Park Hosting for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Not a very practical grill - but fun!

Not a very practical grill – but fun! All of today’s pictures are from E-Rock.

Onto week three of Park Hosting here at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. I’m continuing to have a good time and now feel confident in calling this camp hosting experiment a success. For the curious wondering what it’s like volunteering for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), I present this little post that explains what I do here and how to sign up if this is something you might be interested in trying. Let’s go!

What It Is

There are over 50 State Parks, Wildlife Refuges, and Natural Areas in Texas that have Park Host positions available. Some parks have opportunities seasonally, and some take park hosts year round. You sign up to volunteer about 25 hours a week in exchange for an RV site, exact hours and duties will vary. All sites have electric and water, most have sewer. For first time volunteers, most places will ask for a one to three month commitment. Returning park hosts can request a longer stay if the park agrees. Oh, and no, you do not need to be a Texas resident to volunteer.

Host Site #3 at Enchanted Rock, it's got a nice view.

Host Site #3, we have a great view of Little Rock (on the left) from the rear window.

At Enchanted Rock, the norm is for park host teams to work three partial days a week to get their 25 hours in, and couples have the same work hours by default unless they’d rather be staggered. Our one solo park host worked 25 hours over the course of five days to get her time in. They will not outright ask you for more hours here, but on busy weekends we often end up working “overtime” because we feel bad leaving when the park is slammed. On the other hand, if the weather is bad and visitation is low, we are often let out early.

Job Duties

Here at Enchanted Rock, bathroom cleaning, litter pickup, and traffic control are the three main duties. All park hosts scheduled to work on a given day join the paid field staff to clean out the bathrooms first thing every morning. Then depending on how busy things are, couples may be sent out with buckets and grabbers to pick up litter, or may don reflective vests to help park employees direct traffic.

Turkey Peak

Turkey Peak

There are other ways to get hours in though. Once a week, the campground fire pits need to have the ashes shoveled out, and the back-country composting toilets need to get cleaned and have their toilet paper restocked. There are frequently small maintenance projects available if you are so inclined, and one of the park hosts here spends one day a week in park headquarters working as a clerk. The one long-term park host who just left had a good enough grasp of the area to give interpretive talks.

Lot of interpretive talks here are about these little guys.  Fairy Shrimp only live in granite vernal pools.  They live at the top of the rock in puddles!

Lot of interpretive talks here are about these little guys. Fairy Shrimp only live in granite vernal pools. They live at the top of the rock in puddles!

From what I’ve gathered, the duties can vary widely at different locations. Some have paid custodians and thus work campers don’t need to clean the bathrooms. Some have a lot of landscaping that needs regular upkeep. Some have a lot of trails that need maintaining. If the duties aren’t listed up front when you’re perusing the various park opportunities, make sure you ask and bring up any job restrictions you may have.

Backside of E-Rock

Backside of E-Rock

How To Apply

Interested in taking a peek? Here’s what to do.

  1. Go to the TPWD volunteer page. You’ll see near the top of the page a link that says “More information on the Park Host program”, you can click there for a summary of what I wrote above if you wish, but click the Back button on your browser to get back to the main page when you’re done.
  2. To find the list of jobs, look in the the box in the upper left hand corner that says “State Park Volunteer, Concessions & Employment”. The last link in that box says “Volunteer Opportunities”, click there.
  3. Scroll midway down the page and you’ll see a map of Texas split into regions on the right, and a search box on the left. You have two options here:
  4. You can click on a map region to get all of the volunteer opportunities in that area, if you for instance want to stay in southern Texas during the winter. The page it takes you to will be ALL of the opportunities though. Look for ones that have “Park Host” in the job title and click them for more details.
  5. To see all of the Park Host jobs through all of Texas, use the search bar on the left and type in “park host” and then Search.
  6. When you’re looking at job listings, pay attention to the job requirements (all will require a background check, some might require special things like a Texas boat license), hours, and job duties. If you’re not familiar with Texas, you’ll probably want to copy the address and look it up on a map to see where it’s located and how far away it is from the nearest town.
  7. When you find one you’re interested in, hit the blue “Sign Up” button, and then follow the directions for new volunteer registration. It’s a fairly straight forward five step process. At the end of it, you might get a prompt to sign up for a certain schedule or months, or you might not. You can now go back and sign up for as many park host positions as interest you.
  8. At this point, you might also want to call or send e-mails to the contact listed for each park. I did a simple “Hi, I’m interested and signed up on the TPWD volunteer page. I’m looking to volunteer for so-and-so months, do you have anything available?”
Sandy Creek

