How much money do you really make working with concessionaire companies who contract with the National Parks? Well I can’t speak for all of them, but I can share my experience with Cedar Pass Lodge in the Badlands.
So far I have received 6 bi-weekly paychecks during my time here. For the first 5, I was being paid at a rate of $7.25 per hour, and having $14 for my RV spot and $70 for the meal plan (3 meals a day, 7 days a week) deducted from each check before I got my money. I worked anywhere from 32 to 45 hours a week depending on staffing needs.
My average take home for those first 5 checks was $419.22. That’s less than $850 a month, not a lot. Partway into July I was promoted to a lead and started making $8 per hour, my next check after that was $520.72. Better, but still not great.
But then you need to think about the other benefits. That amount was after rent, utilities, and food were all taken care of. There is a shuttle running too and from work, so you could theoretically go the summer without having to put gas in your car (I still chose to drive Bertha, worked with my schedule better), there are a few other perks of employment here too: laundry (and laundry soap) are free, toilet paper is free, little things like that that add up over time.
Of course the biggest benefit is the location. The Badlands is a pretty fantastic place to live if you like natural settings which I’m guessing you do if you’re reading this. No need to drive an hour to a park or someplace to hike, it’s right here. Even just the drive to and from work is amazing, if you can let go of the bustle of the day enough to appreciate it.
No job is perfect. Here in the Badlands you need to drive over an hour to find a Walmart or a full-size grocery store. The closest movie theater is 45 minutes away. If you need gas, be prepared to pay higher than average costs, since there are few gas stations they have a corner on the market. Because of the nature of the work, people are always coming and going, it’s hard to find stability. Some just have shorter contracts, but some leave early because the job wasn’t what they expected it to be.
All in all though, I have saved up $472.14 in the first two full months I was here. At a savings rate of over $200 a month, that still puts this job slightly higher than the last Real Job I held, where I made a lot more but my cost of living was a lot higher. Like at Amazon though, I’m very careful about what I spend my money on (I value experiences over possessions remember). If you’re going to drive to Rapid every weekend, if you’re going to be buying a lot of stuff at the gift store, if you’re going to be buying a lot of food on top of what the meal plan offers, then your savings rate won’t be as nice. I’m still saving up to buy a solar setup and a nice propane heater so that someday I can take winters off to go boondocking in the southwest.
I’ll be doing a full review at the end of my time here in the Badlands like usual, but so far I’m giving the experience a thumbs up. In the future, I’ll likely continue to track down and work at jobs like this in National Parks.