Wage Slaves in Our National Parks

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 This past January, twenty-seven year old Ryan Hiller died when a tree fell on his tent cabin during a storm at Yosemite National Park. Tent cabins are structures with concrete flooring and walls, canvas roofs, beds, a dresser, but no cooking or toilet facilities. They are meant for overnight visitors who don’t want to pitch tents or stay in an expensive Yosemite lodge. Ryan wasn’t camping, however. He was a seasonal employee of the Delaware North Corporation, which manages the concessions at Yosemite. Tent cabins were the company housing the corporation provided, and for which Ryan had to pay rent.

Millions of people visit our national parks every year. They stay in hotels, cabins, and campgrounds, eat in the restaurants, and go on various excursions. You might be one of these persons. Did you ever wonder about the workers who checked you into your room, served your meals, or drove your tour bus? How much did they get paid? What were their working conditions? Where did these men and women live?

The federal government contracts national park concessions to private corporations. Three prominent concessionaires are Xanterra, owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz; the Delaware North Corporation; and Aramark, the global food and services provider. Park concessionaires collectively now have gross annual revenues of more than one billion dollars!

These businesses build their profits on the backs of some 25,000 workers, most of them hired seasonally. They promote themselves as stewards of the parks, providing ideal jobs for college students, senior citizens, and people who might enjoy living in a beautiful environment. The reality is something different. Many employees are, in effect, migrant workers, who move from park to park during the year and who depend economically upon these jobs. There is nothing ideal about this employment. Hours fluctuate wildly. At the beginning of a season, there are usually too many workers and hours are insufficient; as the season wears on, people leave and hours are over-long. The work is extremely stressful. Tourists crowd the national parks on vacations, and they can be rude and demanding of the staff. A guest at Yellowstone actually threatened to kill a server when he thought she had not treated him properly. Supervisors often run roughshod over their underlings, demeaning them in front of coworkers and guests and making unreasonable demands such as that you can’t get a drink of water during your shift. Unlike most jobs, workers are in isolated areas and often have no transportation, so if they don’t like the conditions and quit (or are fired, as often happens), they must leave the park immediately, losing not just their jobs but their homes and food supply.

One particularly egregious employer practice is the aggressive recruitment of young people from foreign countries, sometimes under the false premise that they will learn national park management and earn enough money to travel in the United States. Instead, these guest workers find themselves cleaning hotel rooms or laboring in hot kitchens, with little time available to see the parks in which they work and no money for travel.

Park concession employees earn extraordinarily low wages, and these become still lower after various deductions are made. Both domestic and foreign workers must pay all their travel expenses. For those who depend on incomes from park jobs, these costs mount because they must vacate housing at the end of the season, find some place to stay for a month or two, and then return to serve the next season of tourists. For example, a cook might work at the Bryce National Park Lodge from April to November, be unemployed for a month or two, and then go to the Furnace Creek Inn in Death Valley National Park. Employees also must pay partial room and board, as well as a health insurance premium. If you get stuck with limited hours during a pay period, it is possible that your wages will be negative after deductions.

Undesirable eating and living arrangements compound low wages and poor working conditions. Poor quality and unhealthful food characterize the fare in the employee dining rooms. Guests receive much better food than workers; they get full-strength orange juice and fresh eggs, while employees get watered-down juice and liquid eggs. We worked during the spring and summer of 2001 at Yellowstone National Park for Xanterra (formerly Amfac). We were appalled when we ate our first meal and discovered that the servers slopped our food onto compartmented plastic trays, just like in prisons.

Living accommodations are deplorable. We lived in a ten by ten room in Teal Hall, an ancient wooden building that looked like a long storage shed. We were fortunate to arrive for our job training earlier than most of our fellow workers, so we were able to scavenge the unoccupied rooms for the best of the ratty furniture and room amenities in them. The tiny hot water heater in our room was good for one shower. We had meager laundry facilities, but at least they were free; in other parks, workers must pay to wash and dry their clothing.

But bad as Teal Hall was, and still is, it is not the worst employee housing we have seen. Hovels, shacks, tents (in Alaska), there doesn’t seem to be a lower limit to the quality of employee housing. Usually, unrelated adults must share spaces too small for either privacy or neatness. These quarters are what workers go back to after a long hard day of labor at less than minimum wage (once travel, room, and board costs are taken into account). Imagine working as a hotel desk clerk—the job I had—standing on your feet for eight hours, dealing all day long with frazzled and irate tourists, missing a meal, and then walking home to your tent. If it is payday, you might delay your misery by detouring after work to the employee pub. At Yellowstone, we were encouraged to give our wages back to Xanterra at the pub, which was one of the company’s most lucrative profit centers.

Recently, the National Park Service approved a plan to allow Xanterra to take some employee housing at the Old Faithful area of Yellowstone and convert it into cabins for guests. This housing will undergo major renovations to be suitable for the tourists:

* The interior of the cabin units will be rehabilitated: new floor coverings, wall coverings, electrical systems, bathroom fixtures, and gas heaters.

* A number of the cabins would be made accessible.

* Pathways to the cabin area will be made safer and more accessible. Many of the asphalt walkways within the cabin area are old and deteriorating with numerous rough spots, uneven surfaces, raveling edges, and missing pavement. These walkways would be replaced or repaired as part of this project.

Xanterra wasn’t concerned with these cabins when the workers lived in them. Who cares if they had safe and accessible pathways and livable interiors? They were only means of production and not paying customers. The corporation is going to build a dormitory for employees, but away from where the tourists stay. Small rooms for two or three people and cheap construction would be my guess.

Stephen T. Mather, the first Director of the National Park Service (1917-1930), said, “Scenery is a hollow enjoyment to the tourist who sets out in the morning after an indigestible breakfast and a fitful night’s sleep on an impossible bed.” These words provided the rationalization for the growing commercialization of the national parks he oversaw. Those who came to the parks then were relatively well-off, and the lodges and concessions were developed with them in mind. Poorly paid workers served them, from the black porters on the trains that delivered tourists to Glacier National Park to the Harvey Girls at the Grand Canyon.

Today, the average tourists are not among the economic elite, but they must have incomes high enough to shell out the considerable sums of money necessary for transportation, lodging, food, and concessions (the off-season rate for a standard king bed room at Yosemite’s Ahwanhee Hotel is a whopping $532.87). What has changed little since Mather’s day is that low-wage labor still does the work, usually after sleeping on “an impossible bed” and eating an “indigestible breakfast.” Rich corporations, poor workers. Sound familiar?

223 Responses to Wage Slaves in Our National Parks

  1. Sheldon June 1, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    I work for the NPS at Mesa Verde NP, and from what I have seen and heard, you are absolutely spot on about the conditions of concessionaire workers, in this case Aramark. Its absolutely despicable that the NPS, the Federal govt. doesn’t enforce better wages and conditions for these workers. After all, all construction contractors that do work on park lands have to pay Davis-Bacon wages, so why not some standards for service workers?

    • Michael D. Yates June 2, 2012 at 7:43 am #


      Thanks for the comment. I hope many people read my post, and that something gets done about this.


      • Flashlight cop February 27, 2016 at 9:03 pm #

        I’m employee with these companies and especially gm John Kenny at one these parks and God bless America-flashlight cop

      • LG June 22, 2017 at 12:23 pm #

        I am a retired American who wanted to fulfill their bucket list by working for xanterra at YNP. Everything you wrote is absolutely true. I would hope the national media would pickup on this story. It needs to be told so that when guest arrive at their selected NP they know the conditions the workers are under and their money is supporting the profit of these companies. The NPS needs to wake up and not give these companies contracts unless they improve the pay and benefits of their workers.

        • Michael D. Yates June 22, 2017 at 2:38 pm #

          Thanks for the comment, LG. You are absolutely correct.

        • Mark November 28, 2017 at 10:20 pm #

          These companies won’t do the work if they can’t make money. If you want the employees to make more money, you might start by convincing the NPS to take less than 15% for doing absolutely nothing.

          • Michael D. Yates November 29, 2017 at 5:36 am #

            So you think Phillip Anschutz, one of the richest men in the world, is losing money on Xanterra? Get real.

        • A. February 9, 2019 at 6:07 pm #

          WOW…I think my mind is now changed. This is America…that is terrible treatment, maybe because the majority are foreigners, young and want the excitement.
          Terrible how the corporations get away with this low dog treatment and for workers to agree too the bully treatment given….stand up people !!! Unite !!!!

    • michelle February 12, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

      I worked at YNP and am not surprised by this article. The worst part about my housing was hearing huge bolders falling. It was so loud, it sounded like thunder. We’d all run out of our tent cabins, look up at the rock wall and wait for impending death. Bolders fell on guest cabins and those shut down. They never cared if the employees were hurt. Also, the extreme drug use among the employees was pretty bad. We worked six days a week. When we finally got a day off it was used for doing laundry, getting groceries, etc. I never had the energy to go hiking.

      • Michael D. Yates February 12, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

        Thanks for this Michelle. This is a sad story, but I think it well reflects the reality of working for the National Park concessionaires.

      • KeepOnKeepinOn March 13, 2014 at 11:09 am #

        Come on… If you want to hike badly enough, you’ll just go do it no matter what. There are people who would literally kill to be in your situation and you make excuses.
        And if people are not happy about low wages, simply don’t take the job. You can get service sector experience anywhere these days. However, I do agree that workers should be treated with respect and not like numbers.

        • skatee October 8, 2014 at 9:48 pm #

          You yourself have OBVIOUSLY have not worked at a NP, which is why you are clueless in giving such a reply. I am in a technical, mid-management position and FULLY agree with what she said.

          • Dave October 10, 2014 at 8:40 am #

            Hey, I think I know you! It is sad, I had no idea just how bad it was, even through our phone conversations. I hate unions, but I think you guys have a good case to start one!

        • Roger Freed February 15, 2015 at 6:35 pm #

          In our modern economy people don’t have as much freedom to choose their jobs. Many have to take whatever there is available.

        • Darren Yee September 8, 2017 at 10:27 pm #

          Well now… “If you don’t like the PAY”… I’m doing this to better myself, and I have family that will help me out if things do go awry…

          That BEING SAID>>> SHAME ON YOU BOI !!! You forget the biggest problem of our country… the POOR ARE POOR… Work long hours and try to survive, option one…
          Don’t sign up and starve, option two…

          There is no choice here BOI so wake up and realize your coffee is made by slave labor, your eggs got fried up by your impoverished neighbor, and your world is a lie…

          One more thing, BOI, get yar preettttty bum back where it belongs, and let your ignorance be your bliss… I don’t need it.

    • Terri McConnell August 15, 2016 at 11:41 am #

      I worked in Yellowstone and it was the best summer of my life and changed my course in life. You have to have a positive attitude and stay away from the negative people who want to bitch about everything. I do agree that housing and wages need attention. No doubt. But when writing an article like this, you should also talk about the positive things that come from working in a national park. You are surrounded by beauty and peace. You can hike, camp, raft, go for bike rides, learn about wildlife and tons of other things. Be positive!

      • Michael D. Yates August 16, 2016 at 8:23 am #

        In my book, Cheap Motels and a Hotplate: An Economist’s Travelogue, there is a chapter about working at Yellowstone. It includes both positive and negative aspects of our stay there. But in this blog essay, I focused on what needs national attention, namely the use of private concessionaires and their treatment of workers, which is disgraceful.

      • Marilyn September 16, 2016 at 8:07 am #

        My husband and I worked at YNP 5 years ago. I was on the room cleaning crew at the Snow Lodge. Yes, it was hard work for a 65 year old lady but there were many young people working with me that pitched in and helped me! We met some of the finest girls from Taiwan and took them touring with us on our days off. We only worked 4 days a week and the park coordinated our schedules. We had movie nights at our dorm and shared many “fun” times with other retired people! I read the complaints and they may be true but I must say, we had a fantastic time while at YNP! The beautiful young people that took us in as “Grandparents” made up for the small room. Their hearts were “big”! You that complain need to see the beauty the parks have to offer!

      • Cindy November 23, 2019 at 7:23 pm #

        Thank you for a positive attitude. We have spent a great amount of time in 2018 and 2019 as camping visitors in Yellostone, and we talked to so so so many employees. Everyone said they loved it, tho most were RVers. No one complained about the cost of room and board. They said it was cheap compared to real life outside the park. When we’d ask, “C’mon, what’s it REALLY like?” they said exactly what you said – “Best ever back yard, stay out of the fray, and you’ll love it!.” You know, just like you have to do in ANY job or living situation, even if it’s with family who love you. Thanks Terri, for a real world perspective.

        • Michael D. Yates November 24, 2019 at 7:09 am #

          Cindy, How is yours a real world perspective? You camped. Big deal. We actually worked there. Read my book Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate, not to mention the original post. Do you think I am lying? Do some real research. Better yet, get a job at one of the hotels. You spoke to RVers! Older people often living in expensive RVs. They don’t do much of the shit work in the parks. Maybe reach out to people in other parks, living in tents and other decrepit housing. Like one of our sons, who has worked in three national parks.

    • Overworkedunderpaid October 16, 2016 at 12:13 pm #

      This Metate worker agrees!

    • John March 2, 2018 at 1:55 pm #

      I work for Aramark they dont look after there staff its all about the money, its all about the bottom line,plus its tax exempt at Yosemite

      • Michael D. Yates March 2, 2018 at 2:30 pm #

        I agree, John. Why others don’t see this is beyond me.

    • Sue Crocker March 11, 2019 at 4:09 pm #

      You got it exactly right!!!! i have worked for all of these concessionaires… Xanterra, Delaware North and Forever Resorts and Vail Resorts All of they provide the same unimagineable awful food, housing and work you to death for around $9.00/hr. I always wondered why the NPS doesn’t make things better for employees and the J-1s have it bad… I feel so sorry for them… They have a company rep visit their country and glamorize it! when they get to the US (it costs minimum $1000 for airfare they pay themselves) it is so different than promised…. i will never work in National Park again!!! If tourists only knew what the employee had to deal with… if they only knew… Xanterra is the worst company but not by much.. all operate and give the employee low wage, small share room with a psycho you don’t know, out of control drinking…. it is a down right shame.

      • Michael D. Yates March 12, 2019 at 12:46 pm #

        Thanks for this, Sue! Curious that poor people no doubt can’t afford to visit the parks. So, the employees are slaving away so those with means can enjoy them and often enough treat workers badly.

      • Tonaya May 10, 2019 at 2:52 pm #

        I worked at yellowstone park as a dishwasher then busser then server in 1998. I knew what I was getting into. I think they paid me about $2.17 an hour as a server even though our tips averaged about 5% as many of our international guests were not aware of the custom.

        Only way to spend a summer in yellowstone that I knew of–good luck getting a job with the national parks. If you have a pulse these guys will hire you.

        Company sponsored outings, could ride the tour bus all day and learn all about the history of the park. Found my crew with the same days off, had a sweet manager that worked really hard so we could have the same days off every week and stick with our crew. Still had plenty energy left for hiking.

        Oh did I forget–free passes to Yellowstone and Tetons, come and go as you please.

        Talks hosted by winterkeeper–amazing.

        Best summer of my life. I stumbled on this site because I was thinking about a fella I met there that I didn’t keep in touch with. What made me think of him? I don’t know, I guess I’m getting old.

        I knew I was getting hosed by a company making billions off the backs of us. And I was young and didn’t realize how much it would end up costing me to keep my student loans in forebearance for so long.

        In hindsight even though I don’t come from money or anything, I enjoyed a socioeconomic privilege I didn’t even know that I had, in order to have the choice to make that kind of trade off.

        They do come into your community colleges, which was where I signed up, and make a nice glossy presentation. I then drove 20 hours alone across the country, did lots of stuff that scared me, basically became an adult, met people from all over the world, changed my life forever.

        Needless to say I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

        • Michael D. Yates May 10, 2019 at 3:03 pm #

          Thanks for your comments. I enjoyed being in the Park too. But aren’t there larger issues at stake? Xanterra is owned by one of the world’s richest men. He’s not a particularly nice guy. I am certain he voted for Trump, who would, if he could privatize the parks and open them all for mining and other nefarious activities. Why should workers be so underpaid? Why should living conditions be so horrible? Etc.

        • Greg Howland May 19, 2019 at 12:23 pm #

          I spent 4 summers as a fishing guide in YNP from 1965-68. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. I shared a cabin with 1 other guide. The food was not gourmet for sure but was pretty good. Wages were low but tips were usually quite good. You shouldn’t take a job like that if you expect to make a lot of money. It just won’t happen. Go there for the experience , get away from home, learn responsibility and meet people from all over the world. This was over 50 years ago and I still maintain contact with co workers all over the country. Beats the hell out of flipping burgers for next to nothing at your local McDonalds !

          • Michael D. Yates May 19, 2019 at 3:13 pm #

            Thanks for your comment. However, you were there 51 years ago. Don’t you imagine that things have changed dramatically since then? We made good friends too and had many good times. But that is not the point of the original essay I wrote.

