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Old 06-17-2015, 11:33 AM   #1
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Question Recreation.gov and the games people play

This is my first year with the TT and I want to visit some of the very nice COE CG's in southern Illinois.I was hoping to take time off work for long weekends to increase my trips this year.

As I search for weekends to choose, I find that they are all booked with the exception of a few days in the middle of the week. I have considered the walk-up sites but hear that many folks hover around these waiting to claim them for friends. This makes it a cr#p shoot process that, I do not want to drive hours over and loose.

Some younger kids have told us about having parties where they get together with buddy's and at some witching hour begin making reservations, canceling them and re-making reservations until they reach the desired dates where they can all be together. I do not understand how this works but wonder, is this how it is done?

Have I stumbled onto a dirty little secret that nobody talks about? I am certain that this topic will generate some strong feelings on the subject but still want to hear how others reserve sites.

Am I relegated this year to driving to state parks and putting up some Barbie doll tent prior to the weekend I choose and paying for nights I am not even there?

Let me hear your methods and related stories to get me up to speed please...
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Old 06-17-2015, 11:55 AM   #2
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I was finding it difficult to get a nice site reserved here in VA at North Bend Park (COE) but managed to get one of the nicest one day. When I got there the next door dude asked how long ago I reserved it. I told him I had gotten the reservation a few days earlier. He said I must have been lucky and gotten in right as someone cancelled. Come to find out, people reserve the good sites for every single weekend all summer long. It is $26.00 for electric and water/night. However, the cancellation fee is only $10.00 so if the weather is bad or something comes up, they just cancel and all they lose is $10.00! So if they reserve every weekend all summer (12X26x2) it is $624.00, if they cancel 25% of the time they are only out $120.00. Seems like BS to me but it is the government!
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Old 06-17-2015, 12:02 PM   #3
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You need to plan early in the year for busier campgrounds (especially around the holidays). We are in Michigan and anything along Lake Michigan is very popular and more difficult to reserve compared to inland CG's. That being said, on the state reservation site, we watch the CG's we would like and quite often will catch cancellations and jump in. Last week, Ludington CG (very popular) was full but we watched it for a few days and grabbed a cancellation. Now we're off this weekend for my wife's birthday camping trip.

We don't like to play games with reservations. There is always a place to discover even though we may have wanted a specific CG. Good luck and explore.
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Old 06-17-2015, 12:02 PM   #4
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This year the COE parks are making 90% of their sites reservable. You can book a site 6 months in advance. I have had some station mangers tell me I have to book on-line or call an 800 number but that's not what's in the book.
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Old 06-17-2015, 12:42 PM   #5
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This probably doesn't help the OP being he's in Illinois, but around here I take advantage of being near the border. This way, I look on the US side in Michigan if I want to camp on a Canadian long weekend, and I look on the Canadian side in Ontario if I'm camping on a U.S. long weekend.






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Old 06-17-2015, 12:54 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wobbles View Post
This is my first year with the TT and I want to visit some of the very nice COE CG's in southern Illinois.I was hoping to take time off work for long weekends to increase my trips this year.

As I search for weekends to choose, I find that they are all booked with the exception of a few days in the middle of the week. I have considered the walk-up sites but hear that many folks hover around these waiting to claim them for friends. This makes it a cr#p shoot process that, I do not want to drive hours over and loose.

Some younger kids have told us about having parties where they get together with buddy's and at some witching hour begin making reservations, canceling them and re-making reservations until they reach the desired dates where they can all be together. I do not understand how this works but wonder, is this how it is done?

Have I stumbled onto a dirty little secret that nobody talks about? I am certain that this topic will generate some strong feelings on the subject but still want to hear how others reserve sites.

Am I relegated this year to driving to state parks and putting up some Barbie doll tent prior to the weekend I choose and paying for nights I am not even there?

Let me hear your methods and related stories to get me up to speed please...

We camp primarily in Southern Illinois as we live in this area.
The COE's in the Rend Lake Area ( I-57 S and Rt. 154 ), North and South Sandusky, as well as Gun creek Area are as you state via reservations only and are usually pretty booked well in advance. But I have found they are a bit over crowded as well as they hold fishing tournaments there throughout the season.

We like going to Wayne Fitzgerrell, still apart of the COE area, and just down the road from the COE, but ran by IDNR. They too are on located on Rend Lake and offer some beautiful camping sites. They have approx. 275 available camp sites, with the exceptions of 31 of those being Reserved. The reserved area to us was nothing special, mainly for the boaters paradise.


There are 5 camping areas within the Park. Bay Area ( reservations only ), Hickmans Point, Lakeview, Lookout Point and Shady Rest. All beautiful areas.

