Ruby’s Campground at Bryce Canyon and then took the car to visit Zion National Park and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab Utah.

Unfortunately, we were unaware that you had to call ahead and make reservations for a tour at Best Friends, so all we were able to do is visit the Visitor Center and take a drive through part of the grounds and see a few horses. They have tens of thousands of acres and lead tours in small vans – something we’d still like to do but just ran out of time (and daylight) the day we were there. Click on the video below of a waterfall in Zion — it’ll zoom right in on the source.

A waterfall at Zion National Park

We came back to the coach, spent a second night at Ruby’s and then went on to visit Bryce Canyon National Park the next day. We could take the main road about 12 miles into the park after which the path was closed due to roads blocked by the snow. It would take a few more days/weeks of nice weather to get to the point that the park would be totally open to visitors.

But what we were able to see was Oh So Impressive! (click on any pix for a larger view)

Click on the video below

Panoramic view from Inspiration Point overlooking the hoodoo’s

After visiting Bryce, we took a drive over to Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

The next morning we hooked up the car to the back of the coach and left Bryce continuing our trek north. We decided not to stop at Salt Lake City, but instead continue on to Rock Springs, Wyoming where we new there was a county fair grounds and event center with 1200 full hook-up sites (water, sewer, electric) and we knew there was a pretty hefty winter storm coming our way. We knew we could hook up and “hunker down” at Rock Springs if we needed to for a few days.

The “Toad” and the bikes on the back of the coach

We’ll tell you more about that in our next post. ’til then …. thanks so much for riding along. I just wanted to share with you some of the amazing beauty we’re seeing out west.

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We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Road Trip Over Parker Dam

During one of our days off duty at The Big Tent RV Show, we took a road trip up to (and across) Parker Dam, Lake Havasu, and Bullhead City.

We started the trip taking State Route 95 straight north out of Quartzsite and crossing the state line at the town of Parker. On up 95 a few miles we crossed the Parker Dam back into Arizona. Thank goodness as gasoline in California is about $2 per gallon higher than in Arizona!

Our friends and co-workers Paul & Chris went with us and we enjoyed the day together. Driving as far as we did gave us a lot of time to talk and catch up on each others travels.

Paul & Chris (from Iowa)

Parker Dam crosses the Colorado River and was built in 1942. You can see some of the Art Deco architecture in the design of the dam.

(taken from Nat Park Service web site)
What you see is not what you get at Parker Dam, known as “the deepest dam in the world.” Engineers, digging for bedrock on which to build, had to excavate so far beneath the bed of the Colorado River that 73 percent of Parker Dam’s 320-foot structural height is not visible. Its reservoir, Lake Havasu, is a different matter. Its deep blue water stretches for 45 miles behind the dam, creating an oasis in the Arizona desert. Gracing the shore at Lake Havasu City is the historic London Bridge, reconstructed brick by brick in 1971 and adding to the city’s claim as “Arizona’s playground.”


Click on any of the images below to open a larger view

We continued on up (the Arizona side) State Route 95 and made a quick stop at the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge. Kathy and I had stopped here a couple years ago and wanted to give Paul & Chris a chance to see it as well. The Refuge is huge, but the part that’s easiest to see is a small peninsula into the river. The peninsula has shade shelters with benches so you can use your binoculars to see all the water fowl that lives in the habitat. The nightfall pictures below are from our stop on the way back home from Lake Havasu and Bullhead City.

Click on any of the images below to open a larger view.

Our next stop was Lake Havasu City. We kept this portion of the trip short, we just visited the London Bridge, grabbed a bite to eat at a local cafe and then back on the road. (Thanks Paul & Chris for buying our lunch!)

This is THE original London Bridge, moved to Lake Havasu City from London back in 1968 by Robert McCulloch. Find out all the details of the moving of the bridge at this link. It doesn’t cost anything to park in the lot and walk along the water’s edge. It must cost the store operators an arm and a leg in rent to have a storefront at the foot of the bridge. There is a small island on the far side of the bridge where there are residential units, restaurants, and more shopping.

Next stop on the trip … Bullhead City. We purposely made the drive on up the road to Bullhead City to have a brief visit with Rob & Michelle. Kathy and I met Rob & Michelle when we were workamping at Pere Marquette Oaks RV Park in Michigan in summer of ’18. We spent the day with them in the Tucson area a month or so ago and wanted to stop in and say “Hi” and introduced them to Paul & Chris — you never know when they might have the opportunity to cross paths again.

Unfortunately, I FORGOT to get ANY pictures of Rob & Michelle or their beautiful RV site looking toward Spirit Mountain on this trip! So here’s one I stole off Michelle’s Facebook page..

Rob & Michelle … fellow full-time RV’ers we met in Michigan summer of ’18

Thanks for riding along … we look forward to spending time with you again soon!

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Lake Havasu & Parker Dam

While we were at Quartzsite, we decided to take another day trip and be able to check something off our bucket list.  We wanted to see Lake Havasu and London Bridge.  One of our fellow workampers suggested we be sure to take a small detour on our way to check out Parker Dam at Parker, AZ as well.

We weren’t real keen on going to Lake Havasu City, but we had a Chili’s gift card, so we drove on in for lunch and to see the famous bridge.

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia about the lake and Parker Dam;

“Lake Havasu is a large reservoir behind Parker Dam on the Colorado River, on the border between California and Arizona. Lake Havasu City sits on the lake’s eastern shore. The reservoir has an available capacity of 619,400 acre feet (764,000,000 m3). The concrete arch dam was built by the United States Bureau of Reclamation between 1934 and 1938. The lake’s primary purpose is to store water for pumping into two aqueducts. Prior to the dam construction, the area was home to the Mohave Indians. The lake was named (in 1939) after the Mojave word for blue.[1] In the early 19th century, it was frequented by beaver trappers. Spaniards also began to mine the area along the river.”

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I was, of course, fascinated by the dam and how they move the water through the gates and into the hydro-electric plant.  But we both enjoyed the beauty of the blue water and the majestic mountains of the area.

Kathy had read to me in the car that the London Bridge there at Lake Havasu City IS the actual bridge from London, England, (I assumed it was a replica). But no, the fella that developed the city purchased the bridge from the city of London.

Here’s an excerpt from golakehavasu.com

In 1967, the Common Council of the City of London began to look for potential buyers for the London Bridge. Lake Havasu City founder and entrepreneur Robert P. McCulloch placed the winning bid of $2,460,000 on April 18, 1968.

McCulloch came by this figure by doubling the estimated cost of dismantling the structure, which was $1.2 million, bringing the price to $2.4 million. He then added on $60,000 – a thousand dollars for each year of his age at the time he estimated the bridge would be reconstructed in Arizona.

Each block was meticulously numbered before the bridge was disassembled. The blocks were then shipped overseas through the Panama Canal to California and trucked from Long Beach to Arizona. Following reconstruction of the London Bridge, Lake Havasu City rededicated it in a ceremony on October 10, 1971. Since then, it has consistently remained a favorite among Arizona attractions, drawing in visitors from around the globe.”

After knowing THIS information, it certainly made me have a much higher respect for the bridge and the effort of so many to bring it here to Arizona.

Stay tuned … more to follow from the Quartzsite trip (Bill Williams Wildlife Refuge & “The Naked Bookseller”)

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy
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