  2. Skywalker June 2, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    I work for Xanterra at the Grand Canyon, and you are spot on in your assessment. Living conditions are deplorable, working conditions arent much better, most of the management is even worse. If I didnt have such a love for the park, backpacking, and the outdoors I wouldnt be here. Spread the word brother.

    • Michael D. Yates June 2, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

      Skywalker,thanks for your comment. I have been posting my article on the various national parks facebook pages. Hopefully, this will increase the number of readers.

    • Laura April 15, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

      I worked for Xanterra in 2007-2008 and back in ’98 when it was Amfac – Both times at the Grand Canyon. Although the first time sucked (housing screwed up and my roomate was my damn manager), the 2nd time was not bad at all. Yeah, Colter Hall is old. It was built in the 30’s but that is part of the charm. I worked at both Hermit’s Rest and Desert View – yeah, hours were long. 10 hours a day/6 days a week and pay wasn’t great but who cares. Millions of people a year spend thousands of dollars to visit the park for a day or two. I had a whole year to explore. And my paychecks were about 500-700 dollars biweekly after they took out the $30 for housing. You want to talk abut slave labor? Take a good hard look at the Walt Disney College Program. They pay LESS then minimum wage since its an “internship” but in reality it is slave labor. We get free admission to the parks, they get thousands of college students for $7.05/hr. Housing – I paid $80/a week to share a 3 bed, 2 bath apartment with SIX outher females. There are no EDR’s or discount food options. You need to provide all food yourself at overpriced grocery stores. One of the housing complex’s is called VISTA WAY but it’s is more famously nown as VISTA LAY. It could make girls gone wild look tame!

      • zako pane August 18, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

        Laura, you review is making me laugh. Glad that the second time around you were more acclimatized, which only seems natural.

        I was wondering what kind of safety briefing you folks were given as far as free time in the park? Are there signs posted along rives, streams, and lakes warning of dangerous waters? Were you told not to “float” the streams and or lakes? Did have a safety class conducted by Park Rangers?

        If you have anymore stories or photos, please share. You can post them on the FB Yellowstone National Park Employee Alumni page, too.

        take care,


  3. A Wray June 5, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    Yep, I was GTNP and Yellowstone 2004-2007. Grand Teton Lodge Company one year: miserable. Flagg Ranch Resort: not half as bad. They’re privately run and treat employees with slightly more respect but it is still pretty terrible (hours etc).

    • Michael D. Yates June 5, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

      A Wray,I posted this on several facebook national park sites. No one yet has had anything good to say about these employers. wonder why?

  4. Joan Van Tassel June 22, 2012 at 10:47 am #

    What an excellent post! I traveled to six national parks in the Four Corners area in May and found conditions that are described accurately in this blog post. Foreign migrant workers, low wages, no benefits, poor living conditions, and supervisorial intimidation of workers. The service to visitors is also declining and prices are going much higher.

    This is no less than government mandated and enforced guaranteed profit — where’s the competition? It’s a shame to stay in the parks…just outside the gates are better accommodations and meals are much lower prices, offering greater amenities. We found that except at Mesa Verde, which are so remote, there are no motels right outside the gate! Otherwise, stay away. Better yet, write to your congress critter and the National Park Service and complain about the over commercialization of our parks.

    • Michael D. Yates June 22, 2012 at 11:30 am #

      Joan, Thanks for your excellent comment. Yes, we should all demand of our public officials that they do something about this. Michael Yates

  5. Bryan June 23, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    Here we see greed at work because amidst the high profit that these entrepreneurs or owners are earning, they can’t even give a decent lodging and food for those working for them and who contributes to creating that profit for the company.

  6. Paul Hardt July 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    Who owns our National Parks?

    This was the question the came to my mind, after staying at Yellowstone and Grand Tetons just last week. Everywhere, we saw Xanterra employees. They were very reticent to talk about the organization and didn’t want to talk about who owned it and ran it. When we visited Yellowstone in 1988, many of the jobs now done by Xanterra were done by NPS employees….which means, lots of the profit from the Parks today goes to a billionaire, not put back into employee benefits, park maintenance, etc. Philip Anschutz is commonly identified as the “Christian Republican philanthropist.” He gives money to global climate change deniers and “intelligent design” promoters. See the Wikipedia article about him. He is a heavy contributor to conservative political and religious organizations. I plan on contacting my Senators to make them aware of this and try to get some kind of investigation going.

    • Michael D. Yates July 6, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

      Paul, Thanks for the informative note. I will check out that wikipedia entry. The national parks continue to deteriorate, in more ways than one. If Anschutz has his way, commercialism will reign still more supreme. Let us know what your senators say. Michael Yates

      • Rhonda Fonda August 3, 2014 at 8:43 am #


        Would you please email me? My teenage child is working in a national park and I have some serious concerns not addressed in you article. I need help/direction.

        Thank you

    • Laurie October 27, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

      Hi Paul, you hit on a something most people fail to realize. I applaud your efforts and hope to hear if you get any type of reply. That billionaire that runs Yellowstone National Park, he does not even have a clear idea of what goes on there. When he visits things are clean up. When the owner or a government representative visits, rooms are specially prepped for such visits. That are not put in a room with a leaky roof or mold growing on the window seals. I walked passed the laundry room at Mammoth hotel several days per week while I was there, each time I would cringed.

      • Aaron July 21, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

        I currently work at Mammoth hotel as a housekeeper and you are right. When management hears of NPS inspections everything gets cleaned up and all the maintenance problems get fixed but quickly fall into disrepair after they have left.The housing is awful and the food is worse. The international staff are all college students some paid $5000 to come and work here just to scrub toilets 6 days a week and is it’s not 6 days of work it’s 2 and a half where you make almost no money after they take out the cost of poor living conditions and over priced low quality food. However the international staff is as interesting as living in Yellow Stone. Beautiful place lots of new interesting ideas form all over the world. That’s why I’m still here but I don’t think I’ll do a second season under these conditions.

    • Kevin October 15, 2019 at 12:29 pm #

      Paul – Respectively it has not been my experience that jobs the NPS used to do are now done by Xanterra employees. You may find a few minor things but not many if that. I started 51years ago and and worked the past 4 summers and have my own perspective. Maybe not your experience. Xanterra does manage the campgrounds that you can make reservations for.

  7. REDHEADED RANTER July 7, 2012 at 4:11 am #

    As a current employee at the Grand Canyon, I can say the issues have little to do with Mr. Anschutz and more to do with a long standing corporate mentality that takes for granted the contract within each park is locked up secure.

    Personally, my view is that very few companies would tolerate the micromanagement that NPS has over the concessionaire. NPS likes Xanterra because they can bully Xanterra. I can’t imagine a Marriott, Sheraton or the likes tolerating NPS telling them exactly what they are allowed to have on the menus, the exact decor of every building,down to what types and colors of paints are tolerated, etc. Xanterra is easy to bully.

    Seriously, why should NPS care if a restaurant serves toast or what color the paint is in a guest room? Guest and employee safety should be their concern, but they waste time on things like I just listed and basically ignore safety. And Xanterra is fully aware that NPS does not focus on this, and does not take time to care for it themselves. Black mold in employee housing, broken appliances and furniture, rodents, and overgrown weeds-things that would never survive code in a major city are common. NPS overlooks these issues.

    Do I think NPS needs more funding? Perhaps.But what funding there is needs to be redirected toward safety issues and not to the micromangement of the concession. Our government is not in business to run hotels- leave that to private businessmen! Perhaps if it were left to private businessmen to run the hotels, and they did not feel bullied by NPS, the parks could operated by concessionaires who took care of their employees and guests alike, instead of a corporation that is rated asone of the worst in this country to work for.

    I doubt Mr. Anschutz’s personal politics have anything to do with the deplorable conditions in the parks. Much of it is the fault of NPS whose focus is entirely misdirected.

    As a Christian conservative myself, I would like to see a little more of the golden rule and respect for a Creator God that we will one day answer to for the way we have treated others and stewarded that which God has blessed us with- i.e., the park’s natural beauty- be a relevant part of the park’s management. I think it is exactly that disrespect that causes our problems in the first place.

    Yes, Xanterra is a poor choice of concessioanires. But until we encourage a better comcessionaire to come within the park bounds by allowingc them to run a business as they known it shold be run, things will only change for the worse.

    • Fatman March 3, 2015 at 12:15 am #

      Rodents at Jenny Lake Lodge in GTNP are protected. They have a “catch and release” policy, rather than “trap and dispose” like everywhere else I’ve been. I was quite amazed at the number of mice running around EVERYWHERE towards the end of the season there. I’m all for respecting nature and wildlife, but damn… Amazing they don’t get Hantavirus problems.

      Overgrown weeds? Personally, I think natural plant growth is one of the best things about national parks! I loved the “overgrown” grass and so called weeds at Lake Yellowstone and throughout Grand Teton National Park. Very pretty! Wild strawberries and raspberries were absolutely delicious compared to domesticated farm berries. Last year at Mammoth Hot Springs, I found wild choke cherries and crab apples just outside the park, which was a lot of fun, even if they didn’t taste as good as domesticated varieties.

      Mammoth Hot Springs does things more like a mini-city — noisy sprinklers often woke me up at 3AM or 4AM, and then if that didn’t do it, noisy lawn mowing would wake me up at 6AM or 7AM. I despise lawns in the city — people waste a lot of water on them, waste time mowing them, and often they pollute the air using gas powered mowers with no emission controls. It’s a shame that Mammoth has such manicured lawns.

      Code compliance constantly snooping around my house and coercing me to destroy harmless plants in the city is one of the things I absolutely LOATH about city life.

  8. REDHEADED RANTER July 7, 2012 at 4:13 am #

    Yes, I realize there are some typos in my posting. Please excuse them and look at the message itself.

    • Michael D. Yates July 7, 2012 at 7:46 am #

      Redheaded Ranter, Thanks for your note. You make many good points. I have no love for the NPS either. Rangers work collecting money at the gates, when they could be doing bettr things. New trails are not built, horses run amok on trails, and a spirit of commercialism reigns. We have disagreements about the concessionaires, although we agree on some things. One matter you don’t mention is wages. I don’t think the NPS sets these, and there is no reason why the concessionaire can’t raise these. And they could improve at least the interiors of worker hou sing, cut weeds, etc. All in all, the whole park system is deteriorating, and no one seems to care much. Again, though, thanks for your message. And don’t worry about typos. I make plenty myself!

    • Annabelle February 20, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

      I’m considering working at GC for Xan this season. Not doing it for the money… Are there alternatives for housing – I’m in my 30’s, no desire to do a dorm environment, plus I have considerable food allergies… Thoughts? I have a car – I’d be happier sleeping in my tent than a roomie or finding alternative housing.

      • Sage April 27, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

        Annabelle- curious what you found out about housing? I am considering GNP this summer, also in my 30’s. Does anyone know the current pay rate for seasonal workers with Xan? For 2014?

        • Skies May 26, 2014 at 6:39 pm #

          I’m going to work in Yellowstone for the summer as a server and I’ll be making $4/hr plus tips. Housing/food is 200/bi-weekly. I figure, if I hate it I can always just leave.

          • bryan wunder July 2, 2016 at 12:48 am #

            This is the most logical statement I have read..Nobody forced anyone into these positions..If you don’t like it, go elsewhere. That is called Freedom.

          • Michael D. Yates July 2, 2016 at 7:22 am #

            Another libertarian chimes in. Yes, the rich and poor have the same “freedom” to sleep under the bridge. A pretty limited view of freedom.

          • Ellen March 7, 2017 at 11:24 am #

            So how was your experience? My 18 year old daughter will be working at Grant Village this summer as a hostess and now I am having some serious concerns!

          • Michael D. Yates March 8, 2017 at 7:22 am #

            Ellen, My original essay is critical of the big transnational corporations that hold the contracts for the parks’ services. They leave a lot to be desired as employers, and I think that the federal government should investigate this and do something about it. Just because these are seasonal workers, they should not be exploited. However, this doesn’t mean that a young person cannot have a good experience. If you read my book, Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate, in the chapter on Yellowstone, where I worked, you will see that we had an overall good experience. It was like life, there were good and bad aspects. But I am an economist, and an expert on work, so I tried in the book and in this blog essay, to bring my knowledge to bear on working in the parks, in my case, for what is now Xanterra.

      • Sue June 23, 2014 at 5:28 pm #

        I am considering a job offer to work at Desert View in GC year round. I just would like a clear view what I might expect as far as housing and pay rate. Anyone have an idea. Would this really be worth the move?

        • raisinmtr September 25, 2014 at 9:57 am #

          Desert View year-round is a sweet, albeit somewhat remote gig, with relatively decent housing.

          • Betty Spinks August 21, 2015 at 5:11 pm #

            Hi Everyone!

            Great post and comments.

            I received an offer from Xanterra to wait tables on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The offer says $5 + tips + $16/wk for dormitory housing. I have two questions:

            Does anyone know how much a server makes including tips per week?

            And, how bad is the dorm housing? I met a couple employees one summer who were living in the cabinets outside Maswik Lodge. They didn’t seem so bad…

      • Admiral Whiskers July 17, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

        If you have an RV, many parks have RV sites set aside for employee use.

  9. goetz wiedmann September 6, 2012 at 12:08 am #

    a coment from a recent german visitor of yellowstone

    in the motherland of capitalism this kind of monopoly position of e.g. xanterra – at least interesting – some competition might improve conditions for workers and guests.

    See on the xanterra webpage the information that workers who fulfill there contract get a 3$ per day extra at the end – how bad must the conditions be to implement such kind of thing – But why should the pay more than absolutely necessary as long as enough people will do this jobs – Profit maximizing seems to be a true feature of the capitalisic system. And in other areas (e.g. textile workers in developing countries) we also don´t care about conditions as long as we save money.

    • Roger Freed February 15, 2015 at 6:39 pm #

      It is actually a common custom to offer an end of year bonus by even the better companies. It is nothing unusual.

    • Sky Thibedeau March 11, 2015 at 6:49 am #

      EAST German visitor I’m sure. Sounds like conditions in the parks are similar to what they were in the East Bloc til the 75 Years War ended in 1989. I think I prefer Capitalism to the Stasi lording over the Wonderful Socialist Paradise of the GDR.

      • Michael D. Yates March 11, 2015 at 11:32 am #

        Sky, what are you talking about? How would you know where this visitor came from? His comments seem right on the mark to me, and all you can do is red-bait him.

        • Michael May 14, 2016 at 8:35 pm #

          He probably knows from the commentator actually stating he is from Germany.

  10. Janet W September 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    This concessionaire presence in national parks is not only bad for workers–but bad for travelers. My family stayed in the signature tent cabins of Yosemite in late August — run by Delaware North Company — where the recent hantavirus outbreak occurred. I am trying to make sense of the relationship between the NPS and the concessionaires and in the midst of my research I came across a comparative analysis of NPS, state park and international parks as they relate to several facets of contractual terms of concessionaires. One thing that I found very interesting and disturbing (and is related to lodging for both workers and travelers) is that the NPS concessionaire contracts require the concessionaires to set aside a maintenance fund for repairs of buildings, etc. The state parks and the international parks also require concessionaires to set money aside for maintaining facilities. However, the NPS RETURNS the balance of the fund to the concessionaire at the end of the year giving the concessionaire NO incentive to make the necessary improvements!

    • Michael D. Yates September 19, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

      Thanks, Janet. The more I learn about the parks, the worse I feel!

  11. Catheryn November 30, 2012 at 12:26 am #

    I am speaking from the standpoint of a local who is lived in Yellowstone (or surronding community) my whole life . I’m willing to shed a little light on the subject.

    1) This year the concession contract is up for bid i.e. who is willing to contribute the most to the maintenance fund which is used by the NPS for special maintenance projects – roads, buildings, trails, and cell towers (the #1 visitor complaint is lack of cellphone service).

    2)The rangers at the gate are not real rangers, they’re “interpretive” rangers meaning their only job is to talk to visitors. Agreed, slighty ridiculous, but that is their job description.

    3)You’re all right. The lack of competition fosters the poor living conditions and deplorable pay. What’s also kind of discouraging is Xanterra hires a high percentage of those with criminal pasts because they’re sometimes the only ones desperate enough for the pay.(cause it makes sense to hire sex offenders to live in co-ed dorms right?)

    4)As a concessionaire worker, most are there for the scenery and the experience – not the income. Which is sad, because many tourists leave Yellowstone with a bad taste in their mouth due to crappy customer service and astronomical prices.

    • Michael D. Yates November 30, 2012 at 8:38 am #

      Thanks, Catheryn,

      It’s a sad state of affairs that private contractors run the parks at all, and that true rangers are used for what they should be trained to do. Money rules the day in every aspect of our public lands, including the parks. Thanks for your comments.

