Being a Camphost

AdamsTractRC04072013 (46)Most of us “Full-Timers” will, at one time or another, become camp host somewhere along the way. We have taken two camp host assignments so far. We scheduled one for July and August when we first started out because we wanted the experience and who wouldn’t want to camp next to the ocean for two months. Money being tight we have taken an earlier workkamping gig with Suwannee River Wilderness Trail. They have created and maintain river camps along the Suwannee River for canoers and kayakers. The river camps are available to anyone who travels down the river and needs a place to camp overnight. They are not charging for this service (yet) but do ask that reservations be made ahead of time. The SRWT is headquartered at the Visitors Center in front of Stephen Foster Memorial in White Springs, Florida. At the present time there are only 5 River Camps in operation. In between these are Florida State Parks that will allow the canoers to camp for a few dollars, public boat ramps and some private places as well. There are even a few places during the year that they can camp on a sandbar. Although, I really wouldn’t recommend it. From the pictures we have seen on the internet all the river camps are pretty much set up the same way. Each of them have screened in wooden platforms with ceiling fans, electrical outlets, picnic tables and a fire pit. There are barbecue grills intermingled among the platforms and each have bathhouses with hot/cold water. Access to the River Camps can only be gotten via the River unless you work for the park service, are a camp host or part of the Suwannee River Water Management Department.

We signed up for April to the end of June of this year. Which turned out pretty well because that is when we really ran out of traveling money. We are hoping to be able to save a little money and pay down our credit card to continue our journey after the summer. That still remains to be seen but we are trying. Anyway, I saw an ad on one of the workkamper websites for a camp host assignment with the state. Camp Hosts are volunteers who cleanup after other campers in exchange for a free camping site. I have never heard of the SRWT section of the Florida State Parks before but we looked over their website, read through the requirements and applied for the position. Thankfully, the coordinator got back to us right away and offered us the position. She did emphasize that we would be on our own and that all the camps were fairly isolated. But when she told us that we would have access to a washer and dryer we were sold. We have been at the Adams Tract River Camp outside of Mayo, Florida for the last 3 weeks. Other than having to change our internet/cellphone carrier it has been very nice so far. The bathhouses are special mobile units on cement pads with their own hot water tanks in each, a sink, a toilet and a very nice shower. In the event of the river flooding this far down we are responsible for getting the bathhouses ready for transport out of the camp. Since, Adams Tract was once a boy scout camp there is a large block garage with a large car port. It houses all the lawn equipment, supplies, washer/dryer, and an extra refrigerator that we can use. The car port has lovely ceiling fans, picnic tables and firewood that we offer for sale. The sale of the firewood helps to supplement the river camps budget and allows them to buy new equipment. Large groups, such as the boy scouts, girl scouts, church groups and private party river guides are allowed to drive into the camp to drop off the canoers food and camping gear prior to their arrival. The river camp itself is only 5 acres and the balance of the property is held by the State and Water Management District. Our hub or supplier is Troy Springs State Park.

Our responsibilities include cleaning the bathhouses, maintaining the yard, keeping the pathways clear of debris, emptying out the trash, greeting the campers on their arrival, selling firewood and answering any questions the campers may have. We are given a schedule of reservations about once a week of expected visitors. Occasionally, during the day we may have canoers, Water Management People, or even hikers use the facilities for lunch or a break. We are to greet them and then leave them alone. Of course, anything that deals with the government, there is some paperwork involved as well. We have to keep track of everyone who visits during the day, count the number of campers for the night, count the number of canoers who leave in the morning and count the number of hours that we work everyday. Since, we are the only ones on the property full-time we can only leave for a few hours at a time. We have been told, however, that if we needed to leave for more than 12 hours to contact the main office and they would send someone to check every now and then. As of yesterday, we were told that one of the river camps hasn’t received a camphost yet. Generally, the manager or someone in the office will drop by these camps and check on them, clean up if necessary and bring back any needed supplies. So, if you have an enclosed camper, would like to be out in the woods next this historic river and don’t mind working a little bit you might want to call them up and volunteer:

Suwannee River Wilderness Trail
10499 Spring Street
White Springs, FL 32096
(386) 397-1919
(800) 868-9914

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