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Old 12-10-2020, 02:08 PM   #1
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Is anyone winning the war against campsite reservation bots?

During this past week, at exactly 8:00 am MST, I attempted to reserve a campsite in Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah. All of the Utah State Parks, along with Colorado, Florida, Montana, Oregon and Wyoming, to name a few, use ReserveAmerica for running their campground reservation systems. Each of the three days I attempted to reserve a campsite, there were about 4 or 5 campsites for our Escape 19 that where available as of 7:59 am. My experience on Wednesday is pretty typical:

I had five tabs open, each on a different available site. I clicked on the first one at 7:59:59 (using the clock on one of my GPS units), and then successive tabs as fast as I could. The first one was too early and the rest, by the one second required to manually to go from one tab to another, were reserved by the time I got there. I cannot click as fast as a bot.

It is clear that this has been a problem with Reserve America for quite some time.
https://medium.com/@MelBuzz/an-open-...a-3d168f078fb6

In fact, it appears that California has dumped ReserveAmerica for their own system.


Yes, I know that Dead Horse Point is a very popular State Park, and that it is near Moab, which can be crazy in April. And I know that rates of camping are way up as well. However, this time last year (December of 2019), I had forgotten about the 4 month window and so I was at least three days past the reservation opening window, and when I went to ReserveAmerica, there were still two or three RV Sites left for the Days in April that we wanted. Of course, we never got to camp there, because Grand County Utah stopped visitation due to the pandemic a couple of weeks before we could visit.

The problem is not that Dead Horse Point State Park is popular. It is that ReserveAmerica permits bots to be used to make reservations on their site.

If you do a Google search for ďbots for reserveamericaĒ (without the quotes of course), you will find a lot of articles dedicated to the permitting of bots to reserve campsites at popular state parks. I suspect it would be a pretty simple thing to set up a Captcha or better yet, a reCAPTCHA page within the ReserveAmerica reservation system. (See https://www.cloudflare.com/learning/...captchas-work/)

ReserveAmerica.com, and the State Parks systems that use it, have a problem. What they could do would be to add a simple re-CAPTCHA fix to let us humans, who want to reserve campsites, to compete with other humans for campsites, without having to compete with Internet software robots.

I guess my questions are:
a) Has anyone else run into this problem, and if so, how did they deal with it?
b) Does anyone know the back story on how California dropped ReserveAmerica?
c) I know that there are JavaScripts on the Internet to set up your own reservation bot. Has anyone on this forum tried such?
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Old 12-10-2020, 02:20 PM   #2
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You might just pass Dead Horse up and try instead the nearby Gold Bar BLM site. There are others as well. Strictly first come first served, zero hookups, very informal. It's right on the river and just a few miles away from everything. This shot taken a few years ago at a rally.
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Old 12-10-2020, 03:09 PM   #3
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A dumb question maybe but what are happening to all the sites these "bots" are reserving? Is a human then reselling them at a premium on some black market camping site? If so, how does the reservation get changed to the buyer as most reservation systems require a primary occupant to be named.
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Old 12-10-2020, 03:27 PM   #4
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A dumb question maybe but what are happening to all the sites these "bots" are reserving? Is a human then reselling them at a premium on some black market camping site? If so, how does the reservation get changed to the buyer as most reservation systems require a primary occupant to be named.
It's been awhile but I've seen campsites in National Parks for sale on ebay.

Maybe a group had planned to grab those site at the same time that you wanted one. Though you'd think you'd have managed to get at least one. I have not had that problem in Washington but we can reserve 9 months out and there are penalties for cancelling later so it may be less attractive to resellers.
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Old 12-10-2020, 04:36 PM   #5
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To MyronL: I am familiar with the Gold Bar area, but first come first served in April around Moab can be like saying "I don't want to camp." Besides, it would be further away from Dead Horse Point, where I wanted to do some night photography.

To Rubicon327 and Bobbie54: I suspect bots are being used to resell the sites, OR by an outfitter/photo course teacher who wants to have everyone camped in the same location.

To Bobbie54: I see you are from Whidbey Island. We were able to snag reservations last March for a mid-June stay at Deception Pass State Park. Of course, that did not happen last year, but we have reservations again this year. I think Washington State Parks use the re-Captcha method for preventing the use of bots.
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Old 12-10-2020, 05:01 PM   #6
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You might just pass Dead Horse up and try instead the nearby Gold Bar BLM site. There are others as well. Strictly first come first served, zero hookups, very informal. It's right on the river and just a few miles away from everything. This shot taken a few years ago at a rally.
In addition to the half-dozen campgrounds along the Colorado, there are areas of dispersed camping north from Moab along highway 191. No facilities but no cost either. Yes, they might add an hour to your drive into Dead Horse, but you won't be turned away. I suggest you contact the BLM office in Moab for their latest camping maps and info.
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Old 12-10-2020, 05:18 PM   #7
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Raj.... Assuming you are very familiar with the Canyonlands area around Moab. Have you been south to Muley Point? No formal trailer camping there but I did see three or four smaller RV's parked about the area, clearly for overnight. Saw no signs of authority, and parking a trailer for a stay clearly not for the novice, but very doable.

...What Alan said, and... The view ain't bad either.
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Old 12-10-2020, 05:29 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by rajenkins View Post
To MyronL: I am familiar with the Gold Bar area, but first come first served in April around Moab can be like saying "I don't want to camp." Besides, it would be further away from Dead Horse Point, where I wanted to do some night photography.

To Rubicon327 and Bobbie54: I suspect bots are being used to resell the sites, OR by an outfitter/photo course teacher who wants to have everyone camped in the same location.