Sandy Creek

Notes:

  • Not all of the listings are going to be up to date. A lot of parks leave their park host advertisement up on this page continually whether they have positions currently available or not. Some will have open months in the job title or description, but not all. You may have to “apply” to several before you get a hit.
  • Amenities at the parks will vary. Julie and I interviewed and were accepted for both Enchanted Rock and Hill Country State Natural Area, but Hill Country didn’t have running water in their bathrooms (no showers!) and since the water heater is broken in my RV, that was a necessity for us.
The uniform

The uniform

What’s Next

You’re unlikely to get replies if the answer is no. If the park is interested, they will contact you about setting up an interview after speaking to your references.

All three interviews I’ve done with TPWD have been pretty easy. They’ll ask you a few questions about your work history, your rig, and your expectations, and you should ask them any questions you haven’t had answered yet about the park and area, such as:

  • closest grocery store
  • closest laundry
  • closest Wi-Fi

There is a sort of uniform that’s required, but they’ll provide it. Park Hosts wear a beige TPWD volunteer button-up shirt and matching ball cap, you can wear jeans or shorts with it as desired.

And that pretty much covers it. Have any other questions about TPWD park hosting? Ask away in the comments below.

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Becky

At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

26 Comments

  1. Ed@Chasing Sunrises and Sunsets on February 7, 2015 at 1:48 am

    Thank you Becky! My question was purely borne out of curiosity. As I think you are aware, we are in the midst of preparing for a full-time RV lifestyle. I was wondering only and not intending to pry. You more than answered my question(s). Thank you.



    • Becky on February 7, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      It’s all good Ed! You’re welcome.



  2. Ed @ Chasing Sunrises and Sunsets on February 5, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    So I have to ask. Since this is a volunteer position, presumably with no pay, to include only a RV site (not diminishing the value),,,why would you not boondock/travel/boondock such as RVSue does. Heck, you even have the same rig set-up.

    Unless the goal is to see Texas and/or leap-frog towards home, why would you not travel and boondock for free WITHOUT being tied to a volunteer position. It seems to me that the gas getting from the west coast over to the Texas hill country kind of put you in a expenditure hole unnecessarily.

    On the other hand, I’m sure I do not know the whole story and what your game-plan is big picture.



    • Becky on February 6, 2015 at 8:53 pm

      Well, first off thanks for asking this cordially instead of framing it as an attack like so many people on the internet do. Just another reason why I like the RVing community better than most.

      Here is your answer.

      1. There are three good reasons for being in Texas instead of further west. My water heater needs replacing and I wanted to get it done at the original Casita Factory. I need to “move” to Texas this year for health insurance reasons, so might as well get my DL sooner rather than later. And I need to drop Julie back off in Wisconsin in the beginning of April, so this is part way home for her.

      2. I’m not set up for boondocking yet. I don’t have a propane heater, I don’t have a generator or solar setup, I don’t have a working water heater (getting that fixed soon), and my only internet access is through public Wi-Fi (which I get from my rig in our park host spot here).

      That about covers it. 🙂



  3. Marty Chambers on February 4, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    I hope you have agreat time! I lived in the Austin area for a little over a year back in 1971 and it was a fun place even back then. Sad to say though, I never knew of, or went to, Round Rock. But I did my best to help “Keep Austin weird”!

    How do you deal with taxes with a position like that? Is it considered income? Is it tax exempt? Just wondering.



    • Becky on February 6, 2015 at 8:45 pm

      There’s a chance we’ll be going to Austin in a week for the first time. That’s a neat slogan. 😉

      Depends on who your “employer” is Marty, volunteering with the University of Florida last winter it was tax exempt. Not sure yet if this will be too or not.



  4. carlene on February 4, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Thanks for a great post, I’ve been researching volunteer positions for at least a year and half and now I’ve added the Texas link to my list. Knowing that Texas for me would only be a spring or fall gig. Looks like a great place.

    Have a great week, had my first showing on the house on Monday and it went very well, just getting it on the market (finally) is a success. I have a feeling I’ll be trailer buying sooner than later. Yippy!

    Happy Hump day!



