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Several California Parks Move To Paid, Automated RV Dump Stations

RV dump station sign.

Several California Parks Move To Paid, Automated Dump Stations

Many RVers who prefer to camp at a campground are used to having the facility’s dump station come as part of a campground fee. This type of amenity is slowly changing in California.

Since 2018, the Golden State has been adding paid, automated dump stations to several of their state parks, state beaches, and state recreation areas. At this time there are 21 state park units with these types of dump stations. The dump station fees are separate from the regular campground site or entrance fees.

Fee-based dump stations

According to California State Parks Information Officer Jorge Moreno, the automated RV dump station pilot program was initiated in 10 state parks to test the viability of a fee-based model, gauge the public’s response to the systems, and the value to the park operations as an added visitor amenity.  

Moreno adds that the benefits of the program have included greater cost recovery for expenses associated with pumping and treating RV waste. In addition, the service discourages illegal dumping of harmful products and chemicals which helps to protect the environment. 

The fee-based dump stations have a locking mechanism over the drain that prevents anyone from dumping until a payment is made. The payment kiosk is located a few feet away and payments are made with a credit card.

How do automated dump stations work?

Once a payment is made, the locking mechanism for the dump station drain temporarily unlocks for 60 seconds giving the customer the ability to insert their hose and dump their tanks. After the dumping process is completed and the hose is rinsed out, the customer simply removes their hose from underneath the locking foot pedal and the pedal drops down and re-locks for the next customer. 

The automated dump stations cost between $10 and $20 per use depending on the location. They work the same as a regular dump station and are available for campers, day-use, or transient visitors.

Woman with sewer hose and RV at a dump station.
Wikimedia Commons

RV dump stations in California

Moreno also adds that the response from the majority of RVers has been positive as they appreciate a clean, well maintained location to dump their holding tanks and are willing to pay the RV dumping fee.

Below is a current list of the California State Parks utilizing the automated dump stations, the number of stations, and the fees for each location:

State Historic Parks

Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park

1 station
$10 per use 

State Parks

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

2 stations
$10 per use

MacKerricher State Park

2 stations
$10 per use

Red Rock Canyon State Park

1 station
$20 per use

Saddleback Butte State Park

1 station
$10 per use

Van Damme State Park

1 station
$10 per use

Hearst San Simeon State Park

2 stations
$10 per use

Morro Bay State Park

1 station
$10 per use

Malibu Creek State Park

1 station
$10 per use

State Beaches

San Elijo State Beach

2 stations
$10 per use

Silver Strand State Beach

1 station
$10 per use

South Carlsbad State Beach

2 stations
$10 per use

Huntington State Beach

1 station
$10 per use

Half Moon Bay State Beach

1 station
$10 per use

New Brighton State Beach

4 stations
$10 per use

Pismo State Beach

1 station
$10 per use

Doheny State Beach

1 station
$10 per use

San Onofre State Beach

6 stations
$10 per use

State Vehicular Recreation Areas

Oceano Dunes

3 stations
$10 per use

State Recreation Areas

Lake Perris

3 stations
$10 per use

Silverwood Lake

2 stations
$10 per use

Find more RV dump stations near you

You can find more RV dump stations as well as other points of interest while planning your route on RV LIFE Trip Wizard. This online planning tool makes it easy to plan an RV-safe route. It can also locate interesting sites along the way, all according to your travel preferences. Get RV LIFE Trip Wizard with its accompanying RV LIFE App, and start planning your adventure today!

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Author Christina Nellemann Avatar

Christina Nellemann

Christina is a writer and designer who has written about camping, tiny houses, and alternative living since 2008. She recently traded in her teardrop trailer for a 13-foot fiberglass trailer from 1982.

48 thoughts on “Several California Parks Move To Paid, Automated RV Dump Stations

  1. I see this leading to more illegal dumping. Those who can’t or just refuse to pay will dump wherever they choose to. Also if you pay to camp you shouldn’t have to pay to dump at that camp site.
    Follow the money. Someone is getting paid to supply, install, and maintain these systems. The credit card company is getting there percent. What ever is left, more then likely goes somewhere else other that the state parks, which is where it should go.

  2. I want to add that this is not just California. Try even finding a dump station in Colorado as nat’l forests shut down stations and state parks make them fee only. Our CO annual state park pass used to include dump Station access, now it doesn’t. Some people will always be conscientious but forcing costs and station scarcity on those that are iffy or desperate just adds to roadside dumping. Give up this inane self-righteous idea that people *should* pay for something they won’t.

