Camping Along The Yellowstone River In Montana
Needing a convenient and free spot to camp for the night while traveling through Montana via I-90, I looked over the list of Fishing Access Sites (FAS) and found Otter Creek FAS near Big Timber not too far off the freeway.
The site is along the banks of the Yellowstone River, just off a paved road, and best of all, overnight dry camping (there are no hookups available) is free!
As we approached on the road above the site, I saw a number of RVs already camped there and as it was close to dinner time, I hoped there was one more site available for us.
As we circled through the area passing by the already occupied sites while searching for open sites, I found it odd that there was a total absence of people in or around the RVs or anywhere for that matter. Despite the heat, there was nobody sitting outside in their lounge chairs under their awnings, in fact, their awnings weren’t even deployed.
Closer inspection revealed the RV windows were closed and the fact there were no generators humming to run the air conditioners, lead me to believe the RV owners weren’t in their RVs either.
Next, I noticed there were no tow vehicles parked in front of the travel trailers and fifth wheels. One RV had a couple of tents set up in front, of which one had been blown down by the wind. It began to feel like one of those sci-fi movies where the main characters drive into a town only to find the residents had mysteriously disappeared!
About that time, I spied an open level shady grassy space on the banks of the river, hunger and fatigue quickly overcame the fear of man-eating creatures lurking in the river, and I quickly pulled in.
A strange encounter
Since the site was level, we proceeded to cook dinner prior to unhitching the trailer and putting the jacks down. Just as we were finishing dinner, the next strange occurrence began to unfold when we spotted another RV coming down the hill into the fishing access site, slowly passing by our space either looking at our rig or seeing if they could squeeze into the remaining space in front of us, then proceeding to the other end of the access site where there were other areas to camp.
In short order, they were passing by our space again, this time stopping, at which time a lady got out of the vehicle and came towards our entry door (maybe she was checking to see if there were really people inside, unlike the other RVs). I stepped to the door to ask if I could help and she asked if we were staying. I let her know that we planned to stay the night and leave sometime the next day after visiting friends, that I just hadn’t had the chance to unhook and put the jacks down.
This is where it got real strange. She replied, “We are staying longer,” implying they were more entitled to the space than my wife and I staying only one night.
Now I could tell you how I responded, but I am more interested as to how the readers of this blog would have responded to this statement and its implications. Please share.
Also, to answer the question as to why there was nobody occupying the other RVs parked in the camping area? It wasn’t the plague, aliens or river creatures; it was the 50th Annual Montana Boat Float the coming weekend which brings hundreds of people, watercraft, and RVs riverside to participate.
Camping by yourself in a nearly “full” campground and then being asked to give up your space, just another strange 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.
I would have said something like “enjoy your stay” and stayed in place.
Joseph Oravec says
OK, do Not know anything about the “Boat Float” maybe later? Montana has plenty of other (Dry Camping) sites scattered both near waterways and also near trails. And also, in the Yellowstone Region there are Free Dry Camping areas in Idaho and Wyoming. In 2017 my wife and I stayed in Idaho along US 20, just west of West Yellowstone, Montana. In the TARGHEE Creek Trail-head area. About 10 sites (first come basis) along the way to the trail head parking lot. Maybe, a little rough for some RV’s since the road leading to the sites is just a dirt unimproved road with some bumps and holes. But, it was peaceful , and no light pollution to interfere with star gazing.
Mr Personality says
My comment would be along the lines of entitled people, such as: “Do you have a lawn chair, or something else we could save this site for you when we leave”? How many RV’ers have been cut-off on interstates, while driving 65MPH in the right lane, because someone wants to get in front of you only to take the exit 1/2 mile ahead, rather than get behind you (which is usually very available)? Or by someone who pulls in front of you at the Truck stop and uses the pump while you are waiting and blocking entrance to another gas line? Obviously, those other boondocking campsites were being reserved by folks that left their stuff behind and would return for the big event. While boondocking is great, this appears to be one small drawback to staying somewhere that may be dangerous? Personally, on 2018, 7,000 mile RT and this year’s 5,000 mile RT with our Airstream, I did not experience any of that behavior of entitlement! Instead I enjoyed the fellowship and camaraderie of Americans of all skin colors who were glad to be out of quarantines/lock downs, etc!