The sites are very spacious, clean and well maintained. Nice level asphalt spots. Your garbage is picked up each morning by the Park Staff. Some spots offer very good views of the Lake. There are 2 Camp Hosts available 7 months of the year. There are 2 Shower houses, playground, walking and riding trails galore. And for those with disabilities, camping spots are plentiful and in great locations. Their sites are not full hook up though, Electric only. Water is available via spigots throughout the park.

Definitely would be worth the trip for a camping stay if you are ever in the area. I feel you would be most pleased with your stay. We surely love this place. I have attached the link to their site.

Parks : Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area
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Old 06-17-2015, 01:11 PM   #7
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It depends on what part of the country your in and how close you are to major destinations, but yeah.. it's crazy.

For busy areas you either have to find out the date that they start taking reservations for the following season and jump on it, or wait until the last minutes and try to catch a cancellation. The later is rough and you might be stuck staying someplace simply because it's only thing available.

In the PNW it's almost fanatical. Parks, COE's, ski lodges... all of em. Folks jumping on them and reserving weekend blocks with no intention of using but one.. yet TBD.

My solution? Go dispersed BLM or NSF. Alwayyyssss a parking space.

Private CG's aren't quite as rough... if you don't mind being stack'n'racked.
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Old 06-17-2015, 01:13 PM   #8
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while this doesn't directly answer your question, Try heading south to Ferne Clyffe state park. There are two loops and only one is reservable. All sites have electric. I have never seen it full. Its right by Goreville near the 57 and 24 split
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Old 06-17-2015, 01:45 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wobbles View Post
As I search for weekends to choose, I find that they are all booked with the exception of a few days in the middle of the week.

Some younger kids have told us about having parties where they get together with buddy's and at some witching hour begin making reservations, canceling them and re-making reservations until they reach the desired dates where they can all be together. I do not understand how this works but wonder, is this how it is done?

Have I stumbled onto a dirty little secret that nobody talks about? I am certain that this topic will generate some strong feelings on the subject but still want to hear how others reserve sites.
The short answer is yes - there are games to be played to manipulate the system. And people do. Whether that's "right" or ethical or whatever - I guess is up to the individual. But if you want to take the position that the rules are the same for everybody and then use them to your advantage there are ways to improve your chances at getting the prime sites at the prime times.

I have never seen the system for COE, but we have made reservations at state parks in several states that use Reserve America for their reservations.

Last summer I was sitting on the site waiting until 9:00am exactly 6 months to the day before our trip to book one of 2 open sites at Horseneck Beach in Mass. My computer said 9:00 so I clicked it. Web site said it was too early - meaning my computer clock was a little fast. Wait 30 seconds, click it again - gone. Somebody else grabbed them.

So rule #1 is you have to know the reservation window and be at the exact day/time a site opens for reservations.

Again, not sure how other places work, but for NY where make most of our reservations, the window is 9 months before the arrival date with a 2 week max stay. So, if you want to go camping on Saturday the 8th of August, you can book that date on November 8th (of the prior year). Now this is a pain, but that is how they set it up. And you can reserve from 1 night to 14 nights. I have watched a site for several days leading up our desired Saturday arrival, and usually on Wed or Thurs, somebody takes it.

Maybe they are going camping that day- maybe they are "gaming" the system. Say you want to arrive on Saturday and stay a week. You book on Wednesday for Wed, Thur, Fri plus your original Sat-Sunday.

You pay in full when you book, but after a certain waiting period (I think), you can make a change to an existing reservation. So you cancel for Wed, Thurs, Fri and get a refund, less a 9 or 10 dollar "change fee." Now you have actually booked a site prior to the registration opening up for the day you intend to arrive.

And the cynical side of me says Reserve America likes this, because they collect the change fee, then post the cancelled days and can collect another booking fee when somebody else books those open days.

From that concept, I'm sure there are other more elaborate ways to work the rules in your favor.

And, back to our beach site that I wasn't able to book - when we got there, we intended to park the trailer near by at my Uncle's house, but the park did have a walk-up site open. We took that and got into the cg. When we got in, about 1/3 of the sites were not occupied despite everything showing booked. And as far as we can tell, the park staff was not actively enforcing the policy that you have to occupy a site if you book it. In NY, they do seem to enforce that. That is also very frustrating to see sites sit empty all week because somebody wanted to have it for the weekend.
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Old 06-17-2015, 01:55 PM   #10
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Wobbles.......Here is the link to a Illinois State Park Guide we picked up along our travels this past weekend while staying at Fort Massac Park In Metropolis, Il.


This should be most helpful. Gives you a great overview with a bit more insight of the State parks in Illinois.


Oh, Ranger! | Your Guide to the Parks
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