  3. I can see it both ways: Nothing is free. Taxpayers that don’t use the dump stations subsidize those that do. Building the fee into the price of the camp site is fine, but it does make tent campers subsidize RV campers. Some states have toll roads (California has just a few), some states, like Texas, charge to enter most state parks, even if you want to picnic or hike and you are not camping. I’d prefer to not pay more to dump, but adding a reasonable fee up front might be a fair way to not shove the cost to the taxpayers. For example, some campsites have lower fees for sites without hookups, and higher fees for those that do. $5 extra would be reasonable. For $20, it should be automated: you sit in your cab and watch the robot dump and rinse your tank. I’d pay for that.

    Those that mentioned that the fee could cause people to illegally dump are absolutely right. As the fee goes up, fewer people will use the service, and they’ll find some way to empty the bowels of their RVs. That’s an argument for not adding a separate fee, since its a public health issue. In many parts of the world, public restrooms are not free. So, those that can’t afford it will do what they have to do wherever they can. It isn’t pretty.

  4. After rving in Oregon and Washington which have nicer facilities, I wonder if that money charged will help improve the California parks. I think not. I don’t mind paying a small fee that would be incorporated into price to camp. I feel for those that live in their RV and need a place to dump the waste. Roadside waste will become more prevalent if these charges go through. Doh !

  5. This isn’t going to end well. My trips are usually 2 to 3 days and I usually dump at home since I have dump station into my main sewer line. But the San Simeon Hurst Castle campground that we stayed at charged I think $20 to dump and I noticed many people pulling in and just leaving. We left and our step alarm came on saying the step had come down while we were driving so we pulled into a turnout at that turnout I could smell the odor of dumps. And all along the cliff was toilet paper and fresh affluent probably from the vehicles that didn’t pay and left. What could they possibly think people would do? People in general are tightwads only the ones that really care would pay.

    1. Unintended consequences….typical of government thinking they can solve problems. Why don’t they just suck out the poop more often! Novel idea……and if you have to charge more money to stay, so be it. Or better yet have state inmate crews keeping them clean…supervised of course…

  6. I wish they had made the dump stations free for camping in the particular campground and raised athe fees for each site by $2.00 per night. Charge $10 for those who are not staying at the park. I found out about this switch when I went to dump after spending 3 nights in the park. I don’t know why they just didn’t raise the rates a few dollars.

  7. I think that these dump stations are a great idea
    And will be used and appreciated. However I
    Think $10 is a fair and reasonable price to pay.
    I think $20 is too much to charge and is a total
    Ripoff. Just my 2cents worth. Thanks

  8. This reminds me of when Washing state decided to raise the rates at the dump. Suddenly every dirt road of the asphalt roads started to fill up with old appliances, mattresses, and trash that used to go to the dump for $5-15 a pick up truck load. Once it hit $15… many people started dumping their junk in the woods. The amount of money to clean that mess up I’m sure was more than what they thought they would make by raises the fees.

    I have always thought that because every household generates trash every “living dwelling” should just have to pay an additional property tax (of course passed down to those who live in them) and thereby have access to the dump for FREE.

    I hope people don’t decide to dump their tanks illegally.

    1. Unfortunately, people will dump illegally. It already happens. To me, this is like a hotel denying access to a restroom/toilet, unkess you pay an additional fee. Ridiculous. Now our roadways and turn outs will become wastelands for sewage dumps.

  9. Another Great Reason to stay away from California. If they were really interested in making the environment cleaner they would be putting in more FREE dump stations in all the Rest Areas. All this is going to do is make people dump their waste tanks in a ditch somewhere. More Craziness from the Land of Fruits and Nuts!

    1. Right on. Are the people living in homeless tents throughout that state paying or like I witnessed in the 80’s public urination and worse.

    1. This will definitely encourage road side dumping. I won’t but will not be surprised if people dump right on top of the locked cap.

  10. How does “the service discourage illegal dumping of harmful products and chemicals which helps to protect the environment”?
    Illegal dumping will just happen somewhere else & the environment won’t be “protected”. Better to risk illegal dumping in a contained tank than directly into the environment.
    Rv camping that offers a dump station is an incentive to camping at that location. However having to pay more than the camp fee to dump is not an asset. Charging for individual amenities isn’t the way to reduce illegal dumping. Monitor the dump station w cameras, like everywhere else in our society these days, could be one solution. Provide tokens to a locked dumped station could be another option. Assessing more fees isn’t the way to proceed in my opinion.

  11. This is a great way to lose customers! The article states customers are happy to pay, I-doubt that statement. I’ll just fill my tanks and dump somewhere else.
    Why don’t they just get in this century and provide this at the site, I would pay for that convenience.

  12. In Georgia, there are dump stations at the rest areas. These are free of charge, well maintained and very clean. In South Carolina the dump stations are free to use for campers, and there is a $5 fee for non campers. These programs also contribute to elimination of illegal dumping, without outrages fees.

