Volunteering at D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery

Really? We don’t fish … we don’t cook or even eat ENOUGH fish (according to the health experts) and we don’t really have any desire to handle fish or even SMELL fish! Why on earth would we consider working at a fish hatchery as one of our Workamping / Volunteering gigs?

Our good friends Phil and Cheryl volunteered here in 2016 and other good friends Matt and Sherry volunteered here in 2018 and they ALL highly recommended that we get on the list to volunteer here. Matt and Sherry were coming back again this year (’19) and so we submitted our application and resume’ back in August of 2018 and were accepted as volunteers.

D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives is not your normal production fish hatchery. There are 90 national U.S. Fish & Wildlife fish hatcheries throughout the nation along with many other state-managed hatcheries that are still in full-time operation.

This hatchery was an active production facility from it’s completion of construction in 1899 until 1983. At that time it was closed as a major production facility and turned into the national hatchery education site and archives.

Volunteering here has given both Kathy and I a new appreciation for serving as “tour guides” doing interpretive work. We were both a little nervous about this new role in our lives as volunteers. If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that most of our volunteer experiences have been working in private or public RV parks or campgrounds as hosts, cleaning crew, or office duties. Although all of these positions have involved working with the public and have given us the opportunity to meet and talk with a lot of new people, we’ve not been put in the position of “tour guide” doing interpretive work.

Would we be able to learn the script? Would we be able to smile all day? Would we be able to be on our feet for four and a half hours at a time? We were not concerned about the camp site, the area, or the management. We were confident that would all be great … thanks to our friends who’d worked here before.

We have to say that as of this writing … we’ve only been here about 3 weeks now … it’s been a wonderful experience and we’re quite comfortable with doing the interpretive work (tour guides) and we’re really enjoying our interactions with the other volunteers and being able to see the many sights that the Black Hills of South Dakota have to offer.

There are basically four different venues here where the volunteers are scheduled to work. Our venue assignments are rotated each shift. Spouses work the same shifts. We work 3 half-days on duty, then 3 full days off duty.

We might work in; the Museum, the Fish Car, the Booth House, or the Gift Shop.

The original hatchery building, constructed in 1899

Remember, you can click on any of the thumbnails below to see an enlarged image

Fish Car #3 and the Ice House

Remember, you can click on any of the thumbnails below to see an enlarged image

The Booth House – where hatchery Superintendents and their families lived

Remember, you can click on any of the thumbnails below to see an enlarged image

The “Pond Shop” gift shop overlooking pond #1
Inside the gift shop we sell hatchery merchandise and LOTS of fish food!
The “Pond Gift Shop” and restrooms with Pond #1 at the left

There are 10 RV sites in “Volunteer Village” which is a separate area of the beautiful Spearfish City Campground that is dedicated to use by volunteers at D.C. Booth Hatchery. We are supplied the Full Hookup site, 45 channel cable, free wi-fi and a community fire pit area where we often gather each night for a campfire with smores and stories. Sometimes we have pot luck meals there too!

Our sites back up to Spearfish Creek and a walking trail
Boys having fun floating down Spearfish Creek right behind our rigs

Remember, you can click on any of the thumbnails below to see an enlarged image

Another special perk of this position is that the volunteers all get a “VIP” card to carry in their wallet. This card is issued by the Black Hills & Badlands Tourism Association and it entitles us to free admission to about 40 area attractions and discounts in area gift shops and restaurants.

The idea is that as tour guides at D.C. Booth we have the opportunity to meet and interact with hundreds of visitors daily and we should take the opportunity to talk with them about other attractions in the area. We’re kind of a “mini marketing” team for other things to see and do nearby.

This is the list of all the attractions free to tourism VIP’s

Some of these benefits are valued at just a few dollars while others are over $100 per ticket. It’s a great idea to promote the are wonderful benefit for us too!

While we are here at Spearfish (through Sept 2019) I’ll be writing other short blog posts about our excursion trips that we take using the VIP cards so you can get a better feel for a lot of what there is to offer here in the beautiful Black Hills!

If you think you might be interested in volunteering at D.C. Booth Historic Fish Hatchery and Archives, visit their web site at https://dcboothfishhatchery.org/volunteer-programs/

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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

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

Review – Lake Vandalia Campground

As afternoon came we pulled in to a Walmart parking lot where we could get free (strong) wifi and brought up our Allstays app to find a place to stay for the night.

We were lucky enough to choose Lake Vandalia Campground at Vandalia, Illinois.

Lake Vandalia, Illinois

This is a city park with a huge lake, beach area with concession stand and about 100+ electric only sites.  There is a dump station that’s free to use for registered guests.  Water hydrants are available, but you might need a couple hundred feet of hose.  We carry 90 gallons in our fresh water tank, so we had no worries.