      Michael Yates

    • SY February 24, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

      Let me correct a couple of things Catheryn has said here. First off, the NPS does not use money paid by concession operators to pay for cell tower expenses. Those towers belong to the carriers and the carriers are responsible for them. Neither NPS nor any of the concession operators have anything to do with them.

      Second, all NPS personnel who wear the green and gray uniform are rangers. There’s no such thing as a “real” ranger vs. one who is not. There are different categories of rangers, however. There are the law enforcement rangers, who are federal police officers. There are interpretive rangers, who are the ones who staff the visitor centers, give guided talks/walks, etc. And so forth. The gate operators are known as Visitor Use Assistants (VUAs), and they work for the Chief Ranger (the head of the law enforcement division), and they are just as much rangers as is every other green and gray wearing person working in the park. Don’t denigrate their service because they don’t carry guns. And the interps do far more than just “talk to the visitors.” I’m surprised someone who claims to have lived in the area for so long isn’t aware of these basic facts.

      Having said all of this, the general bent of the article is right on the money. Xanterra is really bad about hiring people who shouldn’t be there – they have to hire over 3,000 people each summer, though, and that’s the size of many small cities in the country, With that many people, some are going to be criminals.

      Xanterra also goes out of its way to fire people for the least little thing. I’ve seen them fire someone who’s worked for them full time for 20 years for a simple administrative error, yet near the end of the season when staffing gets tight, they allowed someone found possessing a HUGE quantity of drugs to stay on the job.

      There’s an old rumor that goes around every year about the site Personnel Managers getting their bonuses based on the number of people they fire. I haven’t been able to prove that isn’t true (I’ve worked for Xanterra). The housing sucks in many instances, too, as was pointed out in the article, and the EDR food…just, damn, it gets really disgusting by mid-season. There is a reason why Xanterra is consistently rated as one of the worst companies in America to work for.

      As for internationals, Xanterra hires a bunch of them, but they have a good reason to do so. The American kids they hire get to the point where they just want to get drunk, lay around and not work. They don’t have that problem with the Internationals. Those kids come in, put a full day’s effort in, don’t drink, don’t steal shit, and don’t cause much trouble at all (occasional exceptions, of course). But the point about those kids ending up in the hole when they leave is right on, too. Very, very few of those kids return because they always end up shafted at the end of the season. Xanterra has two people from Yellowstone alone who travel to other countries to try to get the Internationals to work in the park.

      Anyway, Catheryn’s misstatements notwithstanding, the vast majority of the article itself is right on the money.

      • Fatman March 3, 2015 at 2:32 am #

        Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if they get some sort of bonus for firing people at will. It seems to depend on the site though. Lake Yellowstone fired people right and left. Mammoth, not so much. Grand Teton Lodge Company scarcely fired that I could recall.

        I hear ya on the American kids getting drunk. And smoking pot. And not showing up to work on time.

        Internationals are often better behaved. But they still occasionally do the same crap as the Americans. It is quite a crime that so many of the Internationals have little hope of recouping their expenses. From talking with them, the plane tickets are expensive, and worse yet, they have to pay “Organization” fees to some middleman that does all the paperwork to get their Visa and jobs lined up, which is usually why these Internationals can’t make a profit working here.

        Certain countries have lower “organization” fees, and those kids thankfully can make a profit by coming here. I had a good friend from the Ukraine one year at Jackson Lake Lodge, GTNP who said he definitely made more profit by coming to the USA to work for the summer than trying to work in his home country. Macedonians seem to be profiting and return multiple years. Moldovians, no such luck, organization fees way too high. Polish, no profit unless they can work their butt off by taking up a second job outside of the park.

        Some of the concessionaires charge their employees less than others for room and board. GTLC had impossibly cheap room & board, which made it easier for the Internationals to profit, although my experience was that the food was not as good as at Xanterra/YNP. Xanterra charges quite a lot (comparatively) for their employee’s room & board, plus they tack on mandatory MEDCOR medical clinic fees (even if you never use the clinic). At Mammoth Hot Springs, I had to pay Park County income taxes out of every paycheck, which was unexpected considering Wyoming has no income taxes and besides, I thought the entire park was Federal land, not county land.

      • Season December 2, 2015 at 12:41 am #

        I witnessed the majority of the foreign employees slacking in their duties this entire summer. From going to lunch clocking back in and then disappearing back into the EDR to socialize with their other friends that are now on their lunchtime. Also becoming so drunk knowing that they were to work the next day in one situation a girl should have gone to the hospital yet another staff assisted this person in getting back to their dorm from the bar, and then a Nother person ended up checking in on this girl all night after she was just left there to rest. I would often find a couple of the Taiwanese employees who would be out late at night would come to work with us during the day however they would go into a closet and sleep while on the clock .
        Often, most particularly with Asian employees, would not be working in the area that they were assigned. They were assigned area going to area at their friends or a girl or boy they were interested in or working so that they can socialize.
        In my experience over the last summer there were only three American employees that did not work hard task that is fair to overgeneralize a group in the work habits .

  12. Andrew January 14, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    This is all so damn true!!!, I worked for Xanterra’s location in Death Valley, for 2 years in which time i spend doing deplorable work, lived in shitty employee housing with black mold and Asbestos popcorn ceilings, often shared rooms with many undesirables, including, drunks, drug addicts,and undesirable foreign workers, etc.

    the food is fucking horrible! you are forced to eat in a cramped employee dining dungeon, given less than 30 min to force down the MSG/ frozen warmed up food you are rationed, often the cooks take so long to serve you once you finally get your food you get about 12 min to eat it.

    At the location I worked at I was once at in death valley, one night i was watching tv in my employee dorm room to suddenly be startled by high pitch screams, the screams were coming from down the hall about 3 doors down, i quickly threw on some clothes because i thought a woman was being beaten to death, i pushed open the door to this room where the girl was screaming thinking i had to pull some drunk guy off his girlfriend, although what i saw was far from the truth it wasn’t a fight at all but a suicide!, the girls boyfriend has hung himself by the neck from the shower head in the bathroom with an electrical cord…

    I will never forget the sight of the dead man and the state of horror, and shock i was in at that moment in time…

    Xanterra of course swept this incident under the carpet as usual, in fact i was forced to attend work the very next day after witnessing this atrocity, i was even the one that rushed to the phone to report the incident, i have been really fucking emotionally disturbed ever since.

    Although later i found out that the suicide I witnessed was not a solitary event, in fact a year before it happened another employee before I worked there committed suicide by shooting himself in the face with a shotgun…

    Thankfully due to family circumstances i left Xanterra thank god…



    • Michael D. Yates January 14, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

      Thanks, Andrew. This is a shocking story. Yes, those who run the concessions in our parks are among the worst and most despicable employers. Your advice at the end is sound, to put it mildly. I hope that you are OK. Please take care of yourself. Michael Yates

    • Robert August 14, 2014 at 8:12 pm #

      Wow. Andrew I was right across the hall from you in that dorm that fateful night. I should say I have seen that girl from time to time in the parks and she is doing well, although she does not work in the parks any more.

      I stumbled upon this blog post while filling out applications. I won’t repeat any thing in the blog post since it is very accurate. I will add Americans are not lazy drunkards as some have implied. The internationals can get just as crazy and are also poor performers on the job. I am a 10 year victim of the concession life and my time working in the parks at least with Xanterra will end soon. As in my case the concession companies don’t try to keep reliable employees like myself who’s only goal is to improve guest’s vacations in any way possible. Although I will say conditions have improved slightly and I have managed to get 401k and health, it is because I have struggled to stay with the company and have overlooked all their underhanded dealings. There will never be a professional class of employee in the parks. The guy that owns Xanterra has very little to do with how the parks are run, it is all dictated by NPS and it is they who needs to fix this problem. Xanterra has invested about 135 million into YNP( and get the contract for 15 more years) and now the penny pinching begins. My job has been combined with others and they now lose a mature professional employee. As I tell people my tolerance for the mistreatment is a testament to my love for the parks.

      • Michael D. Yates August 14, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

        Robert, thanks for these comments. I doubt that Xanterra’s owner, Philip Anschutz, a multi-billionaire, cares about the parks. Only money and power.

  13. MamaBird February 3, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

    I have to say, I spent several seasons working for Xanterra at GCSR, and in general, it was great. Xanterra is certainly no worse than any other company I’ve ever worked for–sure, they care little about the well-being of their employees, but like I said, no less so than any other company I’ve come across.

    Ultimately, the only reasons I left Xanterra were a) my position left no room for advancement (because the people in the positions above me had grown up in the park and essentially had tenure/were never going to leave…but this was a position that was above minimum wage, and had the status for decent housing, which I worked my way up to. The specific politics of my department were my hindrance to advancement, not Xanterra itself). And b) I was in my mid-20’s and felt like, socially, I was wasting my best years. I absolutely loved my community there–made up of Xanterra, NPS, GCA, Delaware North, and Tusayan folks–but I was surrounded by folks in their late 30’s and up. I rather enjoyed the simplicity of life there, but I knew that I’d wake up in 10 years and wish I’d spent my 20’s being a 20-something, not going to bed at 8pm several nights a week.

    I understand that my experience is limited to specifically what I’ve experienced. I know that Xanterra life isn’t always pleasant–the time I spent in the dorms wasn’t my favorite–but it wasn’t any worse than it would have been elsewhere. Guess what, working retail or waiting tables or cleaning hotel rooms in the “real world” would have landed me in equally as bad or worse living conditions as at Xanterra (and yes, I can say that with absolute certainty, because I still work in one of those fields, in management, and the current housing I can afford is worse than Xanterra’s). The kinds of positions that Xanterra employs don’t earn a living wage ANYWHERE. That doesn’t make it right, not at all, but it doesn’t make Xanterra any worse than anyone else.

  14. Michael D. Yates February 4, 2013 at 4:30 pm #


    Fair enough, though yours is a distinct minority of the responses so far. You are wrong though about workers elsewhere in the economy. Lots them make living wages doing work people at Xanterra do. Room attendants in Las Vegas, for example, with a strong union,do make a living wage and good benefits. Lots of cooks do too. Others as well.

    Michael Yates

  15. J February 16, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    I stumbled across this on a google search about Yellowstone concessionaires. I was researching for a friend who’s thinking about applying for a dining room serving position this coming summer. I have worked seasonally in the park for DNC for 3 seasons now. After reading reviews, I am glad that I don’t work for Xanterra. DNC had decent EDR food, we generally didn’t work more than 40 hours/week, and people were not randomly fired. But there were still issues.

    But as for working for DNC, they are all about making money. Guestpath is just a front for the company to pursue money-making avenues, which include low wages, high rent/food/medical costs for seasonal employees. Don’t get me started on their Greenpath program. It’s kind of ironic that DNC has Greenpath when most items used in their soda fountains are disposable. I would love to see a statistic on how many tons of waste are produced each year.

    It seems like every year I go back, working conditions deteriorate a little more. For example, this past summer we had a enough drama to film a reality series there. The shortened version is that we had some internationals try to game the US immigration law by getting ‘married’ to other seasonal workers so they could remain in the US. It was a nightmare. They had no respect for anyone else, and management should have fired them. But they didn’t because they didn’t want to get involved in a liability issue. These people finally quit, but then everyone worked 6 days/week until the end of the season (this was mid-August).

    It’s a shame because I love living in the parks as I am a major hiker. But I would love to see these companies care a little more about their seasonal employees because the tourists do notice how tired and disheartened employees are. But I doubt anything will be done about it.

    • Michael D. Yates February 16, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

      Dear J, Does DNC run what used to be called the Hamilton Stores? Sounds like conditions are none too good, which is what most of the comments here say about park work in well. It is tooo bad, and not right either. Why should those who work in our parks be treated badly? Maybe I will start writing to people in Congress about this. BTW, there have been some insane soap opera type things in Yellowstone with Xanterra. A friend of ours worked there after we left, and for several years she kept us posted about work at Yellowstone. Some crazy stuff! Thanks for posting about your eperiences.

    • Joe Selzer February 24, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

      Did you work at Old Faithful this story sounds exactly like what happened last year.

  16. J February 18, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    Dear Michael,

    Yes, DNC runs what used to be Hamilton Stores. I believe they took over around 2003/2004 because a lot of my friends from the 2005 season, missed the Hamilton years.

  17. Joe Selzer February 24, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    DNC took over in 2003 that was my first year,still work there no problems with this company for me.

  18. rosaleen gianakos February 24, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    We worked for Hamilton Stores Inc. a family operated corp. Couldn’t have asked for better….they were good to their help.

  19. Ria J L February 26, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    This article brings up some good points. But also overlooks some stuff. I worked for Xanterra at Grand Canyon South Rim for a summer, and then for Ceder Fair in Ohio and I will be headed out to Yellowstone this summer.

    Housing at Grand Canyon was not that bad, but it does depended on who you choose to hang around. Considering how little you pay to stay so close to some of the most amazing places anywhere, its pretty ok. You are in a remote area so there might be critters, if you are not ok with that I am not sure why you would be going out to yellowstone or grand canyon in the first place. They can put up hotels and shops, but it is rugged wilderness if you step off the trail!

    Are you a “wage slave” maybe, but for many of the people working there, even just seasonally, would they really be better off working minimum wage for a similar company in the inner city? It is a risk to go out there… But if you don’t get involved in crazy drunken parties or do drugs and show to up to work and do your best your probably won’t get fired. I knew a few people who got fired from Grand Canyon, and I know why they got fired. If I was in management I would have fired them too.

    I defiantly agree with the thing about foreign workers… but then again I think the company’s need to go recruit foreign workers says more negative things about american work ethics then the companies policies. However with that said it would be nice if they recruited more here in the states, at college campuses and so on.

    In the end I think it is a lifestyle choice. You will run into people who feel stuck and hate it. But you run into that everywhere. Most people know the risks when they go out. I know I do, I’ve read some pretty crappy stuff on the internet but for me I would rather take the chance to go somewhere amazing that I can’t afford to vacation to, make a bit of a paycheck (in a state with a higher minimum wage than my own) even if it means crappy housing and crappy work. Cedar Fair definatly stank, but who else would have hired me for 3 months? If I stayed home I would probably have a crappy job anyway.

    • Michael D. Yates February 26, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

      Ria J.L. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Maybe what we should be thinking is why any job pays a very low wage or has bad conditions, no matter where it is. And maybe we need to ask why our government would grant concessions to private companies, which are then allowed to do basically what they please in terms of employment conditions. Why shouldn’t our government set the tone for good working conditions, which might then put pressure on all employers to follow suit. I get upset with the argument that, well, jobs are even worse someplace else, so this one isn’t so bad. We should all have greater expectations!

  20. Chris Millet March 1, 2013 at 6:45 am #

    I had the pleasure of working for Aranark in Denali National Park for the last 2 summers. While the ultimate reason I left was the lack of benefits and full time employment, I do have to way, McKinley Chalet Resort sure did things right for there employees. For $15 a day, employees got housing (which as of this fall were going through an upgrade process before guest rooms), 3 meals a day in the dining room, which always had a vegetarian option, as well as a better salad/ sandwich bar than the buffet restaurant, access to free laundry, fitness and activity center, and 50% off food at the restaurants and 25% off retail. I was a manager of the front desk, and my employees had shared housing with one other person, and shared a bathroom with one other room. Front Desk employees were also given the chance to do all excursions free at the beginning of the season, like helicoptor and airplane tours, atv’s, 4×4’s, golf, bus tours, etc. The wages were on the lower end, but all employees were given a end of contract bonus if they stayed until the end, wnich was .50 centa for every hour worked. Front desk alei received bi-weekly commision based on excursion sales. Are you going to get rich working at one of these places, not likely, but these were two of the best summer’s of my life, and I an a little sad that I am back in the real world.

  21. BCN March 4, 2013 at 3:18 am #

    Ok yet another disgruntled employee perhaps? Sorry after 15 years, I’m not seeing a lot of what you say to be true. Yes the wages should be higher but, the living conditions no. The tent cabins in Yosemite are pretty bad but that’s one place. ever worked at grand canyon north rim staying in the “new dorm”. Its just like a nice hotel room with your own bathroom, walk in closet, and plenty of space. From my experience the only people who write up columns like this were usually the trouble makers that worked in the park and could not get away with having there cake and eat it to. And the statement about safety, uhhhhh ok back up. From the way you make it sound what, did you sleep through all the safety drilling they constantly harangue employee’s about?

  22. Doug March 9, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    Wow, what a response to your article. Didn’t have time to read through all of them but one thing that needs to be brought up is what happens to these employees during the off season. The only option is unemployment compensation as it is impossible to save enough during the tourist season being paid such a low wage to make it through the winter. Here in Utah, home to 5 National Parks, the employment season is generally 7 months long in a good year. That leaves a balance of 5 months for employees to survive on an allowance of $200 (less 15% taxes, thank you President Reagan)with a limit of $2600, or 13 weeks. Try paying your mortgage, car payment and feeding your kids on $170 a week. And whatever you do, don’t get sick. And did I mention that the Sate of Utah has no overtime compensation law?