    1. July 1. California is increasing the gas tax. Isn’t there enough money to pay for the maintenance of dump stations and avoid damaging the environment?
      No wonder people are moving out of California

  13. I have no issue for campers paying a fee to dump if they did not pay to camp at a State Park facility. The dump fee has always been included in the camping fee. Just another way to nickel and dime the RV owners. Did they reduce the camping fee for campers with tents who do not use those facilities? How is this new fee supposed to deter illegal dumping? RV owners who don’t wish to pay your new fee will dump their s##$ on the side of the road. I am dating myself, but State campgrounds used to charge $6 per night and that included FREE hot showers. Now California State Parks charge $25 -$65 per night and charge extra for showers. Can’t camp in Southern California without a reservation fee, and now a dump fee. We have the highest taxes in the country and our state gives us nothing back. Out of state RVer’s distance themselves from California for this very reason. California taxpayers bought and paid for these State Parks and now they gouge us to use our facilities.

    californiaState campgrounds are charging a $25 to $60 nightly fee to camp in California. Many private campgrounds charge less and include full hookups. How is this supposed to deter illegal dumping? Some campers will just dump their tanks on the side of the road for FREE.

  14. Still cheaper than camping in an Idaho state park. That said, it would be nice if it were $5 as if you use the dump station you aren’t using the restroom facilities.

  15. Pay-for-dumping stations are available at most truck stops across the country. I have been using them when traveling and boondocking for three years now. It is a great convenience…

  16. For those who DO NOT stay at those parks, they should pay. But for those who have already paid to stay at those parks, it is just another way to reach into your wallet and take money from you that you have paid for to stay at those parks. Not really fair in my opinion. I have stayed at several of those listed. Another way for the state of California to rip you off of your cash and really you don’t get anything in return. Unfair and to me it is robbery and you don’t get much in return. Yea, I know people try to take advantage of those sites, but seems like highway robbery. I will think twice before staying at another state park that charges you double to do your business. So, it stinks

  17. Another Californian rip-off…….If someone is dumping the wrong stuff they will just pay the $10-$20.
    The rest of us will end up staying at home, or the wrong folks will just dump in the woods..

  18. what a crock… if I want to dump “illegal” materials as the article claims, i will just have to pony up $10 to open the valve, then i can dump my “illegal” materials down it. What is that preventing?

  19. Personally I think it is an unfair charge and will cause people to dump offsite. Every private & county RV parks include this service with their daily rates. Not a fan

  20. Paid dump stations, and RVers are glad to pay for that?

    Because RVing is not already expensive enough, and we all just want to pay more to flush our own s**t!

  21. Leave it to CA to “lead the way”. This is nothing more than just a ploy to charge more to camp. I’m not sure how it will “keep harmful chemicals” from being dumped – perhaps someone who is charged $20 would feel they had a license to dump anything. As far as being clean – how would that change from a non-charge.
    Another reason for me never to return to CA.

  22. All I see is another gouging by the state that will do nothing but encourage people to dump their grey water tanks elsewhere, most likely the ground! You already pay high camping fees for campsites if you can even find one! This state spends millions of taxpayer dollars cleaning up the mess the homeless leave on the city streets everyday, but they want to now charge us more fees for a service that had previously included in the price of admission. What’s next, coin-op pit toilets?

  23. What “crap” (pun intended). Just another way for Cal to gouge people for mony. The statement that RVers like a clean dump staion made me laugh, not because we don’t, but because they are implying these will be cleaner just because they’re automated. Since they will be serviced less often, they will become a real “sh**hole”!

  24. Nice. California state parks usually have the least amenities and the highest prices. Now they are going to charge for one of the basic items. What’s next a fee for the picnic table or fire pit?

  25. Problem is that anyone who would dump illegally at a dump station would probably find a local creek to dump it in if denied acccess.

  26. Yet another reason NOT to visit California. And just how is this supposed to discourage illegal dumping? If the camper was previously able to dump at these locations for free, how is charging $10 to $20 going to encourage them not to dump along a back road. I think this is just about making money for the park service. It shouldn’t cost that much per RV to process the the waste. I could see $5 to $10 as reasonable and I think most campers would..

  27. WOW! If you are camping there, you don’t get to dump for free? Dump stations for the rest of the country are free and clean in our state parks. What does that say about Californians – are you messy, inconsiderate slobs, then you should have to pay for it.

  28. SMH how does it discouraged illegal dumping…. they just go somewhere and dump it.

    just looks like a money collection to me. if I must pay ok I guess but does my tanks worth of poo cost that much to process. at home in not even sure that would be a penny worth.

    1. The sewer fees in my town are $40. a month for the whole house. $10. for a weeks stay sounds reasonable. $20 for one day sounds extreme.

  29. Those fees are pretty steep and it will drive folks to do illegal dumping. Not well thought out I don’t think.

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