Living in a National Park


When you work for a concessioner in a National Park you usually live in housing they provide, unless you travel and live in an RV like I do. If that’s the case, some operations have a place to park your RV near where you work (inside the gate), and others do not. I have worked for both types of operations. There is a tremendous advantage to living inside the park. But, if you are there to take in all you can of the surrounding area, it may not matter much to you.

If you plan on working in a National Park, make sure you inquire about living arrangements when you speak with the recruiter. Depending on the organization, and/or your job, you may have to share an apartment, room, or house with others. If you are in management, you will most likely have the option of living alone. All the operations I am aware of make provisions for couples. Some concessionaires charge a minimal fee for supplying housing. Some will give that money back as a bonus if you fulfill your contract. Some may not charge you at all. In any case, make sure you understand what it will cost, and what the arrangements are, before you arrive.

Most housing does not come with a kitchen or cooking facilities (unless it is a house or apartment). Almost all of them are furnished. You most likely will be expected to eat in the employee cafeteria. Some organizations take a minimal fee from your paycheck to cover your eating expenses while others will allow you to pay as you eat. Do not expect gourmet meals, but you should expect healthy meals (although in a couple of places I have discovered that is up for debate). These companies want to maintain a healthy staff. By providing decent food they can guarantee they will keep illness down among their workers.

You do not need your own transportation, but if you have it, take it. Realize that most National Parks are isolated and many miles from cities of any size. The company you will work for will provide some transportation, but you can be sure it will be limited. They will pick you up at a bus station or airport when you arrive, and return you there at the end of your contract. Getting to and from work will not be the problem, but getting away for a day or two could be.

Shopping will also be limited. Most all, concessionaires give their employees a discount in the gift shops and restaurants. But, keep in mind that these places cater to the tourist. You may find a need to visit a large department store or grocery store. They do not exist near National Parks. They are, in some instances, quite a distance away. If shopping is something you want to take advantage of, you need to find a way to get there on your own, because your employer will only provide limited transportation to and from these areas.

I have found that I can get pretty much anything I need or want delivered, providing it is non-perishable. Amazon, UPS, and FedEx have become very good friends. They make regular deliveries to every park I have lived and worked in. You will not get it overnight, so do not pay extra for that benefit. It may take longer than what you are used to, but it will get there. I have found that what usually takes 2-3 days will take 4-5. Just plan ahead.

I have found that recreation means a lot to me. I like to spend time hiking, geo-caching, and off-roading. As a suggestion, do a little research about the park and surrounding area before you get there. That way you know what is available to you. Do not expect the company to have large amounts of activities available. They will supply some things to do, but these things will be limited and may not be to your liking. You may find that what interests you may not interest the majority of your co-workers. In that instance the majority speaks the loudest, and the company will cater to the majority.

During the height of the season you will find yourself interacting with people from around the world. Due to the number of employees needed to keep these operations running concessionaires contract with companies that act as sponsors for students from Europe, Asia, South America, and most all points around the globe. For the most part these young adults speak limited English, but getting to know them is well worth the effort. How interesting it is to learn about their country and culture and help indoctrinate them into ours. It is so rewarding knowing that these students form life long relationships with others from around the world when they live and work in close proximity to one another, and spend time together visiting parts of our country. All this is possible because this nation allows them the opportunity to do so. Hopefully this will lead to improved relations between nations as they grow into leadership roles at home.

You will not get rich working in a National Park, but you will find friends, adventure, recreation, and scenery beyond compare. Go out and enjoy it.