The fee was only $15 (senior discount) and we were lucky enough to be one of only about 3 or 4 campers there for the night.  We backed in to our spot, set up our chairs at the edge of the lake, cooked brats on the charcoal grill and had a peaceful and cool night listening to the light rain that started about midnight.

Oh, and Kathy made Acorn Squash in her Instant Pot …. I didn’t think I would like it, but you know … put enough butter and brown sugar on about anything and it’ll taste good!  I gotta admit …. it was yummy.

Acorn Squash from the Instant Pot

Our site for the night, backed right up to the lake

View of the lake from our easy chairs

All in all, it was another great place to camp for the night … and inexpensive to boot!

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

Riding A “Cable” Ferry at Lake Charlevoix

Our road trip a few weeks ago took us up M-22 and M-119 through Charlevoix and Petoskey and on up to the Mackinac Bridge and across to St. Ignace.  On our way back down into the Lower Peninsula, we needed to head to Kalkaska on M-66 to visit my parents grave.

This return trip took us to a delightful little Village of Ironton where there is a ferry that crosses the “narrows” of Lake Charlevoix giving riders a shortcut from Boyne City to Charlevoix.

As we had already spent a thoroughly enjoyable time in Charlevoix the previous night, we instead crossed on the ferry and headed south on M-66 to Kalkaska.

To get a better look at the area and be able to zoom in or out, click on this interactive map link

 I thought the ferry was so cool.  A ferry boat has been crossing this narrows since 1883, with this present vessel being placed into service in 1925.  On most boats, ferry or otherwise, the captain (or pilot) not only controls the engine speed and direction, but also steers the boat by use of a rudder and/or bow thruster engines/props.

With this ferry however, the craft is “driven” by propellers on each end (from one small diesel motor that runs in both directions) but the direction that the boat travels is guided along by a 3/4″ diameter steel cable that is secured at the ferry dock at each end.  There is no steering and there is no rudder.

Back in the “old days” the passengers provided the power by pulling the boat along using hand-over-hand power on the cable.

“How do boats navigate the narrows” you ask?  There is enough slack in the cable so that it is only above the surface of the water at each end and at the ferry boat itself.  Otherwise the cable drops to a depth of about 25′ so that other watercraft can safely navigate.

The Ironton Ferry Boat

Looking Across The Narrows of Lake Charlevoix at Ironton

Waiting In Line to Board

The Ferry Rate Chart

The Ferry Has Departed

Placard Detailing The History of The Ferry

We are continually amazed and delighted at the opportunities that this workamping lifestyle affords us.  Although we were both born and raised in Michigan, we continue to be pleasantly surprised with all that this beautiful Water-Winter-Wonderland has to offer.

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

Bill Williams River Wildlife Refuge – Lake Havasu, AZ

We saw some beautiful sights on our way up to Parker Dam and Lake Havasu, and once we finished lunch at Lake Havasu City, Kathy suggested we work our way back down to visit the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge.

It’s really a great facility with lots of paved walkways, plenty of shaded places to sit and just take in and appreciate all the different vegetation and water fowl, and enjoy all that we have to enjoy in this beautiful country of ours.

There are 3 park host RV sites there and we talked with one of the hosts just as we were leaving.  He’s been there for a few years and does everything from taking care of the beds and the trails, watering the batteries in the solar banks, maintaining the golf carts and utility vehicles, to daily maintenance of the Visitor Center and the Education Center used by schools and other groups.

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We had an opportunity to use our new Vortex Optics 10×42 Binoculars to see the birds, and boy were they great at bringing everything up close and so clear too!

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

Found a Great Little Park (Yuma, TN)

Having made it through Oklahoma Tuesday (missing the storms), we pulled out of Morrilton, AR (never to stay in THAT campground again!) on Wednesday morning and motored our way continuing eastward on I-40 and settled at a beautiful little independent park known as Parkers Crossroads RV Park & Campground at Yuma, TN.

We found it on AllStays.com and wanted to stay here because it is about halfway between Memphis and Nashville and it’s about a mile or so north of the freeway so there would be far less truck traffic noise.

We found the place easily, identified by one of those bright LED fluorescent color signs that so many churches and gas stations seem to be using nowadays.  When we pulled in, we were warmly welcomed by Steve, one of the owners who gave us a nice written color brochure of the park along with a list of all the points of interest in the area.  His business partner (Mike) jumped into the Gator and led us to site 31, showed us that we were right next to one of the wifi repeaters, and told us to look them up if there was anything we needed for the night.

We found this to be one of the nicer RV parks we’ve been at.  Not only were we welcomed with kindness, but the park has; trees, a lake, concrete pads, hilltop sites, cable tv, wifi internet access, a community room w/ 60″ color tv and loads of DVD’s, and a nice little store for some groceries, rv parts and accessories, and oh yes … ice cream for Kathy!

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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