Overnight camping stays declined an estimated 20% to 40% this past summer at Wyoming’s private campgrounds. But, says Wyoming Campground Association (WCA) president Marshall Hood, regional tourism plus the state’s energy boom kept campground owners afloat.
“Overall, I was quite surprised,” Hood told Woodall’s Campground Management this week following WCA’s Fall Campground Meeting at the Casper KOA on Oct. 4. “I was expecting the construction boom would not make up for the losses.”
But as he began to quiz representatives of the 10 campgrounds who attended the one-day meeting, just one or two said total business for this year was down, he said. The state’s camping season opens in May and concludes this month.
Credit the energy boom for the steady campground business in the nation’s least populous state. Wyoming already produces half of all the coal mined in the U.S. But oil and natural gas exploration is bringing in many new workers, who find their only affordable housing is in the state’s far-flung campgrounds, Hood said.
Hood, who owns the Foothills Motel & Campground in Dayton, Wyo., said campers from neighboring Montana, South Dakota, Utah and Colorado have helped prop up business, too. And these regional campers are staying more than one night, he said.
Hood said business at his campground was up 25% this year and was at or above his 10-year average. Another campground reported business was up 30%, he said.
Wyoming campgrounds also rely in part on tourists en route to Yellowstone National Park located in the northwest corner of the state. Record high fuel prices did not seem to deter visitors to Yellowstone this summer.
After a record June, park visitation remained strong in July and August, and remained on a near record pace for all of 2008, the National Park Service reported after Labor Day.
The park recorded 735,572 recreational visits in August. That’s up almost 25,000 visitors from the previous August. The largest percentage increase in August was recorded through the East Entrance, up 13.7% from 2007.
There were 826,728 recreational visitors to the park in July, up half a percent from the same period in 2007.
But Hood clearly sees RVers are cutting back. The number of big rigs visiting Wyoming has dropped off, he said, based on his observations, while the size of autos being towed behind Class A’s is also shrinking. He said it was not uncommon to see a Class A motorhome pulling a full-sized car in past years, but this summer the percentage of small cars as tow vehicles had increased considerably.
During the WCA meeting:

  • Aaron Linden with Hub Insurance in Sheridan, Wyo., spoke to the operators about insurance liability.
  • Susan Dynarsky, co-owner of the Casper KOA, agreed to fill the vacated position of WCA vice president until the next election in 2009.
  • Hood, who doubles as WCA webmaster, said campers are becoming Internet savvy, as WCA’s website, www.campwyoming.org, is yielding more visits each year.
  • WCA members also discussed a Wi-Fi scam hitting their state and others. Members are receiving letters from a lawyer claiming to hold a patent on Wi-Fi service and demanding a base fee and yearly fee. The claim is unsupported, and the matter has been referred to the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), Hood said.
    WCA will hold its spring meeting April 4, 2009, at a site yet to be determined.