To Bobbie54: I see you are from Whidbey Island. We were able to snag reservations last March for a mid-June stay at Deception Pass State Park. Of course, that did not happen last year, but we have reservations again this year. I think Washington State Parks use the re-Captcha method for preventing the use of bots.
Where I've never camped. Well, maybe as a little kid but if so I don't remember! There are so many sites at Deception Pass it is easier to get into than some parks.
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Old 12-10-2020, 06:29 PM   #9
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A nice BLM campground, Horsethief, near both Dead Horse Point SP and Island In The Sky. Island In The Sky is perfect for night photography.
First-come-first-served but there are 85 sites. Plus should the campground be full, there is nearby disbursed camping on Mineral Point Rd that runs right by Horsethief.

https://www.blm.gov/visit/horsethief-campground
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Old 12-10-2020, 06:42 PM   #10
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Most of the bot articles are from several years back and I don’t think it’s the current issue. When you look at the population of each state and the amount of tourists who are now traveling in campers, there just aren’t any great numbers of campsites to go around. IE the whole state of CA is only showing around 14k campsites in the park system for 80 million population + tourists.
Even commercial campsites like KOA are booked solid 12 mos out in popular areas and those aren’t bots.
It’s going to be a rough couple of years to book space till either camping capacity increases or demand decreases. For now, just going to have to be creative. Private land is a great option, as well as BLM, or the other less known stuff.
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Old 12-11-2020, 12:21 AM   #11
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Although I don’t disagree with the suggested alternative sites around Moab, it’s hard to understate how nuts things have gotten around there in the last 2-3 years. Much, much busier than even five years ago. And of course the pandemic has only intensified pressure on all camping areas, dispersed and campgrounds.

To answer the OP’s question, I know nothing about bots and have only used reserveamerica infrequently. But I do know that trying to reserve a site on recreation.gov for the CO mountains in the summer is quickly becoming an exercise in futility.
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Old 12-11-2020, 12:26 AM   #12
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A nice BLM campground, Horsethief, near both Dead Horse Point SP and Island In The Sky. Island In The Sky is perfect for night photography.
First-come-first-served but there are 85 sites. Plus should the campground be full, there is nearby disbursed camping on Mineral Point Rd that runs right by Horsethief.

https://www.blm.gov/visit/horsethief-campground
And this is the best suggestion if you want to be close to Dead Horse, I prefer it to the state park.
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Old 12-11-2020, 02:35 AM   #13
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Although I donít disagree with the suggested alternative sites around Moab, itís hard to understate how nuts things have gotten around there in the last 2-3 years. Much, much busier than even five years ago. And of course the pandemic has only intensified pressure on all camping areas, dispersed and campgrounds.
.
We have totally given up on Moab. Itís just a huge mass of people and traffic. Unless youíre into the 4-Wheeling aspect of the area, there are much better options in UT.

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Old 12-11-2020, 11:04 AM   #14
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I've had some luck at crowded spots checking once or twice daily a week or two in advance of the dates i want. I've also put in the calendar a single night and some reservation systems give you a graph of all available sites and you can see what's available out ten days without refreshing different dates. I have even reserved a couple different sites in the same campground for a few day's stay each. That does involve a second reservation fee but it can work in your favor.

My current complaint is that an area I frequent, Sonoma county parks, doesn't return a site to the pool if someone doesn't show, and doesn't call to cancel. Most places give one day's grace and then makes the site available. With so many having so few options for recreation, it is sad to walk the 120 spot campground and see 20 or so sites empty days in a row.
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Old 12-11-2020, 11:26 AM   #15
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I donít know if itís still happening, but folks were booking sites like W-Sun when they only want F-S. Then one person takes the camper up on Wed checks in, sets up and leaves. They all come up on Friday for the actual stay.
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Old 12-11-2020, 11:33 AM   #16
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I donít know if itís still happening, but folks were booking sites like W-Sun when they only want F-S. Then one person takes the camper up on Wed checks in, sets up and leaves. They all come up on Friday for the actual stay.
It's probably more common to reserve days before they want them and then cancel up to the date of arrival. That's why Washington put in a cancellation penalty. The later you cancel the more the penalty up to 50%. Though that definitely favors people who can afford to pay for more days up front and take a hit when getting them refunded.
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Old 12-11-2020, 11:49 AM   #17
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I donít know if itís still happening, but folks were booking sites like W-Sun when they only want F-S. Then one person takes the camper up on Wed checks in, sets up and leaves. They all come up on Friday for the actual stay.
Be careful! I know a camphost who reads the Park rules regarding "the site must be occupied..." and will release an unoccupied site to the public. I won't mention his name but some of you can guess.
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PS: If you have a valid reason for not coming back to your campsite, just call the park. Medical reasons, car issues, etc, are all legitimate. Saving a space for a friend or for the weekend are not.
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Old 12-11-2020, 11:56 AM   #18
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I donít know if itís still happening, but folks were booking sites like W-Sun when they only want F-S. Then one person takes the camper up on Wed checks in, sets up and leaves. They all come up on Friday for the actual stay.
Besides worrying about your trailer being stolen I thought that many places have a requirement that a trailer could not be left unattended overnight? Whether that's enforced is another story.
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Old 12-11-2020, 12:00 PM   #19
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Please thank this person on behalf of all campers.
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Old 12-11-2020, 12:06 PM   #20
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Be careful! I know a camphost who reads the Park rules regarding "the site must be occupied..." and will release an unoccupied site to the public. I won't mention his name but some of you can guess.
Alan: How does the camphost deal with the fact that a 40' trailer might be sitting on the site? Greg was not referring to no-shows but someone who parked the trailer and left.
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