    • Becky on February 4, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      You’re welcome Carlene, I’m so glad that this information was helpful for you.

      Congrats! I never had one myself, but from what I’ve heard getting a house on the market is a lot of work. Good luck on the Monday showing, and happy hump day to you too!



  5. Diane on February 4, 2015 at 10:06 am

    Welcome to Texas!!!! If you make it out to LBJ National Historical Park, come by and say hello.



    • Becky on February 4, 2015 at 6:03 pm

      Ooooh, I’ll have to see how far away that is from E-Rock Diane. 🙂 Thanks.



  6. Fireman Steve on February 4, 2015 at 9:54 am

    Glad you are enjoying the experience. Love the Texas grill…and cute pic of you in the uniform.



    • Becky on February 4, 2015 at 6:02 pm

      Haha, yeah that grill…



  7. Dwayne on February 4, 2015 at 7:51 am

    Just to let you know Julie is a real person, not a figment of Becky’s mind. LOL…. Used to work with both of them at Amazon. She probably is the one taking the pictures.
    Very good blog, been reading it since Amazon. Sound like you are enjoying your dream of seeing the country.



    • Becky on February 4, 2015 at 6:01 pm

      Glad you’re still enjoying IO Dwayne. Hope you had/are having a good time down in AZ.



  8. Andrew on February 4, 2015 at 7:31 am

    Nice post–very informative!

    So who is this mysterious Julie? Is she an imaginary companion, or just camera-shy?



    • Becky on February 4, 2015 at 6:00 pm

      My best friend and temporary traveling companion Andrew. She was also my roommate in the early days of this blog before I hit the road. 🙂 I don’t post pictures of her much in respect of her privacy.



  9. Jodee Gravel on February 3, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    Great review of the volunteer host position. Most postings are pretty vague, and as you said, not current. Glad it’s a good experience for you and Julie – it sounds like a great opportunity!
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Quarters – in the Super Bowl and on the CalendarMy Profile



    • Becky on February 4, 2015 at 5:54 pm

      Oh we’re having a blast Jodee! It’ll be you soon enough. 🙂



  10. gumo on February 3, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    I’m glad you are enjoying the area and home you get a chance to see more of Texas. In Fredericksburgh, try Mamacitas for some great Mexican food. Have a great time a the park.
    gumo recently posted..part IV: TranquilityMy Profile



    • Becky on February 4, 2015 at 5:52 pm

      We’ve seen that restaurant before and already decided it deserved a visit Gumo, haha!

      Tomorrow we’re off to Garner State Park, we’ll see more of Texas bit by bit.



  11. Misty on February 3, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    Hahaha, I love your uniform. You look like a real Texan! 😉

    Also, I kind of facepalmed at the Texas grill. That is so…. us. Hahaha.

    I’m glad you guys are having such a good time! Just wish I was out there with you. Missing my little trailer these days!
    Misty recently posted..Tinkering with a new ideaMy Profile



    • Becky on February 4, 2015 at 5:51 pm

      Some day you’ll have to go traveling again Misty, even if it’s not the near future. We still need to caravan together!



  12. Cherie @Technomadia on February 3, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Sounds like you’ve found yourself another wonderful gig.. go you!

    Austin is my old stomping grounds, used to hike out at Enchanted Rock in my younger years. We’ll be coming back to Austin this spring in early April. You’ll be in the hill country for what I think is the BEST time of year.. when the wildflowers start emerging in a few weeks. Soak it in, and maybe our paths will cross again soon 🙂
    Cherie @Technomadia recently posted..Living the Lithium Lifestyle – 3.5 Year Lithium RV Battery UpdateMy Profile



    • Becky on February 3, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      I’ve heard a lot about the wildflowers Cherie, I’m looking forward to it!

      Austin is a good hour+ from here, but Julie and I won’t be leaving E-Rock until we see it. Anything in particular you recommend to visit when we’re there?

      I’m hoping the timing will work out. Our last day is March 29 and I’ll be driving up to Rice shortly after to get the water heater replaced at the Casita factory. With luck there will be a day or two of overlap.



  13. Jerry Minchey on February 3, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    Interesting article. I like the pictures — especialy, the Texas grill and the one with you in your uniform. You look official.



    • Becky on February 3, 2015 at 2:49 pm

      “You look official.” If only they knew the real me, haha.

      Glad you enjoyed this Jerry, that grill made me giggle when I saw it.



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