    • Michael D. Yates March 9, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

      Doug, Thank you for this. The response has been amazing. But what to do about it? Letters to Congress? You are right about surviving in the off season and health care. Also, what about employees having to pay their own transportation out of the park when the season ends, and then back to their jobs when the season begins again? Surely the companies could pay for it, certainly for those workers who have a long work history of working, leaving, and coming back for a new season, or those who move from park to park and work more or less year-round.

  23. Ron Doering March 14, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    I must say, while there are some good points made in this article, the generalizations are way to strong and I disagree with with the broad brush the author uses to paint the situation. I worked at Yellowstone for two seasons, and many of the “exploited” foreign workers I shared space and jobs with were back for second or third seasons. I lived at both Lake and Old Faithful, and while the living quarters at Old Faithful were old, they were comparable to many college dorm rooms across the country. When I worked for Aramark in Alaska, I found the living quarters to be a little more spartan, but again comparable to a college dorm room. As for the complaint that the jobs don’t provide year round housing and employment, that’s correct, they don’t. The very nature of the jobs is that they are seasonal.

  24. R March 14, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

    To Doug: Utah doesn’t necessarily need an overtime compensation law. Overtime is regulated by the Fair Labor Standards Act (a federal law, meaning it applies to all U.S. states). This law guarantees overtime pay for anyone working non-management, non-professional, etc. hourly wage positions making less than $455 per week. If the law has been violated it is up to the victim of that law to report the issue to the Utah Labor Commission.

    For those that believe rangers that collect entrance fees should be doing better things for the parks than collecting money: The Federal Land Recreation Enhancement Act provides for the collection of fees in federal lands. Someone has to do the collecting, unfortunately/fortunately it is left to a federal employee. In NPS’s case, it is left to a visitor use assistant (ranger) to collect those fees. It is law, and the law has to be carried out by someone.

    As for all NPS employees being rangers, this is subjective and debatable. Yes, all NPS employees have the option of wearing uniforms, some positions are mandated to wear uniforms. I would pose the question though, is an I.T. systems administrator at a park a ranger? How about budget technician? Maybe a park vehicle mechanic is a ranger? What about a contract representative? Meh, to each their own. I’d like to think they are all rangers at heart, but it is still debatable.

    As for bullying concessionaires like Xanterra; I worked for NPS for several years in one of the top ten most visited parks in a budget management capacity (as well as several ranger positions). I never saw bullying of concessionaires, and I never “bullied” them either. Concessionaires are under a time-limited contract with NPS to provide services. Xanterra and others happen to put in the most amicable/beneficial bid each time contracts are publicly announced for bid requests. The concessionaires that have filled back to back contracts continue to get awarded these contracts in part because they state they are able to provide services for the lowest cost. The government likes low cost. One way the concessionaire is able to do this is by providing what could be considered an unacceptable work condition by many former concessionaire employees.

    Is NPS micromanaging concessionaires? I do not believe so, especially from my experience with the Park Service. They are too busy micromanaging other things, concessions micromanagement is low on the list. They do however benefit from money generated from concessionaires. The concessionaires provide funding for special projects inside the park that are taken on by NPS.

    As for requiring the concessionaire to set aside funding for maintenance of the buildings they conduct operations in; that requirement is individual to each contract. Not all contracts require money to be set aside for maintenance. Occasionally, concessionaires operate out of historic structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These are maintained by trained cultural resources staff (archaeologists, preservationists, anthropologists, etc.) and skilled maintenance staff rather than concessionaire employees. Sometimes the concessionaire is responsible for the maintenance of the building. If the living conditions of a structure inside the park are deplorable, and the concessionaire won’t do anything about it, please please please inform NPS management of the park. There are many funding sources available to fix these kinds of problems. No one should have to live in a deplorable building, especially when the visitor rooms around them are often near luxury status.

    As for the comments regarding working for less than minimum wage after housing, food, and insurance are deducted from paychecks; I’m sorry that’s a very spun way of looking at things. Dang, I work for less than minimum wage too after “I” deduct rent, student loan payments, car payments, insurance, utilities, and food too. Just because you chose to live in concessionaire provided housing, accept their meal plan, etc. and “they” deduct it from your wages before you receive your check doesn’t mean you work for less than minimum wage. Although I say this, it doesn’t mean that you don’t work for abysmally low, unfair wages. Please note that no one forced anyone to work for the concessionaires in parks. Baiting foreign individuals, students, and others with rainbows, learning experiences, sunsets, incomprehensible compensation packages, and promises of hopes and desires that can’t be guaranteed, or controlled by the concessionaire, is unfair, wrong, deceitful, and should be stopped immediately when it happens.

    Living in the resort areas around parks is expensive, and employees should receive wages that allow them to have decent living conditions. Unfortunately NPS has no control over this, and it is solely up to the concessionaire to determine wages. The obligation that the concessionaire has with NPS is to provide services to the visitors of the park. How they choose to do that is ‘generally’ up to the concessionaire as long as they follow applicable state and federal laws. The concessionaire only runs into serious trouble with NPS if they fail to deliver their end of the contract (providing visitor services). This is difficult to change, the best way of changing the situation is by voting with your feet (many seem to do this by quitting in droves throughout the season), and then writing the park management, regional NPS management, your representative, and the contract officer that approved the contract or put out the bid request for services. These bids are public information, and often those involved in the process have their names attached to the bid request. If the contract officers are aware of unreasonable situations that occur with concessionaires, they will have a justifiable reason to deny the contract to an underperforming concessionaire when the contract is up for bid again.

    As for the living quarters in Yosemite that are basically cement boxes with a canvas roof and other similar housing units; If those housing units couldn’t pass a building inspection in a nearby city or town, they should not be allowed to be used as “housing” for concessionaire employees. Putting people in sub-par ‘housing’ is wrong, and then charging them for it is ridiculous.

    Crazy things happen in any business and area where the labor force is seasonal, large, and unstable. This is hard to fix in a tourist related park where things are so dependent upon weather, school schedules, etc. If tourism was consistent, stable employment, long-term employees, and a less haphazard environment would exist. A good comparison would be cruise ships and the community of seasonal, transitory, and temporary employees that live/work on them.

    Yes things need to get better in regards to concessionaires and the contracts they operate under as well as the way they operate. It is a huge issue that will cost a ton of money to the tax payer, a huge time investment by NPS, and more public attention needs to be brought to the issue. However, it needs to be done constructively, and that is the most difficult thing of all. Everyone wants to rant and rave, but it is very difficult to get all parties to sit down amicably to invest the time and resources into improving the situation.

    Just 2 cents from someone who spent several years working in several positions in a big park.

  25. Ellen June 18, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    I must say that if it wasn’t for me working for Xanterra in Yellowstone, I would be up sh*t creek quite literally. The program here, yes it’s a lot of hard work, but compared to other seasonal jobs it’s actually pretty nice. Before you go bashing these seasonal jobs, why don’t you take a look at the DIRTY industry of Amusement Parks—where because of being under the dept. of agriculture in most cases, the employees earn LESS than minimum wage, barely make enough money to support themselves.

    Here in Yellowstone, we are provided dorms which come out of our pay check, as well as 3 meals a day (may not be the best, but its food). Whereas places outside of the park are now giving less than 30 hours a week because they don’t wish to be paying the healthcare insurance for their employees, housing rates for an apartment are more than a person earns, and sometimes people are having to pick up 2 or more jobs just to support themselves….

    I am happily returning to the park, yes the hours are long, sometimes the work not so glamorous, but I’m getting at least 40 hours a week, with food and housing for less than an apartment outside the park would cost. As I said maybe before you bash these type of jobs, you should look at Amusement parks where the employees could easily work 80+ hour weeks, WITHOUT being provided overtime due to how the parks are classified, and having to choose cheap food to live off of due to not making much money….

    • Michael D. Yates June 23, 2013 at 6:13 am #

      Ellen, Thanks for your comments. I am glad that things worked out for you. However, I thinkk that sometimes we have too great a tendency to look down, so to speak, at situations worse than our own and say, well, it could be worse. I was born in a shack in a coal mining town, with no hot water or indoor plumbing. Was this better than living in the woods. Yes. However, the owners of the mine, who got lots of money only because they owned the mine, lived a lot better. They certainly didn’t work harder than the miners. Xanterra is owned by one man, who is one of the richest in the world. Huge profits flow to him whether he works or not. We could take the view that we should do what we can to make sure that all working people get a good wage and benefits. He certainly could afford it as far as NP workers are concerned.

  26. Suzi Woods June 22, 2013 at 10:36 pm #

    I am relieved to read some of the balanced comments by: Ron Doering, Ria J L,R, Ellen, Chris Millet, BCN , as I am headed for Grand Canyon South Rim by July 3 to work for Xanterra in Guest Services.

    From my job offer, I know what my wages will be. I expect to share a dorm room in Colter Hall. I don’t know what it looks like, but I will bring bleach in case I see mold. I will pick up groceries if I don’t like the employee meals. We are allowed to bring in a mini frig and a microwave.

    The Job offer tells you about standing 8 hours a day or more. Its the job, duhhh.

    I am looking forward to the Rec center ($10), waking up and going to sleep in THE Grand Canyon, attending some worship services, and basically–enjoying the gift of being there.

    I do not do drugs, or consume alcohol–it seems like that may be where some of the trouble is. I enjoy guest services even though it is traditionally a low paying job.

    I tend to blog and report. So, I plan to report the truth as I find it. I’ll be back with you guys in about a month:-)

    • Michael D. Yates June 23, 2013 at 5:02 am #

      Suzi, Yes let us know how it goes!

  27. CARY DAVIS June 30, 2013 at 9:12 pm #


    • Michael D. Yates July 1, 2013 at 7:18 am #

      Cary, Thanks for this. I would say that it isn’t a question of fearing labor. It is instead a matter of being paid appropriately for it. Of having some rights on the job. Take care, Michael Yates

  28. Dawn July 8, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

    My 18 year old daughter and her boyfriend are leaving at the end of July to work at the Geand canyon. I need to see a picture of these “dorm” rooms and I need to know that they will be safe. Please provide any useful feedback. Where do they go grocery shopping, where is the nearest hospital?

    • raisinmtr September 25, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

      they’re dorm rooms, like college dorms– boxes. There is a grocery store run by Delaware North on the south rim, within walking or bike distance of any Xanterra housing. It’s not a big-city Sam’s Club, but it does have pretty much everything a normal small-town grocery store carries, and although it’s not cheap, the rates are capped by the NPS to keep them from overcharging. There are also “discount bags” available to locals that make it more affordable.

      There is a walk-in clinic available on the south rim. The nearest hospital is in Flagstaff, 74 miles away. The Grand Canyon is remote, no two ways about it.

      As for “knowing they will be safe,” there is no guarantee anywhere about safety– but I would feel your kid is as safe as any kid away from home for college, etc.– if she pays attention to the safety orientation (which they do give), treats the Canyon with the respect it requires, and acts with the caution that any young woman or man should when choosing peers and recreational activities.

  29. Rosemary Regello July 25, 2013 at 12:08 am #

    Good post and comments. I’m a former seasonal employee of Delaware North (Yosemite), Xanterra (Grand Canyon) and Aramark, and can validate most of the claims made in both the post and responses. I wrote an article about the Yosemite concessions contract (which is up for grabs still, I think). It’s available online at

    I also made a video about working in the national parks, including concessions jobs. This is where you’ll find lots of detail about the problems and vulnerabilities that workers face. It’s on YouTube. Use “national parks jobs” to find it from the main page of the site. You’ll see TheCityEdition as the account listed. All the best.

    • Laurie October 27, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

      Hi Rosemary! It sounds like you also have a lot of great knowledge that would be instrumental in my research. I would love to speak with you. Maybe I can contact you on facebook?

  30. Sapphire July 27, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

    My husband and I are working for DNC in Yellowstone. We arrived in May and at first we had no major complaints. The dorm is awful, but the food was good. Then the internationals arrived, way too many were hired. Now we’ve all had our hours cut to 22-26 a week. We were all told we would be working 32-35 hours a week. The internationals who borrowed money to get here as well as those depending on this job for their livelihood are in a world of hurt. The store is so understaffed that the shelves aren’t stocked and there are never enough cash registers open, the lines are huge. I’ve seen tourists walk in, see the lines and immediately leave. I can’t understand what this f**ked up company is thinking. If they doled out a few more hours to their employees, shelves would be stocked, lines would be shorter and the company would make more money.

  31. Leo October 8, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    I will agree on many of the points, at the same time, the experience working in the national parks for the international workers, is a boon to them in the long run. It gives them opportunities to improve their spoken English, an opportunity most would never receive in their home company. With better spoken English, they can work for multinational companies operating in their home country. I spent a year teaching spoken English in China after working in the national parks. Most of my students said that the ability to speak English was often 1000 more RMB per month or more. It is the opportunity for advancement. I do agree they are often treated like slave labor, but when most American employees can’t wait to run out the door when their shift ends (and later bitch about small paychecks) the international workers are asking the manager for extra hours, willing to go work in another department to get those extra hours. Some of their long hours are something they desire, some for added profit, some to break even on the investment of traveling to work there.

    • Leah July 10, 2014 at 8:54 am #

      Please note the difference in life courses in your comparison of chinese workers at the National Park and the poor American sap who has no managerial job waiting for them but only more black mold and delayed health expenses.

  32. Laurie October 13, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    Hi Everyone,
    I am an older college student currently enrolled in an upper level anthology course for which I am doing a research paper on life within Yellowstone National Park with a focus on working for Xanterra. I have not been able to find a single good reference source about this subject. If anyone has a suggestion I would be extremely appreciative. Two librarians have assisted me without any luck. Thus, I suppose this research paper will prove to be useful in the future. My goal is to complete an objective paper, so I encourage both Xanterra management and current and Ex-Xanterra employees to contact me to voice their own experiences and viewpoints and observations about this concessionaire. I invite Xanterra’s owner to contact me. My focus is the control this employer has over all aspects of the employees daily lives, the benefits and challenges of life in company housing. On a personal level, living inside the park was an awesome experience but living in deplorable employee housing that consisted of an extremely small dorm (much smaller than the description, was not so grand). My personal experience was enlightening. I can’t say that it is all bad nor all good. The question really is, does the good outweigh the bad and is this a place would want to send your daughter to work for a summer? Any historical facts are also welcome.

    • Michael D. Yates October 19, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

      Laurie, you might like the chapter on Yellowstone in my book, Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate. There is a good bit of material relevant to what you ask about in your post.

      • Laurie October 27, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

        Awesome, I will look on Amazon for your book, and order it. I would love to interview you via facebook or by email.

  33. J December 12, 2013 at 11:35 pm #

    Great post! People need to be aware of the facts of the employee conditions in our national parks.

    I worked in Yosemite ’85-88 back then MCA (Yep the entertainment co.) managed the concessions. I was in my early 20’s and the housing was OK as long as you were in something with solid walls. Living in tents heated or not was not cool. I have to say that our furniture and dorms were in decent shape. I did travel to Death Valley when I worked at Yosemite. We talked to some of the emps and they didn’t seem very happy, and their accommodations were shit compared to what we had.

    It sounds like things have really gotten a lot worse in the last 25 years. But then profits are what drives everything these days, and if you can screw your employee and make more $ its the American way. 🙁

  34. K December 17, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    I worked for Xanterra at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. What I imagined and came to be were so totally the opposite. I got there and was sent to my studio apt. As I drove down the back hidden roads where the housing is, it became dirty and cluttered. I got to my apt and two workers were still in there cleaning it from the last pig. They took 16 hefty bags of garbage out of this tiny place and it stunk so bad, I would have went straight home but didn’t have a place to go back too. It took at least two weeks to get the smell out and I hated it. The housing parking lots are like junk yards with half taken apart cars and trucks spewed everywhere. Some employees have 5 cars and none of them run. Its a real shame Xanterra doesn’t clean this crap up. Im serious when I say that a lot of pigs who live there are so dirty that they have their living quarters monitored every week or month to see if they are cleaning and keeping black mold from growing.
    The national park employees seem to be very clean and not very chatty with the Xanterra employees, and I understand why.
    Xanterra, you should be ashamed at how you live

  35. K December 17, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

    Almost forgot to say, i worked there for 2 months in 2011. The job was fine, but could not take the living conditions anymore.

  36. chris January 14, 2014 at 5:54 am #

    true article. there is like a black cloud of rudeness at xanterra. the employers are uncaring. when a co worker dies its just another day for them. when i lost my grandma i got nothing from them. i rarely request days off n it was a challenge to do so. but when a foreign calls n and is found dancing at the grocerie store cause he got beer. its ok. my roomate went crazy one day. talking to himself. and he was gone. i ask my manerger aboout him.. ” oh he died.” while her mouth was full eating near the food we serve to costumers. they let the lazy be lazy. and if they know you can work and like work. they will grind you out till you have nothing left. the majority of workers are foreigners. and get the better jobs. american indians seem to get the worst jobs. when you say good morning to your boss you dont get a response. jus a cold blank look if not a scold. i calld n one day cause the roads were about three feet high coverd in snow. but the foreigners have there placed cleaned by the park service and they dont pay taxes. inside bright angel lodge the dishwashing machine is filthy. theres grim all inside the machine. its never cleaned. the boss never cares. i worked there it smells like a dead dog under the machine. i tried to clean it but as i was the only dishwasher for 3 restraunts and one coffe shop. the dishes piled all over even on the floor. everyday i rewash stuff. because theres still food on the supposedly clean dishes. most cooks dnt care n jus use it cause its jus to dam busy. but somehow no matter how filthy it is. it freaken stinks in the kitchen. they always pass there inspection .. no problem. there is a game a group of people play. when you make a mistake. they stick their finger up your butt. a little mexican girl was telling me. ohh this what we play. they made it sound normal. there is a mexican name for the game. 2 restraunts in the park i knw they paly it and the bosses allow it. issues came up when they try to do that to me. i ended up being the bad guy. they mayor of tusayan, az and the human resource told me… ” YOU, have to understand this is how the play.” im glad for this article. so many true responses i read. yeah. most xanterra employees are rude and live horrible. hoarders. asians became my freinds as my fellow americans are very strange and rude.

  37. chris January 14, 2014 at 8:35 am #

    i used to walk from trailor village to the grand canyon. and notice lots of trash! even a mattress. i began picking trash with my walks. one day it rained. i still fill my bag then went to work. to find out it was earth day. there was ballons. fringes of paper. buttons. cake canndy. a bunch of trash from desposible cups and dinning wear n opening earth day swag. the enviromental group cancelled earth day…. i ended up cleaning up all that trash…. strangley i was the only one who pick trash on earth day. the next day peoples were all sporting earth day shirts.

  38. Homeless Gal February 14, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

    Here is an article I just wrote on the same subject:

    Slave Wages – I can’t afford to work for Xanterra in Yellowstone National Park.

  39. Terri March 27, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

    It is a shame that in 2014 that this is happening.And it is allowed to happen everyday. Its not an isolated incident. Shame that our absolutely beautiful National Parks would be run in this manner.

  40. lola lee June 14, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    Does anyone know how the fire fighters are treated?

  41. jackson s June 26, 2014 at 1:21 am #

    I read your article, and i get your complaints. I work at YNP in a pub. I have many of my own complaints, but I have to say, in the three months I’ve been here, I have not met one person that got a paycheck that was in the negative(i heard one guy got $4 pay on his first check because he only started training two days before the pay period ended) and no the pubs are not by far the most profitable establishments in the park. I have done the supply orders, i know what our sales are every night. and when you take into account labor and maintenance and the prices, yes they are staying solvent, but it’s nothing compared the tourist establishments. Also, regardless of which department i ended up in, I still take home more money then i would if i were back in my home state renting an apartment and buying food. Between tips and my above (at least in my home state)Min-wage pay, i get by fine. In all reality, from my understanding many bartenders, servers(cocktail and otherwise) take home more money than the managers. I know one that switched back to serving after several years for that reason. Also employees choose to live in those cabins, they have been very upset about the fact that it’s getting turned back into tourist accommodations. Thirdly, the dorms are… dorms, that’s why they are such close quarters. go to any big, long established college and you’ll find the same thing, some are older, some are newer, some are better than others, but remember these buildings were built almost exclusively under orders from the NPS, Xanterra, Delaware North, Aramark, they just maintain them under their contract with NPS. If in 18 years, Xanterra loses their contract, they don’t get to take the dorms with them. Lastlty, not all of the employees are angels, especially when they drink. At least management can drink without losing control or throwing a fit every time they get carded. Maintenance, Management, and Lowly employees all live, eat, and work right by eachother, so if somethings wrong with anything, make a new friend, and ask if they can do something about it. One more thing, don’t work in the park if you have a major chronic medical condition, the nearest emergency room is usually at least an hour drive or more away, medical releases happen a lot, but if your not making money, then you’re not paying for room or board(which is why i’ve never seen a negative paycheck) it may share a few similarities, but we are a long distance from the coal camps at the turn of the 20th century. The sad truth is that these days some people require the housing and support from their families for a long time. Try locking yourself into a lease, then get sick, then lose your job, and then tell me you’re better off than a park employee who never signed a lease but had the same things happen.

  42. TheScryptKeyper June 28, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    Oh my gosh. I’m so happy I stumbled across this….17 years old, and wanting to see the world, I thought this would be a great opportunity. My parents, brother and I traveled full-time for four years around the continental US before settling in south Texas, and I’ve got what we like to call the “Hitch Itch” (as we called it, travelling in our 35 ft 5th wheel). I was sure a job in Yellowstone, my favorite place I’ve ever been to, would be amazing…..Extremely disappointed to learn the truth, but glad I found it.

  43. Martaindale July 13, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    I found to be true everything that Xanterra told me– before I took a job– about wages, deductions, housing, hours, job conditions, recreation, transportation, laundry, food, weather, internet, and mail. I put the pencil to it all to see if it was a job that made sense. And it has! This is my second year with Xanterra–I am a retired school teacher. I have gotten strong from work and lost weight, eaten all that I have wanted of good food, gotten great exercise from hiking (177 miles last year, up to 78 so far this year), along with other adults have taken carloads of international students all over to see the sights & hike, made new dear friends, had big fun living in the dorm, read dozens of books (no TV), learned new job skills (bussing & fry cook!!) that I totally had fun with, and got to meet tourists from all over the world. In short, it has been a fabulous experience. I have met many people who have chosen seasonal work as a lifestyle–they keep choosing it because there is so much world to see. And, unless you can afford tourist travel it is a great way to see the world. I have held A LOT of different types of jobs and there is no “perfect” job. They all entail work. People just need to find the work they they want to do at a price they are willing to accept. Know up front what is expected, ask for help when you need it, give help when you are able, protest unfairness to the right people in the right way, and most of all, remember that it is just seasonal work and things change constantly. Seasonal work is NOT for everyone–neither is being a doctor or going camping. And about the international students, I have never heard any say they regret coming to the United States, they know the cost before they come, and the several dozen I have kept up with got to travel after leaving their jobs. As my daddy always said, “Before you do anything involving money, put the pencil to it.”

  44. Jaina July 19, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    Also, Xanterra just took over the concessions at Glacier National Park from Glacier Park, Inc, which had the contract for more than 30 years. This is just another example of smaller concessionaires being pushed out by the larger ones. Part of the problem is the shrinking budgets of the National Park Service. More responsibility for caring for the Nation’s Parks are being put on the concessionaires because of federal budget cuts to the Department of the Interior.

  45. Sapaknee July 22, 2014 at 10:04 pm #

    Wow! I had no idea the conditions were this bad! I visited Yellowstone for the first time last summer, and stayed at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel. Being 25 at the time, I was one of the younger guests at the hotel. I spent most of my nights after the hotel bar closed reading in the lobby. I quickly became friends with some of the hotel staff as we were all very close in age. No one seemed to mention anything about the bad living/working conditions when I expressed my interest in working there the following summer. In fact, I even saw the inside of one of the dorms (Osprey) when a staff member and I met up to share some music. They didn’t seem bad. The accommodations were actually were a lot nicer than my college dorm (that’s not saying a lot though). The friends I made were going to sneak me into the employee pub, but it didn’t work since the power went out in that section of the park. Reading this makes me feel disgusted that I contributed to a corporation that treats their employees so poorly. It make me wish I could have done something.

  46. Chris August 5, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    This is my second season in Yellowstone. There’s a pattern.
    Through opening, the few people who are on location that early get all the work they can handle, even overtime. Once the international workers get here, people typically get 3-day weekends until the college kids leave in mid-August. Then it’s back to two-day weekends and maybe some overtime until closing. At closing, everybody left (there were 7 of us in Housekeeping, out of 40-something, last year) gets plenty of overtime. The trick is obviously to do your hiking mid-season when you have long weekends. Most trails are closed due to snow until mid-June anyway, and close again mid-September when the snow returns. It balances out to plenty of time working and plenty of time to see the park.
    As for low wages, if you’re coming out here to make money, you’re doing it wrong. “It” being both coming out here AND making money. If adventure isn’t your number one reason, just stay home.
    Even with the low income, what you get is what you GET. I make about $300/week. AFTER rent and taxes. Your rent AND food expense is already deducted at a total of $400/month. That’s what many people pay per month just for rent. Food is about $3 per meal-$80 per month-and you can eat as much as you want. Granted, 50% of it is often inedible, but the other 50% is good enough to come back for more. You can have bacon EVERY morning. As much as you want. And you don’t have to cook it yourself.
    Housing isn’t great, it’s true. Someone mentioned black mold above–and yes, I’ve seen it, too. It grows under the toilet tanks because they sweat during Yellowstone’s 3 week summer. And there are mice, and chipmunks, and bats, and they get inside sometimes. So what? The nearest Wal-mart is 100 miles away; you’re in the wilderness. Didn’t you expect that? If you didn’t, what the hell are you doing here?
    I know a lot of people who’ve been fired. Most deserved it. Some did not. Some deserved to get fired and didn’t. How’s that different from anywhere else? Don’t do anything stupid and you won’t get fired. Simple. And remember that Yellowstone is Federal jurisdiction because it existed before the state of Wyoming, and anything you get in trouble for will be on your record FOREVER. That’s a good motivation not to do anything stupid.

    Bottom line: if you didn’t like your first season, don’t come back! And quit trying to ruin it for those of us who love it here.

    • Michael D. Yates August 5, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

      You remind me of our downstairs neighbors in a city apt. We caught the neighbor stealing utilities from us. We went to court, but these two fools urged us to just accept the theft. we were ruining things for them! Also, did you notice that Xanterra doesn’t charge wilderness prices. String quartets in Lake Lodge, now that’s real wilderness.

    • Michaela June 5, 2017 at 8:12 pm #

      I have to agree with you Chris. We are retired and did not come to YNP for the money but rather to enjoy nature. We live in our 5th wheel and the rent fee and electricity is deducted from one of our checks each payday……far less than what a tourist would pay. I have concerns about the mold and was advised thus year the drinking water may be harmful. I drink the water but my small dog cannot nor the neighbors small animals. Management was made aware of the water issue in 2016 but chose not to share the info….. I’m unclear WHICH management though. I’ve been here a couple of months and am happy…..our combined income is roughly $1500/month after deductions, we get the same days off and enjoy daily trips checking out nature. YNP is wonderful but it is what you make of it. One issue is that with so many people from various states employment laws are sometimes misstated but I believe that’s been corrected now. We are finishing the season but not sure we’ll be back.

  47. Corey August 9, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

    Just worked in Yellowstone National Park this summer for Xanterra. I actually managed to get just enough money to get me home and broke my contract early. They had us in an old dorm building with 3 people to a small room, where we were also expected to share 2 toilets and 3 showers to about 50 people. The food was spot on as in the description in the article, watered down slop served on prison like trays. If you managed to eat I doubt you could hold it down for very long. The pub was pretty much the same, packed on pay day then in 4 days nobody would have any money until next payday. Been home over a week and still waiting on my last check to arrive in the mail. Human resources and housing acted like it was normal for people to leave early. People were getting fired left and right for no reason which understaffed us, a friend got fired and was given from 10am until 4pm to vacate the park or he would be arrested. Some people don’t have transportation as the company shuttles them in from the airport or bus stations in surrounding cities. Needless to say, I highly recommend something is done about working conditions in National Parks.

    • Michael D. Yates August 9, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

      Well, this shows how little things have changed in 14 years. And it puts the lie to the baloney I have been reading from some of the people here.

      • Bradley March 23, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

        It’s interesting to me that you refuse to believe that anyone can have a positive experience working in a national park. Why would they come on here and waste their time lying? Do you think ALL of the positive replies are xanterra management positions trying to get people to work? Job satisfaction in national parks, as with any other employment opportunity is largely affected by expectations that someone has prior to working. Others have said it and I’ll say it again. If you’re looking for anything other than adventure this is not the job for you. It seems to me you’re just too stubborn to believe anything that goes against your article. If you go out searching for negative responses, you’re going to find negative responses. If there’s one thing I learned while in college for Hospitality and Tourism Management it’s that people love to complain. Sparking conversation about complaints is obviously an open invitation for more complaints, but its ridiculous to rule out any positive experience. To be honest with you it’s so absurd that it definitely warrants concern on the viability of your work.
        I have had both family and friends work in the park and you may be right about some things. Not everyone enjoyed their time there.

        • Bradley March 23, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

          enetered by accident.

          I have had both family and friends work in the park and you may be right about some things. Not everyone enjoyed their time there, but some certainly did. The ones who would rather be a guest in a hotel certainly didn’t enjoy living in dorms or cabins. Plenty of people loved it though. I’ve read through your replies and you seem like the kind of person that just likes to stir things up and hear what you want to hear. I’m not saying the conditions don’t need to be looked into, in certain cases they absolutely do. All I’m trying to say is that plenty of people will not let their living and work conditions ruin their experience. I guess we can’t all have such a positive outlook on life. Good luck with whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish. It looks to me like you’re just trying to sell a book and make some money while ignoring anything that goes against what you’re saying…sound familiar?

          • Michael D. Yates March 23, 2015 at 7:09 pm #

            Bradley, I had many good times at Yellowstone. My post wasn’t about that, however. Lots of posts here are pretty positive. But you seem to think the negative ones are from chronic complainers. Not much I can do about what you think. Now as to the book and money, I gave my royalties away. You should read it. You might learn something. BTW, you wouldn’t be a manager would you?

  48. German August 17, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate your efforts and I am waiting for your next write ups
    thank you once again.

  49. A worker in the Park August 18, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

    At the beginning I was very happy to work in our YNP national park, I enjoyed everything even work was very hard, I thought I would like to come back for another season because I love nature so much. I also thought the management were OK, I can handle it even they were not very friendly to us.

    BUT I saw the true color of the Xanterra management when I was injured on the job, I couldn’t get up for 2 days, the nurse told me to ask my manager for help, the manager did not help driving me to the hospital (100 miles away), finally I have to drive myself in a rental car to a hospital for emergency, and when I came back tried to talk to a manager, he ignored me by not talking tome for 20 mins in his office, and finally he said what do you want? (in a cold voice), I didn’t want anything, just tried to get more days off even I don’t get paid, he was so cold, never ask me if I was OK or need any help… I did a good thing to quit the job on that day.

    Now I think “Slave” is a right word as the Xanterra management treated us.

    • Michael D. Yates August 18, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

      Amen! I got pretty sick while I was at Yellowstone. Had to go to the hospital in Billings and to a liver specialist. The quack doctor at the Yellowstone clinic misdiagnosed me and gave me medication to which I was allergic. A senior desk clerk turned me in to my superior for, she claimed, not calling in from Billings to say I would miss work. I had called, however. I couldn’t believe the pro-company manner of a clerk making a quarter an hour more than I! Later a manager said I was setting a bad work example by giving my hours to clerks who needed money more than I did.

      • A worker in the Park August 19, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

        Michael, Thanks! I hope you are OK now. I will never work in a National Park unless there is a hospital nearby. Learn my lesson.

  50. zako pane August 18, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

    Regarding new employee orientation at Xanterra, Yellowstone…Did you receive a safety briefing regarding Park Rules and Regulations by either Xanterra or Yellowstone National Park Rangers? If so what topics were covered?



    • Michael D. Yates August 18, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

      We had a brief safety film by Xanterra (AMFAC then), mainly animals attacking humans!

      • zako pane August 18, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

        Thanks Michael. How are you doing physically now from the illness you had while at Yellowstone? Hope you are doing better.

        I was specifically interested in any discussion about Regulations, such as the “not floating” any water ways in the park. Anything about that?

  51. zako pane August 19, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    I just realized that I was addressing the author of the site. Guess my comment(s) regarding safety briefings by Xanterra should have been addressed to very recent hires. Thanks for the follow-up and I am enjoying reading the stories in all categories on your site. Nice job Michael. May the “force be with you”!

  52. Days gone by August 21, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    This is a very interesting article, I am glad that the Crater Lake park was not mentioned from what I can tell. CL is one of Xanterra’s smaller parks. It is very difficult to please not only visitors but staff as well. I worked in the Maintenance dept year round for about 6 years.
    Housing was always and issue. Back when NPS was buiding the park buildings there were plans for more dorms and an administrative building for the concessionaire which never received funding. There are 3 main dormitories 2 of which were built in 94. These were really decent rooms. The third was much older and is also on the list to be removed. Rim dorm at one point was a large open dorm which was later renovated to provide divided rooms usually 3-4 person per room. One year we replaced the roof because of roof leaks through out the building we installed satellite TV and internet.
    Being in maintenance we spent the off season repairing, repainting and cleaning dorms. Most of the damage came from employees, dancing on pool tables and breaking them, sitting on ping pong table and breaking it. So now you have equipment that cant be used and employees expect it to be replaced. Punching holes in walls because of relationship issues are just a few problems that I have seen. They also restricted how much alcohol you could buy because drunk employees were a problem. Know your limits.

