On May 22, 2014 with great anticipation for summer after three years off of the road and away from the RV volunteer lifestyle. We had checked our route into the park via Google Earth, which was a good thing since we had six miles of gravel roads to arrive at our summer home. The road leading to the park was in good condition but six miles of graveled, canyon road can be just a bit intimidating if you have never been there before. It is a scenic road and has ranches and summer homes all along the way. Shep’s Canyon campground is located across the lake from Angostura State Park, which it is actually a part of. By boat it is only a bit more than a mile away, but travel by road requires a distance of 26 miles and about 45 minutes in time. The entire staff for Sheps Canyon consisted of the two of us as hosts, a college student summer intern, and a part time ranger who did mostly cleaning and occasional work to help as needed. Major maintenance is supplied by the staff from across the lake and the staff there also came over to deliver supplies and fuel for the tractor and mowers. Most of the time it was just intern Nathan, and the two of us in the campground.
Our host site was one of only three full hook-up sites with the intern in one and the other available for rental. Our campground had a total of 22 sites and we also took care of the boat ramp next to the camp and an equestrian campground that was three miles away. We were supplied a Kawasaki Mule for our use and we had access to the park truck when needed or if weather was bad. Our site had only small trees around it but with the weather as mild as it is in that area the sun was not a serious problem. It was notable that there were numerous days when we used air conditioning, yet had heat on before morning. With the very low humidity, air temperatures fall quite rapidly once the sun goes down. All sites in the park have 50A electricity and there is a public dump station and fresh water supply. Sheps is mostly a weekend park and so was full nearly every weekend, but was close to empty most of the week.
Our duties were primarily that of greeting campground visitors, checking them in via the computer/internet, answering questions, occasional spot sleaning, weekly cleaning of firepits, and helping around the park when the intern needed assistance. We also sold firewood and I helepd with mowing and tree trimming, but was not required to do so. We also helped with keeping the young trees watered and a few other things when we were bored or if help was needed.
Both campgrounds are shown here. Sheps is to the left and the primitive equestrian campground is to the right.
Weather in the area of Angostura is best defined as explosive, as most days are sunny and mild but thunderstorms are sudden and frequent. We didn’t experience a great deal of hail, but there was hail in the area around us several times and winds could be violent. On several occasions there were tents damaged and at least one awning. That same weather was responsible for some spectacular sunsets and amazing sunrises. The park has a steel buildig that serves as shop, equipment storage and storm shelter if needed.
We were officially on duty from Friday noon through Monday noon but we were allowed to leave the park for short periods for needed shopping or to eat out. The park staff was very easy to work with and very appreciative of all that we did. As an added benefit of our help, each volunteer is given a discount card that gains free or very discounted entry into all of the major attractions, even the national park tours that their own “Golden Age” card does not get. We were also given an annual parks pass good for all SD state parks.
Angostura State Park has four campgrounds, two beaches, two marinas, recreation areas, nature trails, observation areas, a visitor center and even a small store in the main park across the lake. They have an additional 16 volunteers and a paid staff of 10 or 12 there as well as the park headquarters. As such the positions there are more structured than on our side and while the positions are well treated, we felt that we made the right choice in position. Each month the manager hosted a cookout for all members of the staff at the park group area. We traveled to those events via the boat of the part-time ranger and her husband, since they live just ½ mile outside of the park. Our summer was very relaxed, yet never boring. If you are looking for a base to spend lots of time in the Black Hills and a way to get to see pretty much everything there, without a doubt the Angosturs Recreation Area is a good choice and Shep's Canyon is the best choice of all and Willy Colligon is one of the best to volunteer for!