Red Bluff Recreation Area in Northern California has been a regular stop along the way for my wife and I as we return home from our annual fall trip to the desert southwest. It is just a short distance off I-5 with a campground offering large spaces, some water and electric sites along with reasonable rates.
It was a very convenient place to camp for the evening as you just pulled in, found an open site, and slipped the payment into the iron ranger. I even blogged about it several years ago, which you can read by clicking here.
However, this year when we turned into Sycamore Grove Campground we were met with a sign proclaiming “Reservations Only.” The board next to the disabled iron ranger had information on when the changeover occurred in May 2017 along with online registration instructions.
Well no big deal we thought, as there were plenty of spaces available (as there was every year when we visited), so we cruised the loop looking at campsites marked as open. Finding a suitable campsite with an open sign, we proceeded to go online and attempted to reserve the space only to find out it was already reserved according to the website.
My wife then searched for an open space on the website, provided me with a list of available sites, I then took a walk to find which one suited us best and reported back to my wife.
Advancing to the next reservation step on the website, we discovered our $16 (non-utility site) for the night would cost us an extra $10 in online reservation fees.
Our next time through we might still stop at the Red Bluff Recreation Area and enjoy the day use, but as evening comes we will head up the road to one of several free boondocking locations.
If you do want a site with water and electric (30/50-amp) hookups, click here to reserve your site ahead of time. The level sites are paved, some pull-throughs, about 35 to 40 feet long. The campground also has coin-pay showers and restrooms.
Missing the Iron Ranger, just another adventure in RVing!
Dave Helgeson’s many roles in the RV industry started before he even had a driver’s license. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership before the term “RV” had been coined, and Dave played a pivotal role in nearly every position of an RV dealership. He and his wife Cheri launched their own RV dealership in the Pacific Northwest. The duo also spent 29 years overseeing regional RV shows. Dave has also served as President of a local chapter of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), worked on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college, and served as a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. Dave’s reputation earned him the title of “The foremost expert on boondocking,” bestowed by RV industry icon, the late Gary Bunzer (The RV Doctor). When he’s not out boondocking, you’ll find Dave in the spotlight at RV shows across the country, giving seminars about all things RVing. He and Cheri currently roam in their fifth travel trailer, with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications to his own unit.
Tom Fitch says
Thanks, Dave. Just curious, did anyone actually show up to the site that you first found open but that was “reserved”?
Dave Helgeson - Adventures in RVing says
Nope – nobody ever showed up.
Tom Fitch says
So they tied up a space with a reservation and then nobody even used it? Nice!
Boyd Lake State Park in Fort Collins, CO is the same way. What a bummer!
Tony LEE says
I understand the idea, eliminates the handling of money locally, you put it on a card online and its done, but its done at the cost to the camper. Other problem related to this is folks who make the reservations and don’t show up or show up one or two days into the reservation. If you are not there, the first day, it should be automatically canceled, plain and simple. Campsites are in short supply and holding them on the chance the camper will show up later should not be done.
Thank the administration in DC.
Cy fels says
The forest service is trying to keep the homeless out by going to a reservation only campground. I guess they think us campers will absorb the ten dollar reservation fee no problem. Problem!!! Keep going and find somewhere else I guess.
Joe Rice says
This ‘efficient’ way of handling campers is probably costing them a whole lot more in revenue then they imagine. Lazy new ‘clueless’ administrators trying to make improvements that will not work.
Robert, Jackie & The Boys says
We camped at these 3 Colorado state parks along I-25 in Aug & Sept, they all have switched to resv only with a extra fee. Even if you are there physically on the property you have to go online to make the resv and pay extra fee. All have signs Resv only and Park Is Full but not one park was actually full. Asked why they are doing this and all replies were “keep out homeless people”. There has to be a better way, I believe the reason is extra fee’s.
St. Vrain State Park Longmont, CO 80504
Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Colorado Springs, CO 80926
Trinidad Lake State Park, Trinidad, CO 81082