    Food service menus were prepared by the head chefs of the restaurants and typically were very good items. The beginning and end of the seasons were always busy but during the mid season employees usually had time to travel. I don’t really know a whole lot of employees that were not able to take time off if planned correctly.

    Corporate always pushed the limits to better the bottom line, but its the wisdom of the managers to find where that acceptable level was. I never always agreed with the Corporate decisions and we lost some really good mangers and employees because of some decisions to save money. I have seen the same issue with most companies I have worked for “Improve the bottom line” and “Don’t spend Money”.
    Wages could have always been improved even up to the senior managers, but CL barley made profit most years. Which makes it hard to increase wages when the profit margin is very tight. NPS regs are making it harder to find ways to increase profit.

    The GM would occasionally buy employees dinner at the lodge. Employee appreciation dinners were hosted twice a season. Employees at CL were treated fairly. Crater Lake must be on the better end of Xanterra Parks because I haven’t seen good reviews on the other Xanterra Parks.

    • Michael D. Yates August 21, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

      Thanks for these interesting comments. We’ve been to Crater Lake several times, and we have never read any really bad reviews of the place or service received. Perhaps the smaller size and the fact that the concessionaire must have done a decent job before Xanterra make a difference.

      • Concerned Former Parkie September 16, 2015 at 2:01 am #

        Unfortunately, Crater Lake has taken a turn for the worse. The new General Manager is seeing to the transformation of a once amazing and beautiful place to live and work, changing it into the Wal-Mart of Parks. Employees are being treated badly, housing is declining, NPS LEs tightening their grip and stalking concessions employees. Bad stuff.

        • Michael D. Yates September 16, 2015 at 7:36 am #

          Thanks for this. Another place where profits rule and the employees’ well-being is neglected.

  53. Rock N Roll August 25, 2014 at 3:07 am #

    If you don’t feel inclined to give your money back to Xanterra at the employee pub at Yellowstone…….well then, DONT GO DRINKING YOUR MONEY AWAY IDIOT !!!

  54. REDHEADEDRANTER August 26, 2014 at 5:42 am #

    The situation in Grand Canyon park is about to become far worse due to a recent concessions decision. Delaware North will be taking over concessions for Yavapai Lodge, Trailer Village, Camper Services and Desert View from Xanterra effective January 1, 2015. This splits the park’s concessions operations in two, and gives Delaware North more than a significant portion of the comapny housing belonging to Xanterra.
    Xanterra employees have been told to expect the worst. National Park Service has prohibited in the new contract the building of additional housing for employees. Small dorm rooms and apartments designed for one or two people will have significantly. Many long term employees will be forced to take lesser housing or make accomodation for additional roommates. Hours may be cut drastically as Xanterra absorbs employees from these work locations into the other lodging locations. (International students are apparently under contract, and they can not lay off those hired, nor can they restrict their hours beyond a certain point, if my understanding is correct.)
    When asked at recent meetings whether or not there was a standard for minimum living space per person, management seemed to believe that they were exempt from these types of rules based on the fact that we are on federal land. (Anotherwords, if you live on federal land, you are nothing but cattle than can be herded!) Apparently, HUD rules and the Keating Memorandum of 1999 do not apply to us. (Federal law sets a standard at two people per bedroom per this memorandum, with the exception of family.)
    I am not sure how to draw attention to this situation as I would like to. I have written several members of Congress, particularly those on concessions oversight, only to be completely ignored. (Funny how eager they were to shut us down and put us out of work last October, but now that we ask for help, deny that we exist.) If anyone has any ideas, this would be greatly appreciated.
    These parks are so beautiful and have so much potential for enjoyment. It is a shame to see both corporate and governmental greed taking away from their enjoyment.

    • Michael D. Yates August 26, 2014 at 9:29 am #

      Thanks for these comments. We must all contact Congress to get some justice. I urge all readers to do so. And if anyone has other ideas, please post here. Michael Yates

    • skatee October 8, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

      From someone still on the ‘inside’, you are right on . . . (lol)

  55. duane crump August 28, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

    Do the tents in Yosemite have electric? For the Hantavirus, I intend to bring a air purifier. Are there medical facilities on the premises for prescription refills. I have to get a physical every three moths and receive medications…if not, what is the closest town to get to? Anyone that works at a national park knows to buy a round trip ticket…I worked at Yellowstone 1995 2000 and 2001 at Old Faithful…I was openly gay and management sometimes would just ignore the comments some of those asshole college students would say me…especially if it was their last day before leaving permanently. I can remember 1995 getting demoted from a server to dishwasher because I said something someone found offensive….outside work and on my personal time. Politics get played, and the longer they been the closer they get during the winter months and they will stab you in the back to protect each other. Just go in and smile do your job and just save your money. Eventually you will get an amount that makes you breath a sigh of relief…as in..( go ahead and fire me…I got money…I don’t care.) Just brown nose with management a little bit at the pub…don’t be afraid to buy a drink to the FB manager..know what I really is a matter of if they like you as a person. They not only see you at work they see you on your off time to.

  56. Appy September 16, 2014 at 9:10 pm #

    I think every manager, superviser up to the board do directors including the CEOs of such companies need to be outed and made accountable…

  57. Pammy Joy September 25, 2014 at 11:51 am #

    The only NP I’ve ever lived was Grand Canyon South Rim…I never had issue with housing or pay. I understood that the lifestyle of living on ‘the rim’ trumps ‘city’ living/amenities for many reasons (quiet peaceful living/hiking like a fool!/close knit community/meeting people from all over the world/etc) One random fact of living in a national park? Friends and family you didn’t know you had tend to ‘visit” you often (aka a free place to stay!!;)

    I also understood the consequences if I didn’t perform my expected job duties…..loss of job=loss of housing. A tough reality for some. But that was never kept a secret-everyone knew that was the way of national park living.

    The pay wasn’t terrific-but again, that was one of the trade-offs you make for having complete access to one of the Natural Wonders of the world! (Worth it to me and many other long term employees) you’d be surprised to learn how many employees leave…only to return.

    I was/am proud to have called GC home for 11 years. I love and miss it often)

    My thoughts on people living in a place (national park or otherwise) where they feel ‘unappreciated, underpaid, unhappy with living conditions, blah blah blah’:

    MOVE ON! Go make yourself happy. It isn’t your employers duty to ensure your happiness and well-being. You work-they pay you. Nobody is forcing you to stay! GC CAN be a career choice-but it’s more of a lifestyle choice. Enjoy it and recognize it for what it is.

    If you’re considering a summer job in a park….DO IT!! You’ll have the time of your life and meet some friends you’ll have forever. 🙂

    • skatee October 8, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

      Tired of these pie-in-the-sky, back-pack wearing, bike riding adults who COULDN’T make it in the real world. Yea, I have loved/visited/hiked the GCNP my whole life too. And, when work was slow back home and I saw an on-line job post for the park, I thought I’d check it out. Well, at the end of my second year here, my EXPERIENCE (and true life stories, names, people I helped out, pictures I have taken) bear out and could prove the horrors of what MOST people say here at this site, contrary to you. This INCLUDES many international student workers (my kids own age) who I helped out, off the clock on my own time, who were scared, confused, disappointed, ect. being exposed to what they were, in contrast what they were shown/told in effort to get them here. You love the GCNP? Well guess what, so do I!! It’s why I tried it out as a job when work was slow back home. Yet, I SOON DISCOVERED: (And THINK about this:) Why not get a GOOD paying job, at a good respected company and then – you could AFFORD to VISIT/VACATION/SUPPORT the GCNP you so much love and even afford to bring your family if you had one!! As do all the tourists with good jobs that you see and serve. Could you afford to do so the same? Why not? Yet your in denial that it has nothing to do with the crappy pay you get, huh? Just on a ‘high’ that you live and work there!

      You rate of pay determines: Where you will live – What you will eat – what kind of car you drive – If and where you take a vacation – what kinds of gifts for holidays / birthdays you can buy loved ones, ect. But ahhhh, who cares about all that right?!! You LIVE at the Grand Canyon and can go hiking. . . .

      Simple ending to this argument I have heard admitted by other professionals/mid-managers and up here confess: “Those who have the Skills/Experience/Schooling/resume to leave here do so, those who don’t, CAN’T.” For the latter, they can then proceed to pretend/deceive themselves however they wish, (and MANY do so here with the supplement of alcohol) telling themselves it’s a ‘choice’, it’s not ‘that bad’, that they ‘love’ the canyon, whatever works. Yea right, if that helps them cope. . . . I came in with a positive attitude and un-biased. I then was in denial myself, I then saw too much of the underbelly and dark side to be able to stomach it and pretend and, refusing to drink or smoke the depression away as MANY do. . .

  58. skatee October 8, 2014 at 10:09 pm #

    This is what I posted on my Facebook page today (10-08-14) for family and friends with a link for this excellent website at the end so people could become educated:

    I am still a current employee for G.C.N.P. South Rim, in what they would call a high paying ‘technical’ position. I was deceived 2 years ago into moving have way across the country, leaving family and friends, via a totally bogus on-line job description and phone interviews. (Being emailed a final job offer to ‘e’ sign, no ‘face-to-face meeting with their HR dept. necessary!!) I have recently begun to aggressively look to ‘escape’ from what could be described as a nightmare commune of misery and desperation, I could write a book. . . .

    Yet what happened at work here today is what caused me to post this on your site. This is what I posted on my Facebook page today (10-08-14) for family and friends with a link for you excellent website at the end so people could become educated:

    Well. . . tho I post beautiful pictures of the Canyon and have visited it many times growing up, and took a job here 2 years ago because I love this National Park, I did NOT know that N.P.S does NOT run all the hotels/restaurants/gift shops/ect. That is done by a “concessioner” who wins a contract bid process that N.P.S. conducts. It is THAT company most everyone who is hired to work here reports to.
    I was called into a management meeting today to learn that Xanterra (current concessioner here and at most National Parks) is actually taking legal action against (suing) the National Park Service (NPS). This is a sad, long ongoing battle between N.P.S. and Xanterra here. NPS for their part wants Xanterra out. Neither wants the other here, it’s been a shotgun wedding from the start. Where do I fall? I’d be called a traitor, but with NPS. It’s the natural canyon I love, that I came out here for, and for who I thought I’d be working for (N.P.S.), not a ‘for profit’ corporation trying to making a buck for itself/share holders. To those who I have had rare time to talk with at length on the phone, they knew my feelings long ago about how I sadly discovered the low pay, high stress and severe under staffing of this company was making it hard to stay. The treatment of foreign exchange students who had NO idea of what they were getting into, is especially disturbing. Though there are many sites you can find to read about what is wrong with the company by searching on the nickname the company has been given by ex-workers, “Xanterrible”, the following link accurately explains what I have seen myself and, has been standard practice for the two years I have been here. It’s sad really. . .

  59. Don October 18, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

    I have worked in almost every national park in the United States (as a concessionaire worker) in my lifetime.

    Unfortunately, I can not leave my real full name or e-mail here (I would love to) because of possible repercussions from national park concessionaire upper management that I have worked at in the past and also from the concessionaire I presently work for.

    That being said – I just wanted to add one or two more things to the list above:

    A lot of national park workers are currently using Coolworks.Com now to find a job.

    Be very awre of concessionaires that advertise on Coolworks as being “year around employment”.

    What happens is that the lodge, hotel, or other establishment may actually be open year around, but at the end of the “tourists season” most employees are actually laid off while upper management is left to operate the facility during the off-season.

    You may think you are being going to a park for a permanent position to find yourself sadly unemployed (and homeless) at the end of the season.

    Lastly, someone deserves a medal for writing the above article. There needs to be a LOT more mention of this subject on the internet today – Thank you!

  60. Don October 18, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    I have worked in almost every national park in the United States (as a concessionaire worker) in my lifetime.

    Unfortunately, I can not leave my real full name or e-mail here (I would love to) because of possible repercussions from national park concessionaire’s upper management that I have worked at in the past and also from the concessionaire I presently work for.

    That being said – I just wanted to add one or two more things to the list above:

    A lot of national park workers are currently using Coolworks.Com now to find a job.

    Be very aware of concessionaires that advertise on Coolworks as being “year around employment”.

    What happens is that the lodge, hotel, or other establishment may actually be open year around, but at the end of the “tourists season” most employees are actually laid off, while upper management is left to operate the facility during the off-season.

    You may think you are going to a park for a permanent position, only to find yourself sadly unemployed (and homeless) at the end of the season.

    Lastly, someone deserves a medal for writing the above article. There needs to be a LOT more mention of this subject on the internet today – Thank you!

    • Michael D. Yates October 18, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

      Thanks for your note, Don. There should be Congressional hearings about concessionaire workers in the parks. Michael Yates

  61. zach pearce October 22, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    If a tree fell over onto a steel framed brick house it would be no safter than a tent or tent cabin.

    Most of the complainers of the concession companies are just whiny butts that didn’t know a job meant work.

    I have work a few seasons at Yellowstone and Grand Canyon.

    The pay is about what you would expect anywhere, but unlike most people making the same they can’t hardly pay rent or by food.

    Yes the pay is low but so are your expenses, in most scenarios it’s a net gain.

    I would not recommend raising a family on this pay but if you’re trying to do that maybe you should make better life decisions anyway.

    • Michael D. Yates October 22, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

      Zach, This is a pretty pathetic comment. How would you know how hard people work? The house-tree comparison is just stupid.

  62. skatee October 29, 2014 at 11:36 pm #

    Hey: Update for anyone caring to follow the twisted case of “Plaintiff” Xanterra South Rim, L.L.C. v. United States National Park Service (and of which oh, per Corporate Disclosure Statement necessary when case was filed in Denver Federal Court), we learn that Xanterra South Rim, L.L.C., “is a wholly owned subsidiary of Xanterra Parks and Resorts, Inc., which is wholly owned by Xanterra Inc., which is wholly owned by Xanterra Holding Corporation, which is wholly owned by Xanterra Leisure Holding L.L.C., which is wholly owned by the Anschutz Company. All are privately help entities.” Come on people. . If you don’t get the motives and reality of who owns the concessions, why, and the true motives, you deserve the consequences. Anyway – ALL employees here (Grand Canyon South Rim) were given a notice with their bi-weekly check or direct deposit receipt here today (10-29-2014): (verbatim) “Important Information About Your Job With Xanterra at Grand Canyon South Rim. – OPEN HOUSE – Please join us during our OPEN HOUSE to receive important information about your employment! See you there! WHERE: Kiva Room – Thunderbird Lodge. WHEN: Thursday, October, 30th 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. Friday, October, 31st 9:00 am – 5:00 pm.” See how wonderful, stable, secure, ect. it is to work here?!!!

  63. Dean Stevens December 2, 2014 at 6:02 pm #

    I was hired as a manager in Yellowstone at the Old Faithful lodge. I arrived in an RV, and lived in it happily until the upper management insisted that I move into one of their apartments. The apartment smelled horrible, like dog urine and feces. I learned later that the same management who insisted that I live there had their dogs there all winter while they worked long shifts, allowing them to urinate and defecate all over the carpet. I still don’t understand why I had to live there, but it was unbearable. Upon being hired, I was promised a 50 hour work week. At first this promise was kept, but after 7 weeks, I found that I was working 80 + hours per week, sometimes working until 2 am and then being forced to return at 5:30 am. I know this sounds unbelievable, but it is an absolute true scenario. After putting up with this for about 2 months, I frantically searched for another job, and lucky for me, I found one right away. I profoundly sympathize with anyone who would be forced to work under these conditions for more than a few weeks without options. It would be a horrible situation. What I am writing here is the tip of the iceberg of working conditions at Xanterra. I do not recommend this job to anyone, regardless of your situation. I loved the park and exploring all of the geysers, and will be forever grateful for that experience. Yet I hope that others in the future will be treated better than I was, and Xanterra will eventually learn how to treat their people better so that they retain them instead of having the destructive policy of hiring and letting people quit and then hiring more people.

    • Daniel December 7, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

      ” I profoundly sympathize with anyone who would be forced to work under these conditions for more than a few weeks without options.”

      Not a single person is forced to do this. I’ve worked many, many seasonal jobs and if any individual working doesn’t like any part of it they can always quit. It might not be in their best interest financially, but it’s an at will agreement. You can always quit. Referring to seasonal workers as “wage slaves” is completely ridiculous. I work in seasonal settings for a reason. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am not here to complain about housing, meals, wages, ect. I chose to do this. No one or anything is forcing me. I do agree that I may not work for the best corporations or have the best living standards. I do know this: I signed up for this. I filled out the application, I signed it. I accepted the job. Do not make your choices a sob story. If you do not like, simply leave.