Having said all that, thank you for sharing this story, which hopefully represents less than 1% of our experiences while RVing? YouTube RV channel “Nomadic Fanatic (Eric & Jax)” has cameras outside his Class A. While parked at a boondocking site along the ocean, or river, he has a video of a couple with their child on a walk in the evening and steal something under the RV! Life is not perfect, but let’s work to make it a better place for all by showing better behavior than this couple you described.
I usually avoid giving up any info… I would have said something like, “Haven’t decided yet… or We are here until we leave… or until the rest of us get here and decide…” or…. etc. I stay vague as much as possible anymore.
Camper Dad says
That is strange and something I have not experienced, but I could see myself saying “That’s cool – I will be leaving by late tomorrow if you want to grab this site.”
Wolf A says
Dave, the lady likely was wanting that prime riverside site, so she & possible guests could enjoy the “boat float” event. Since your RV was not setup, you may have been about to depart.
If it was me & she was trying to get setup for the weekend, I probably would have moved to the other site & let her enjoy the riverbank site. I’ve been given many, many courtesies by others that I’m now trying to pay forward.
Let’s Roll !
Marvin Wilburn says
True gentleman,my hats off to you. Thanks for the lesson in humility!
Red RV says
I’m in line with what Wolf says. No skin off my nose. To pay it forward can reap blessings that you had no idea were in store for you.
Slick Rock Red
Marvin Wilburn says
Another true gentleman! Are you an Eagles fan as in “Take it Easy”! Thanks for the great advice!
Kristi Krafft says
I would have stayed in the spot and not moved. She doesn’t own the land.
This brings me to recollect my many years of being a landscape artist and setting up my easel to paint the scenery and having some artist (usually one with a big ego, full of themselves) pull up and tell me that this was THEIR spot, wanting me to move. Really, they couldn’t move five feet away in the big outdoors?
Sorry about your luck. This space will be open sometime tomorrow afternoon. Peace!
Tom Funkhouser says
I would probably say, I’ll be leaving at 8am tomorrow if you would like to come on over and take this spot.
Oh, Nice. I will let you know when we are ready to pull out so maybe you can have this spot.
Allan b says
I’d like to ask about another implication of all those empty RVs. How far in the future was the boat float? We’re Seeing more and more RVs parked on public land for extended periods of time just to hold a spot with nobody staying there during the week or before that hunting season or whatever event is going to be happening
As if they are entitled to that spot. So they’ll park their rv ( or houseboat if a lake ) to hold a camping place. Its PUBLIC land. All of our taxes are used to maintain it
RIC CARTER says
The rural west has unfortunately been invaded by tourists this summer. Rude and thoughtless seems to be their watch word. Every campsite is over crowded, no matter how remote. Trash, and unattended fires, dogs running lose.
I had a secret place I would go to on a 4th of July weekend. I would have it all to myself. This year when I went there dozens of rv’s and tent camps were there. This wasn’t on the 4th, just a weekend in late July. Some out of state genius discovered the area, and posted the GPS location online. What a way to ruin a nice pristine campsite. This is in a wild and scenic river corridor, and many were violating the separation from water rules. I hope a ranger went through and issued citations that weekend.
Lawrence Leach says
Hope you find a spot you like!
She was just checking. You might want to reconsider your
interpretation. In FCFS places I sometimes ask people if they are leaving. It is perfectly acceptable and polite,
mike hastings says
too many people grab a site to hold and leave for the week. not your problem. it’s too bad they can’t regulate the jokers who scarf up the sites and not use them.