“I think we have 4 stars,” says Wanda with pride. She’s wrong though. Dougan Creek Campground in our Yacolt Burn State Forest actually has a higher score – 4.5 stars.
For five years, Ed and Wanda have worked to foster a family atmosphere in this idyllic setting. Officially, Ed is the Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ volunteer camp host. Yet, it’s his spouse, Wanda, whose affectionate and motherly ways see to a tightly run ship.
Across Washington camp hosts like Ed and Wanda volunteer their time to help DNR campers have a pleasant experience while protecting campgrounds from ne’er-do-well activity. The importance of their presence can’t be overstated. With more than 70 campgrounds available to the public, each year, DNR spends a considerable sum repairing vandalism. But at Dougan Creek, not much of that happens.
“We ask people to leave their campsite better than they found it,” Says Wanda. “And they do. We get to meet the most wonderful and interesting people from all over the county – and sometimes other countries too.”
Ed is the one charged with ensuring visitors have a Discover Pass and move on after the maximum 10-day stay. As there’s no fee to camp in DNR campgrounds, folks may be tempted to stay longer. Which, however, can be one of the chief attractions to becoming a camp host. Unlike some camp host opportunities, DNR can allow hosts to fill this volunteer position for longer periods of time. And if you’ve fallen in love with a particular location, like Ed and Wanda have, that’s key.
“Thirty-five years ago we spent our honeymoon here,” says Wanda. “As we were working and running our own business we kept coming back – eventually bring our family – on vacation.”
Once they had retired and the post opened up, the camp host appointment became a dream come true.
With seven sites Dougan Creek Campground is small compared to most DNR campgrounds. If you’ve never camped at a DNR campsite be prepared for a more natural experience than you may encounter elsewhere. Though rustic, you’ll find toilets, picnic tables and fire pits. The sites are also nicely spaced apart from each other (with the exception of two sites, which can work well for groups). Quiet hours run 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Campground trails wind a short distance through the woods to pebble beaches, great for splashing and wading. And just 0.1 mile down the road lies scenic Dougan Falls. Finding a site on summer weekends can be difficult. Try weekdays or shoulder seasons for better luck.
If becoming a camp host sounds like a dream come true for you too, visit www.dnr.wa.gov/volunteer to see what sites may be available and learn more. Just ten of DNR’s campgrounds offer camp host positions, which normally come with additional amenities to make extended stays more comfortable, such as septic systems, cement pads, power, water and a phone line.
And if you see Ed and Wanda be sure to tell them about their 4.5-star rating. They won’t know because the campground doesn’t have internet or reliable cell service – and that’s just the way they like it. One of the most fulfilling parts of the post for them is contributing to the chance for families to unplug and spend time in nature playing games and enjoying each other’s company.
Learn more about Dougan Falls, Dougan Creek Campground and Yacolt Burn State Forest: dnr.wa.gov/yacoltburn.