      • Michael D. Yates December 7, 2014 at 8:57 pm #

        It is always sad and pathetic when working people buy into the employer propaganda that workers make choices just like they do. Did you ever stop to ask why jobs are at will, try to learn something about this doctrine, whether other countries have it, etc.? Maybe try a temp job at Fox News next. They’ll love you. You remind me of the guy I worked with who said he didn’t need a union; he would rather just sit down man-to-man and negotiate his pay. You’re even worse. You accept the pay and conditions, without complaint. Brave fellow.

        • Phil March 26, 2015 at 9:24 am #

          Man, I’ve read every comment on this page, and for the most part I tend to agree with you Michael, but damn the hostility here is a little over the top. I have never worked in a national park, but I have been obsessed with the idea of living for an entire summer in Yosemite and I don’t see any other “cheap” way to do it. Read, cheap, as in … I’m not expecting to make money, I just want to be in the park for 3+ months and not LOSE much money. How else can I accomplish that? I currently have a good paying job, and am not allowing myself to follow through with this plan until next summer at which point I will have enough $$ stocked away to survive the summer with or without their wages, as well as some set aside for when I come “back”. Even after reading the horror stories, I am still enticed. Am I crazy? Or for someone like me who truly doesn’t give a shit about the hourly wage, who will be a great employee on the clock but who will try to get the lowest responsibility job and will give away as many hours as he can to people who “need” them … doesn’t it seem like it might work out? Or am I deluding myself? haha … anyway, glad this discussion exists, it has given me a much better view of what to expect. Thanks.

          • Michael D. Yates March 26, 2015 at 3:10 pm #


            I doubt you’ll regret a summer at Yosemite. Especially if you are not particularly concerned about money. Even the work can be interesting, certainly in terms of meeting some good and interesting people. My blog post criticizes working conditions and says something ought to be done about them. But in my book, Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate, there is an entire chapter about our summer in Yellowstone. In it, I have lots of positive things to say about our experiences there.

            Thanks for your comments.


  64. Steve Smith December 27, 2014 at 11:54 pm #

    I worked at Old Filthy from 96-98 (when I got fired). Just about every crappy thing you read about the concessionaires is true. However, working there changed my life. I met my wife there (like many others) and then moved in Bozeman to try to make it in Montana i.e. the best state in the nation. Almost 20 years later I live in a beautiful, rural part of Southwest Montana. My wife and I have a home, a daughter and good jobs. I would never live in the park again. But I’ll hover around the flame for the rest of my life.

  65. Saviour Greenarch Noida Extension January 8, 2015 at 3:18 am #

    The thing that stands out about the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church
    by the Roman Emperor Constantine is what it is based
    on. history that should be blazoned on the desk of everyone who tries
    to sell snake oil to an unwary A. But as for the buildings that were already engulfed, they will let them burn out.

  66. fozzy January 16, 2015 at 7:50 am #

    First, thank you to the author and to everyone who has contributed to this discussion! It has been very informative!

    I am considering relocating to accept a full-time, technical mid-level management position at GC, I would be working for Xant. There’s a possibility, I suspect, that I may be considering skatee’s former job…?

    Housing would be provided at a low cost, and as I understand, would be a modest single family home. I am just wondering if anyone has any specific, helpful info regarding the overall living and working conditions at this location for mid-mgmt?

    I am excited about many potential aspects of the job: boss seems great; getting the constant opportunity to experience & explore such majestic surroundings; working within a small, tight-knit community, etc… all would be an excellent great fit for me.

    Thanks in advance for your feedback!

    • Michael D. Yates January 16, 2015 at 1:36 pm #

      Fozzy, thanks for this. I wish you the best and hope all works out well at the Grand Canyon. Get all the details first and in writing! Michael Yates

    • fozzy January 16, 2015 at 3:06 pm #

      Thank you Michael & thanks for the tip!

  67. Karie M January 17, 2015 at 7:32 am #

    I have to add my horrendous experiences to this article….In 1981, I worked at Yosemite National Park, working in Curry Village & yes living in one of the tent cabins mentioned in your story. First of all, there were so many mice (hence the hantavirus breakout years later), I actually had one fall on my head while sleeping. Secondly, bears had to no reason not to go in & out at will which was obviously a huge safety issue. Thirdly, Yosemite was under investigation for a huge cocaine ring going on since at that time (it was owned by the same company that owned Universal Studios-I believe MCA), where a Fed officer was killed right before my arrival, which you can read about online. Unbelievably, my roommate was involved in that drug ring & offered me drugs which I rejected because I was very straight. From that point on, I was viewed as a possible informant & had to leave the park for my own safety despite the fact, I was a model employee – never being late, working hard & always being very nice to the guests despite being yelled at by them daily, due to their impatience to buy things standing in long lines. Yosemite was truly a nightmare chapter in my life. Then in the 80’s, I worked for Jackson Lake Lodge in the Grand Tetons at Coulter Bay. My experience was much nicer there, EXCEPT I actually got salmonella from a meal they had served us employees & literally almost died from food poisoning. Other that, the Grand Tetons was not bad but the wages horrible in both to say the least. So there you go. It doesn’t sound like much has changed in the last (30) years most unfortunately!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Michael D. Yates January 17, 2015 at 11:34 am #

      Karie, Thanks for these interesting comments. Yes, things don’t appear to have changed much. Perhaps it is time to begin a campaign to change things. Any suggestions from anyone?

  68. Hilary January 27, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

    A thorough and sensitive post. I’ve worked a bunch in parks but always for NPS, so the concession lifestyle was something with which I had very little first-hand experience, but which I witnessed. You bring up a good, probing point about the park’s being willing to upgrade the housing to make it good enough for guests, despite its being considered already adequate for employees. Everything you write about, I’ve seen at Yellowstone–the inconsistent hours, the cruddy employee dining room food, the incredible stress laid upon the wait staff. A good friend of mine developed panic issues, nightmares, and a sleepwalking habit while under the employ of folks at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Other people I know have had fantastic experiences with Xanterra, also at Yellowstone–there are some lifers among them–but all in all it’s a pretty sick model to be promulgating in an institution (the parks) that we consider (falsely/incompletely) to be so pure and good.

    • Michael D. Yates January 27, 2015 at 7:21 pm #

      Thanks, Hilary. It is a sick model. Guests have no knowledge of how workers live and are treated. Maybe we should find ways to let them know.

  69. Tora February 4, 2015 at 6:23 pm #

    WOW…. I had no idea how bad it could be and apparently is to work for Xanterra. I just sent an application off to work at the South Rim. Usually I look for a blog like this one before applying, but I didn’t think it would be bad at a Nat’al Park. Darn I don’t even want to visit the park now. Thanks for all of the sad info….

    • Greg May 29, 2015 at 9:15 pm #

      Experience it fou yourself,don’t listen good or bad to other people.i’ve worked in Yellowstone,grand canyon,Yosemite,all different experiences.go for the park experience,not the might love it or hate it.

  70. Annonomous February 11, 2015 at 5:28 am #

    Recently, I was employed by Xanterra to work in one of its National Parks and experienced first hand much of what you talked about in your article. My experiences put me in the emergency room. Weeks later, I still haven’t recovered from the experience.

  71. robert February 20, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    I first worked at Yellowstone back in the summer of 83. I was 19 and out of college for the summer. old faithful was great. had a great time. beth casey was my housekeeping mngr. well I came back in the summer of 2010. lake lodge,cabin leader. then old faithful, team leader. winter at snow lodge, outside cabins only. I loved it. best job I ever had. worked for kim s. and barry j. met lots of great people, Marcia for one. after the winter I got hired on as ass. housekeeping manager at lake. training at mammoth was very professional, and learned a lot. Victoria is one of the best people to work for. well I messed up and got fired. I have no ill feeling for xanterra at all. good food, nice living condisions, all around a great place to work for. thought one good reply was in order.

  72. deborah February 22, 2015 at 10:59 am #

    Hi, bummer except for last comment. Good to be informed. I thought this was going to be another one of my brilliant adventures, I’ve been considering it a bit. I’m 57 and in my last chance Texaco mode and thought was a great opportunity to be a free spirit for awhile, since corporate job of 30 years eliminated… oh well, maybe plan “B” travel around US and stay in different areas on my own and seek employment. Thanks everyone for the insight… :0)

    • Michael D. Yates February 22, 2015 at 3:28 pm #

      Dear Deborah, Even though I wrote the original blog post and believe firmly that there should at the very least be a government investigation into working conditions at the national parks, I don’t regret working at Yellowstone for a summer. I liked my fellow desk clerks and it was at Yellowstone that we began to appreciate nature more and enjoy the hikinge we have been doing for the past 14 years. Yellowstone also helped encourage us in the wanderlust that has kept us moving from place to place, always in search of beautiful vistas. Taking a job for one summer might offer you a lot of insights into what to do next. And at least now, you’ll go into the job with your eyes wide open.

  73. Bethaven Spade March 29, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

    This sucks! Every one of the parks 25,000 employees could make 40,000$ a year- and I can’t say that they should! If everyone made 40k…Flippin Nazi’s

    • Drew Everett April 2, 2015 at 6:09 pm #

      What a moron.

  74. Drew Everett April 2, 2015 at 6:08 pm #

    Just another left wing anti-wealth vomit session and attention grabbing headline. Slave? Harsh. I wonder what actual slaves would have to say about this article. I think Ryan’s lifestyle would be seen by REAL slaves as paradise on Earth. He signed up for that job no? Was he forced labor? Was he abducted? Was he kept from communicating with his parents or social media? No? So he chose that job and knew what he was signing up for? No shit. Typically, individuals who major in Forestry or whatever it is that led them to pursue this line of work, enjoy the outdoors, and view camping as a great escape. Getting paid to? Sounds awesome, for awhile. Ryan’s real problem that he may very have made bad choices in life and wasn’t very successful, so at 27, had to retreat into the woods and work a shitty job. Was he an engineer or MBA? Am I missing something here? Oh, right, it is the billionaires fault. I forgot about that. Fuck any and everyone that was involved in this publication and those who support it. You are the American Cancer, and I wish you to be removed. Move to Sweden hypocrite, it sucks 100x more you’ll see.

    • Michael D. Yates April 2, 2015 at 6:17 pm #

      Drew, I post all comments, including those of moronic jackasses. Is that drool I see dripping from your mouth? Or just shit?

  75. Drew Everett April 2, 2015 at 6:11 pm #

    I love how this blog has a moderator who won’t post anything they don’t agree with. Typical liberals. Like China, Russia, Cuba and the DPRK, etc, they are minders that while they scream for equality and EO, they have no tolerance for people that disagree with them. Where is my EO, my comment equality? Asshole hypocrites every one of you.

    • Greg May 29, 2015 at 9:08 pm #

      I agree if you don’t like it,work somewhere else.

  76. Greg May 29, 2015 at 9:06 pm #

    Worked there in 95,97 in the summer,I knew what the pay was going in yes it’s not great,but no one is putting a gun to your head.I was there for the hiking and the experience.You don’t like the pay then don’t be an IDIOT.Work somewhere else.

  77. Monello June 30, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

    I worked 1 season with Xanterra in YNP. It was a job. It wasn’t the worst job I ever did by a long shot. I thought it was fair for what I did.

    They don’t sell the job they sell the park experience to the potential employee. I worked with a lot of great international kids.

    It is by far the horror stories that people put out. It is different things to different people. The food was decent with lots of selections.

  78. Aloha 18505 July 6, 2015 at 11:53 pm #

    Great article… 100% right on…

    I worked in Grant Village @ YNP – When our employees stopped going to the employee pub (to save our last month’s paychecks), they removed the pool balls from the lobby pool table, because everyone resorted to playing lobby pool over the pub….

    They took 1/2 my pay in food and board, I lost money traveling to and from PA, but the worst had to be the financial hit all the international workers got as they traveled to and from the park…

    It was a great summer I’ll always remember, maybe Ill be done paying my debt off by next year…

    Grant RC ’14

  79. PAUL PAGODA November 23, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

    I worked this past summer as a seasonal employee (Cashier) for the Delaware North Corp (DNC) at the Yellowstone Adventure Store at YNP. Loved the whole experience. Worked with a great group of people. Some young. Some old. All very nice. Living in the dorm was not all that bad. Noisy sometimes but not always. Some mice. Caught some, others got away. Food in the EDR a pleasant surprise. For roughly $3 per meal I could not have asked for anything more. Opportunities for seconds at EVERY meal. Box lunches made to order for those days I was off and planned to be “off campus”. Food was plentiful, always served warm and for the most part very tasty. As for DNC management, I can only comment on my manager at the Adventure store and the manager at our sister store (Canyon General Store). They were both very accommodating almost to a fault. Willing to work with us in terms of arranging schedules. I had family visitors from back home and my manager was able to let me take several days off during peak season (mid-July) so I could spend time with my visitors. Of course the pay was not great but as others have overserved, if you are working in ANY national park it’s not about the money. It’s about the opportunity to work with some great people in some pretty amazing places. Will I go back for Season Two? Giving it some very serious thought. Indeed nothing I experienced during Season One was that bad or troublesome. Anyone considering working at YNP just has to have realistic expectations.

  80. Roger November 24, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    I had a great experience at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Lake Powell. I went out for a summer job and ended up spending almost 5 years there.

    The housing was a dorm room, the meals were at an employee dinning hall, and I worked in the restaurant. We worked long shifts with not enough staff to handle the business but we had fun doing it.

    There were the same complaints, low pay, long hours, crappy housing from some people, but they typically didn’t make it or somehow got themselves fired. If you got fired, you were 4 hours from the closest decent sized town, so you had to find a ride to Grand Junction or Salt Lake.

    It came down to making the best of what you had, and enjoying the park. We could take a speedboat out for minimal fee and gas. We would ski, hike, drink, party, and do all the things that young people do. They were some of the best years of my life.

    I would recommend anyone with an open mind and sense of adventure to give the parks a try.

  81. Sean November 28, 2015 at 9:24 pm #

    Well, this article really does do some justice for the workers who are so horribly treated in most national parks. I myself have worked at 3 national parks operated by two different companies, Xanterra and GPI. GPI wasn’t that bad as it was a relatively small concessionaire of the Viad corporation (Owner of Dial soap). It certainly was a less than desirable living situation with poor housing, Bad food( though my specific location was not that bad as it had the main chefs cooking for the employees due to the small size of the location), and terrible working conditions as most of the equipment was outdated and in poor condition. The hours were very diverse and difficult but my supervisor was amazing and helped us cope. The real joy was the scenery, small location size, and fantastic fellow employees. Those small joys were worth the suffering as they provided the true magic that is living in a place as magical as Glacier National park.

    However, my other employer, Xanterra was a different story. The even more depressing facet of this is that they won the bid to be the concessionaire of Glacier. Their employment was miserable with poor wages, horribly fluctuating hours, and little to no chance for employee input on their protocol. My supervisor was fantastic but obviously worn out from the crap work environment she was forced to cope with. I worked as a supervisor to the room attendants tasked with housekeeping the rooms. My job was to meticulously oversee their quality of work and make corrections, suggestions, demands, and even cruel punishment if their quality or finish time was poor. This not only caused an awkward position for your fellow employees who you would encounter in the only allowed place to drink… the employee pub, but also caused unneeded stress that led to depressingly difficult days where no person is happy. Also, as most team leaders/inspectors were American it felt like there was some cultural divide as well. Some of the equipment we were using was falling apart and filthy beyond reason. Most was outdated 15 years or more. Some was so old you would see carvings on the handle from 1965. Heavy vacuums that barely worked, chemical bottles that barely functioned, and some of the oldest and most archaic cleaning techniques you could fathom.

    The living conditions were barely livable with the older dorms being cold, dirty, and uncomfortable. As well as the fact that you had to pay to live in them. Imagine paying 20-30% of your wages to a dorm that was so horrible you avoided as much as possible, as well as paying for your food and pub expenses to eat prison level food and enjoy the overpriced and stressful “employee pub”. In the end maybe 60% of the wages went to just surviving in Yellowstone. Even worse is the fact that most foreign employees having to pay money to the company that provided the opportunity to work here, in which they demanded absurd amounts of money. Much more than would be required for a simple plane ticket and work visa. Some were even so far behind that the money they borrowed didn’t even come close to what they need to pay back said companies, a depressing prospect indeed.

    As I am running out of time I will conclude with the fact that Some practices were downright illegal. Overtime was not offered after 40 hours, employee grievances were downright ignored, and living conditions occasionally proved to be unsafe. All this compounded by guest who would treat people like garbage all boiled down into a melting pot of insanity.

    Reform in this National park system is necessary if we are to maintain what makes them so majestic and natural, and that is the humanity we attempt to inject these beautiful and natural pristine settings. Perhaps some type of union is in order or at least threatened if we are to achieve the purpose of the national park system…..The preservation of Beauty.

    • Michael D. Yates November 29, 2015 at 10:17 am #

      Sean, All I can say to this post is AMEN! If you read some of the many comments here, you will see that we should have known what we were getting into, so why should we complain. Too many people say this about work. As if we have a choice not to work and it is our fault if we have a rotten job. Well, you should just leave, they say. Unfortunately there are nowhere near enough good jobs to go around. People used to say stupid stuff like this where I used to work. Until they were treated poorly. And then it was “can you help me do something about this?” Michael Yates

  82. Eric December 19, 2015 at 10:26 am #

    Look, these living conditions sound awful, no doubt.

    The reality is these employees aren’t slaves. They aren’t forced to go there; they do it of their own free will. If it sucks so bad, don’t do it and force the owners to provide decent conditions.

    As long as they keep signing up to work, why should the owners spend the money to make it better? There is no incentive to do so.

    • Michael D. Yates December 19, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

      Now if only the libertarians would say that what the rich and the corporations do to degrade us and the earth is their fault!

  83. Kevin Lewis December 30, 2015 at 11:13 pm #

    I worked briefly for DNC in Yellowstone in 2013. The pay was abysmal, the work was hard, and the hours–especially if you got stuck with a split shift–meant that you actually got to see as much scenery as if you had been in, say, Cleveland. The food was actually pretty good (I was told that the EDR had been massively improved since the previous year), and since it was early in the season, I had a room to myself, so I didn’t get the wonderful experience of sharing a tiny room with a stranger–I would have slept in my car rather than share a room with any of the misfits and druggies I worked with. The dorms were run down but serviceable.

    The kicker was that this was only a temporary assignment, and I was going to transfer down to West Yellowstone for an accounting position. They set up an apartment for me to “share” in town. When I got there, I found that my workspace was 1/12th of a cramped, overheated room, and that I would be “sharing” a two-bedroom apartment with four teenage boys!!! I told them that the work and living arrangements were unacceptable and that I couldn’t take the position–they had lied to me about everything, including saying that I would at least have my own bedroom rather than splitting it with two teenagers!!! So, they’ve blacklisted me. I could not care less.

    The sad fact is that in this kind of work, you often wind up with a tiny paycheck, they work your ass off so you’re too exhausted to enjoy your surroundings when you do get some time off (the usual way people spent their (single) day off was to sleep for sixteen hours, then wake up, do laundry, and sit around with a bottle of beer and a glazed expression), and hours and shifts fluctuate seemingly at a whim, so you can’t even make any plans or have a budget.

    In my bizarre socialist way of thinking, if the job imposes certain inherent conditions on you, the company should pay for the costs thus imposed. If you’re a miner, they pay for your hard hat. If you’re a bus driver, they pay for your uniform. And if you’re fifty miles from the nearest town (as I was in the first phase of my job), they should pay for your housing, and make it DECENT housing. The West Yellowstone apartment was going to cost me $250 a month. That meant that DNC was getting $1250 from the five of us for a ratty, cramped two-bedroom apartment!! Profit from every phase of operations, that’s what keeps our corporation strong!!

    • Michael D. Yates December 31, 2015 at 8:02 am #

      Thanks for this. Now if only the “rugged individualists” who have posted here saw the light! They are workers, but for the, workers are always at fault. You should have known better, they say.

  84. William Panama April 17, 2016 at 6:03 pm #

    Disregard this article. It was obviously written by someone who was a product of florescent sunshine and forced air wind. I have worked seasonally for the national parks for years. People line up to work at these seasonal jobs for a reason. You get to work in an amazing environment. Yes, the conditions can be mildly, and I mean mildly, primitive. It is a wilderness after all. People that are appalled by plastic trays need not apply. Sadly, we have become such a nation of weak, pathetic, whiners. It’s sickening.

    • Michael D. Yates April 17, 2016 at 6:38 pm #

      A real tough guy. Stupid too.

  85. mike May 12, 2016 at 10:20 am #

    Michael, Can I get a min on the phone with you? or by direct email?

  86. mr Rodgers June 16, 2016 at 4:07 am #

    Nice article showing exactly what it looks like in Yellowstone

  87. anon July 19, 2016 at 10:44 am #

    The worst thing I have come across working for Xanterra has to do with the lies that the management tells the staff about overtime. The lie is “we don’t have to pay time and a half until a person works 48 (that’s right, forty eight) hours a week due to Wyoming State law. The truth is that the State of Wyoming follows Federal Overtime laws – which I found out by contacting the Wyoming Department of Labor (which has a slightly different name, but holds the same government position) – BUT there is a Federal Exemption for Seasonal workers in “Amuesment Parks” – The upshot of this being that considering the FACT that the Parkwide Management LIES to their employees I am fairly certain that the Parkwide management is engaging in Embezzlement and THAT is probably the true source of complaints regarding the a.) long hours (if you’re stealing someones overtime pay you WANT them to work lots of overtime, so you cam steal more from them) and b.) the crummy food and housing conditions (If you’re going to steal from your employees by refusing to pay them their wages what’s going to make you pay for up keep on their housing or make you provide decent food?)

    I am going to say that I don’t think it is the fault of either Philip Anschutz or Xanterra the company or even the National Park Service, I will say that it is the fault of certain people who think they can exploit people who don’t know their rights. Those individuals are going to have the unfortunate experience of dealing with someone who does know their rights, and this person DOES NOT LIKE BEING LIED TO. Wyoming State Law? My ass! I caught them once, what else are they lying about?

    • Michael D. Yates July 19, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

      Thanks for this post. This sheds some light on hours policies in the parks. Also should serve as a chastisement to the libertarian zealots who have posted here, arguing that everyone knew going in what to expect and should simply not taken these jobs or quit if they were unhappy. Their assumption is that workers have some sort of complete knowledge and can make perfectly rational, self-serving decisions in the labor market. Unfortunately, labor markets are almost always marked with asymmetric knowledge. Employers know many things workers do not. Also, they assume that liars and cheaters will be driven from the marketplace, despite massive evidence to the contrary.

      • OH October 4, 2016 at 1:50 am #

        TBH this sounds more like a middle manager accidentally citing the wrong source for a rule than a conspiracy. All of the NPS concessions can withhold overtime until 48 hours due to a national exception. The issue is with DOI and/or Congress, not the local sap who is dealing with insane stress and often making less money than the people who work for him/her.

  88. Good Luck August 30, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

    When you apply for a position with Xanterra, they advise you during the application/hiring process the good and the bad; however, the ugly comes after you arrive to begin your job. Xanterra management knows that approximately 2/3’s of their employees, do not have a mode of transportation to leave if they should quit or be fired. Therefore, as the ole saying goes they have “you by the balls”, meaning you cannot quit or be fired, without causing a financial/transportation burden to leave. If this type of employee had a way to leave, without costing them a fortune, I am sure many more would leave during the season before their contract is up. For those of you who want to find out as to what the “ugly” can encompass, just apply, then accept…

    • Michael D. Yates August 30, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

      These truths somehow seem to elude those who heap praise on Xanterra and the other concessionaires.

    • Jillian M. December 25, 2017 at 7:29 pm #

      At Xanterra at one location, they can’t seem to put out a schedule for their cafe employees at all. They change schedules mid week, so SOL if you had a doctor appointment. They never stock, ever. So if you want milk, you can’t have any. Sorry guests who paid thousands. We don’t stock milk. Too hard. The wait staff are jerks to bully the cafe all the time and demand special treatment. I have never witnessed such arrogant people. It’s like they think they are princes and princesses. They scream at the cafe workers and no one does anything. The managers bully and berate the staff and intentionally make the international al students cry when they don’t understand something in English. They cost the company thousands in turnover and in having to take costly harassment training classes on the regular. But no one cares. The management is absurd. It’s a joke. The bullying is absurd. The bedbugs are absurd. The lack of heating at 19 degrees in winter is absurd. It’s a mess.

      • Michael D. Yates December 25, 2017 at 7:50 pm #

        Thanks for your comments Jillian. When I read something like this, I get really irritated by those here who argue that, well, you ARE in a National Park. Or, You KNEW what you were getting into.And other such blame the victim arguments.

  89. Daniel McGarrigle November 13, 2016 at 12:35 am #

    I worked in Yellowstone National Park two different Summers. I worked at the front desk for the Canyon Lodge and the Old Faithful Inn. My experience working for the park was amazing. My immediate bosses were friendly and amazing to work for. I enjoyed hiking camping biking stargazing and many other activities that I don’t normally do in my everyday life. I met lots of amazing people from all over the world. And I made friends who I still talk to to this day. I was there in the Years 2012 and 2014. Once in the dormitories and once in my RV . Although I enjoyed my experience, I do agree that the living conditions and food could be greatly improved. But I wouldn’t trade that experience for my life. Julie at the Canyon Lodge what’s the most amazing boss I’ve ever had. She made every day fun to show up to work. So I can’t agree about the management. Katie my boss the Old Faithful Inn was also amazing. Yes the wages should be better, yes the food should be better, and yes the housing should be better. But everything in life is what you make of it

  90. Katie March 4, 2017 at 7:55 pm #

    I loved and worked in YNP for two years and am getting ready to return there to work with my husband. Though I understand where you’re coming from in this article… I really do think that it had to have only been THAT terrible for you due to your own choices. My time in Yosemite was the best years of my life and I worked at the Village Store, the busiest, most annoying place to work in YNP. Tourists were annoying, DNC sucked big time, NONE of the food was great (for employees or tourists), some of the managers sucked but definitely not as bad as in the real world… and wages were just fine. My brother is currently a busser at the Ahwahnee and he makes tons of money. I’d say at least 95% of the people that I met working in the parks have absolutely loved it. Just like anything in life, it’s all about your perspective and what you make of the situation. I loved my managers, my job, i cooked my own delicious food (delivered by CSA) and though I was tired, i explored that park every single weekend and even many evenings after work. It’s not a glamorous lifestyle and not everyone can live it, but it’s really not nearly as terrible as this makes it sound.

    • Michael D. Yates March 5, 2017 at 8:28 am #

      Well, you know what they say about opinions. It is always a mistake to generalize from your own experiences, without any attempt to look at a larger picture, to do some research, to make an analysis. You don’t appear to even know what I was really writing about. An all too familiar example of the know nothing attitude of people in the United States.

  91. Amanda January 18, 2018 at 10:38 pm #

    I disagree with this article. I have worked in two parks , Deleware North in Yellowstone and Mount Rainier. I am headed to Bryce Canyon in May. The summers I have spent in these parks were some of the best summers of my life. I am a 27 year old female with a college degree and I continue to work in parks verses the 9 to 5 because of how much I enjoy it. I want to start off by talking about the pay, the pay is minimum wage for the area and is average for any type of service position. While of course it would be nice to make more money its hardly slave wage and the pay is worth the amazing experience of living in such a beautiful place, the great people you will meet and the fun you will have. On to housing and food….that is deducted from your pay check and is much cheaper than what you would pay for rent in the outside world….for 90 bucks a week (360 a month) you get a roof over your head and three meals a day, that is way cheaper than just rent alone in most cases. The housing I have had this far has been decent …good enough for what I pay. I will acknowledge that it makes me upset that Yosemite houses employees in wall tents but most places house their employees in normal buildings. The food for me is 50/50 it totally depends on who is running the employee dining and making the food I’ve had good and bad meals. As for foreign students I’ve met plenty and none felt taken advantage of they enjoyed their time here and still saved enough money to travel. Also most parks provide an employee van to take employees on trips during their days off which particularly allows foreign employees to explore and enjoy the area on their days off. I also want to comment on the fact you mentioned that parks are busy and stressful while this is true , your off time is so peaceful and nice that it gives you a chance to recharge. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work in these parks and even though I have other options I will continue to travel and enjoy these jobs for a few years to come.

    • Michael D. Yates January 18, 2018 at 10:59 pm #

      Thanks for your comment. As they say, to each her own.

  92. Julie Wochholz March 3, 2018 at 5:08 pm #

    I see this article was posted in 2012 and it is 2018. Any progress at all? I understand the folks who see the good side of working in YNP, or some other NP and agree with them about the beauty, meeting wonderful people, etc. But I also agree with you that workers should not be subjected to deplorable conditions. The Federal Minimum wage is still $7.25/hr. Pretty outrageous. And pretty sleazy to deduct from wages for rent for a tent. At a minimum, it would be better if the workers did not have to pay for room and board. It is not like the corporation is going to rent out the tent or dorm space to a NPS guest. These are worker quarters. Given today’s political climate I expect nothing to be done to address this, but maybe at some future time.

    • Michael D. Yates March 3, 2018 at 6:34 pm #

      Julie, I have had people talk to me on the phone in preparation to write something about this disgrace. But no action I know of.

      • eftchef March 5, 2018 at 3:44 am #

        i Start work at the Old Faithful employee dining room on April 13th i will keep you posted and keep in mind i worked for Amtrak i could write a book about living and working on the train.

        • Michael D. Yates March 5, 2018 at 10:59 am #

          Yes, keep us posted. Thanks.

  93. ernie williams May 22, 2018 at 9:47 pm #

    Looks like working conditions and pay hasn’t changed in decades. From 1970-73, I worked at Yosemite National Park doing anything from cleaning out the heads (bathrooms for those of you not knowing what a head is) to the night audit. Loved the place, backpacked everywhere, but the work was the pits because they were always short of people so you had to work more than 8 hours and many times six days a week. After they took out for room and board I had about 45 bucks/week left, which didn’t go far because at the grocery store in Yosemite Village prices were jacked up. In 1974-75, worked as a bellman at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (El Tovar Hotel and Kachina Lodge) which, because I pulled about $800/month on tips, my take home pay was about 85 cents/hour. The first month I was there, turnover was so bad that I had a different roommate nearly every day and one day a different roommate in the morning and a different roommate in the evening. Beautiful place but, like Yosemite, terrible working conditions. And the employee food was so bad that when I complained about my slice of bread being moldy, an assistant manager came over, took the bread, said, “This is what they make penicillin out of,” and ate it. I looked at him and said, “You’re sick.”
    Yep, nothing’s changed in about 50 years since I worked the national park circuit. I also worked at Sequoia/Kings Canyon and Death Valley. Same lousy work conditions, same lousy pay; other than that, great memories of all the places.

    • Michael D. Yates May 22, 2018 at 10:49 pm #

      Thanks for this, Ernie. That is some disgusting story about the bread! Yes, I think little has changed. What still amazes me is that so many people make excuses for it and say what did you expect. They blame the victim, which these days is par for the course. Police kill someone, well, it must have been the dead person’s fault. No matter the evidence shows.

      • Kevin Lewis August 5, 2018 at 9:21 pm #

        It may all be moot in a little while. Republicans have seized control of this country, and they HATE nature, the environment, and in general, all social good. They think the sole goal of government should be to make businesses as profitable as possible. The national parks are a useless frippery to them. They’re SOCIALIST–anybody can visit them!! Meanwhile, Trumper gun nuts are salivating at the thought of being able to enter Yellowstone and mow down all the bison, wolves, moose, and bears. The parks will be broken up and sold to private developers. Campgrounds will be replaced with timeshare condos.
        I think what irritates me most about Xanterrible is how their promo literature talks as if the benefit of being in a national park is one they are providing their employees and therefore, they should be grateful for the chance to work for a ridiculously low wage and live in crowded, dilapidated housing and be fed awful food (and forced to pay for the privilege). Like it’s Xanterra’s park and the wage slaves should be grateful to Xanterra for the chance to be there.
        It’s criminal that they exploit the fact that the parks are a nice place to spend a season so that people will endure all the abuse and abysmal working and living conditions. They couldn’t otherwise get away with these 19th-century working conditions.

        • Soccerbalk65 September 22, 2018 at 6:46 pm #

          Abuse ?? Do you have specific examples? Please elaborate.

          Deplorable living conditions?? According to who ?? Much of the world lives under worse conditions. Nobody is forcing anyone to stay there…..

          And to the writer of this article…..why do you use the word “slave” ?? A little extreme, don’t you think ??

          • Michael D. Yates September 22, 2018 at 7:07 pm #

            The living conditions were deplorable. Of course, some live worse. So what. Why complain when workers decry their conditions instead of complaining about the money those who own the workplaces make, without doing any work themselves.

          • TeeBoy October 25, 2018 at 10:29 pm #

            Thank you Mr. Yates for your work and support. As a supervisor with a B.A. who has been on the ‘inside’, I have become disturbed and disgusted by almost every aspect I witness here, compared to the “out-side’, normal world. I have begun to collect images, facts, documents to perhaps produce a web-documentary or write an e-book on my experiences. I feel it a moral burden that the truth be exposed. Those who have never worked in a park, have NO right to say the claims of disgruntled, downtrodden workers are false. Even at my level, I have witnessed the sadness.

          • Michael D. Yates October 26, 2018 at 7:31 pm #

            Dear TeeBoy, thanks for this note. If you go forward with your plan, please keep me posted. It is a very good idea. Michael Yates


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