To help campers enjoy their visit to the fullest, the Nebraska Game and Parks would like to offer some reminders on the registration regulations implemented in 2017 for camping on a first-come, first-serve (walk-in) campsite and also information on how to reserve a campsite in advance.
As everyone is undoubtedly aware, there is considerable competition for improved campsites, and the central issue is one of supply and demand. The policy and regulation changes, created to provide a fairer opportunity for all park guests, were necessary to address a rapid growth trend in the RV industry and increasing demand for a limited number of campsites. Amending the regulations helped us prepare for the growing trend, and provide the most opportunity, for the greatest number of guests to experience and enjoy the unique campgrounds in Nebraska state parks, and help us protect the resources we manage. The regulation change reflects input received from visitors, camp hosts, RV industry experts, other states, social media sources and RV industry publications such as the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. The main objective with the regulation change are to:
- Prepare for the rising trend by having more definitive policy and procedures.
- Provide optimal access and opportunity for visitors.
- Provide for improved management by staff and camp host volunteers.
- Provide parameters, but also a degree of flexibility, considering the diverse park venues and situations across the state.
A summary of the park regulations on occupying a first-come, first-served walk-in campsite in a Nebraska state park or recreation area is below:
- A campsite must be properly registered for and paid for before a patron can physically occupy any site.
- All motorized vehicles must display a valid park entry permit.
- A campsite is deemed physically occupied when a camping unit or a shelter defined for camping is erected upon the campsite; (camping trailer, fifth-wheel trailer, motor home, travel trailer, conversion van, truck camper, or a fully erected tent that is commercially designed for occupancy by a person). Visitors cannot hold a site by paying and simply placing a tag on the camp post or by placing a tarp or cooler or parking a car on the site.
- A camping unit is required on the site immediately to finalize the purchase.
- To provide flexibility for special circumstances, visitors may be allowed until noon the following day to have a camping unit on the site. This is per park superintendent or park superintendent designee’s discretion. Approval must be given and if the camping unit doesn’t arrive by noon the following day, the site will be open for other campers. Guests will only be able to register for a single night until the camping unit is properly placed. This is the exception and not the norm.
- Campers may not camp longer than 14 consecutive days in a park area or campground during any 30-day period. To stay longer than 14 consecutive days requires approval from park superintendent, and their decision will be based upon demand and occupancy levels in the campground or park at the time of request.
The camping reservation system was implemented to answer the need for those that want to secure a site prior to arrival to alleviate that day of camping stress to occupy a site. It also serves as a tool for friends, families, camping clubs and reunions to secure campsites next to each other. Half of the modern sites were allocated for reservations for this purpose. However, knowing that not everyone is able to make reservations in advance, the remaining half of the modern campsites are first-come, first-served. To make a reservation, you may visit OutdoorNebraska.org or call the Nebraska Call Center at 402-471-1414 open 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. CT., Monday-Friday and closed on state holidays.
There is not a perfect, one-size-fits-all solution; however the changes implemented last spring created a statewide uniform process providing recreational services and equal opportunities for the greatest number of park visitors. We appreciate the patronage from our camping community and if we can be of any service or if you have questions, please contact the Game and Parks Commission, State Parks Division.
Have a safe and fun camping season,
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission