RV dump station in California

California Parks Go High-Tech With Paid, Automated RV Dump Stations

Updated on February 11th, 2024

When you RV, you expect access to free dump stations as part of your camping fees at state, national, and private campgrounds. However, California parks have been transitioning to automated dump stations that charge a fee for the service.

Let’s examine why California is adding paid, automated RV dump stations at the state’s beaches, parks, campgrounds, and recreation areas and learn what they cost.

Fee-based dump stations are becoming more common across the US, but stay here to find out where you’ll find them in California and how they work so you will know what to expect on your next RV trip!

Why California Parks Use Paid Automated RV Dump Stations

A dump station

In 2018, California began adding fee-based RV dump stations to some state parks and recreation areas as a test. The state hoped to create an income stream to help cover the costs of building and maintaining the dump stations and add them to parks where visitors would appreciate the amenities.

The state wanted to gain feedback from the public about paying for dump station use, and the first ten automated stations in the pilot program proved successful.

One aspect of the automated dump stations was to offset the costs of pumping and treating waste from recreational vehicles.

However, another issue was the environmental damage from people illegally dumping chemicals, oil, and other fluids that cause harm into unregulated free dump stations. Closing off easy access to sewer drains deters illegal dumping and will help protect the water systems within California.

The positive impact of the initial trial run of paid, automated dump stations let the state expand the service to 11 more locations, for a current total of 21.

The state plans to install more fee-based dump stations in state parks, which alters how the RV community thinks when choosing to camp at state facilities, as most agree that campground fees should cover the cost of dump station use.

How to Use an Automated RV Dump Station

An RV sewer drain

Using one of California’s automated dump stations starts by pulling up to the designated area and parking your RV. Prep your sewer hoses by connecting them to your RV waste tank valves so you are ready to dump once you pay the fee at the self-serve kiosk.

The payment kiosk will be nearby, where you will insert a credit card to cover the $10 (current) charge. The kiosks do not accept cash.

Once you pay, the locking mechanism that seals the sewer drain shut will be released. You then have 60 seconds to open the drain line to insert your RV sewer hose.

Be careful not to let the drain cover shut until your dump is complete because it will automatically relock once it closes. Also, remember to leave the RV sewer hose in place until you rinse it out with clean water so all the dirty water goes into the sewer system.

After you finish at the station, the cover will lock until the next guest comes along. Aside from paying at the kiosk and unlocking the sewer drain cover, using the dump station will be the same as when you’re at a campground or rest area.

Automated RV Dump Fee Collection Systems (Video)

Who Can Use Automated Dump Stations in California

The automated RV dump stations are available for campground guests, park day-use visitors and RVers passing through the area looking for a place to drop their tanks. Some trucks and boat owners with waste tanks can also use the dump stations as long as they can maneuver into the site safely.

Some automatic dump station locations are unsuitable for large RVs or other vehicles. Many guests with mid-to-long fifth wheels and Class A motorcoaches complain that they have difficulty parking near the sewer drain without sticking out into the main road of travel.

How RVers Feel About California Paid, Automated RV Dump Stations

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The largest complaint RVers have with the new fee-based dump stations in state parks is that the cost is no longer part of the campsite fee, and the extra expense can burden people trying to camp on a budget.

For non-campground guests, paying a fee to dump waste tanks is common and, therefore, not an issue. Private RV parks, truck stops, and travel centers charge anywhere from $5 to $30 to use their dumping facility, and transient RVers plan for such expenses.

Unfortunately, some RVers with full waste tanks that encounter a fee-based dump station will illegally dump onto the ground instead of searching for a free or lower-cost dump station nearby.

A benefit RV owners find with the new automated dump stations is that the facilities are in good working order and are often cleaner than older or free stations.

RVers also like how easy it is to locate the automated RV dump stations online to know where to go to empty tanks or what state parks to avoid if they don’t want the additional cost when camping.

Automated RV Dump Station Locations in California

Dumping an RV waste tank

Here is the current list of dump stations found in California state parks, beaches, and recreation areas, including the number of stations and the fee rate:

State Parks:

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park2 stations$10 fee
Hearst San Simeon State Park2 stations$10 fee
MacKerricher State Park2 stations$10 fee
Malibu Creek State Park1 station$10 fee
Morro Bay State Park1 station$10 fee
Red Rock Canyon State Park1 station$20 fee
Saddleback Butte State Park1 station$10 fee
Van Damme State Park1 station$10 fee

State Historical Parks

Colonel Allensworth State Historical Park1 station$10 fee

State Beaches

Doheny State Beach1 station$10 fee
Half Moon Bay State Beach1 station$10 fee
Huntington State Beach1 station$10 fee
New Brighton State Beach4 stations$10 fee
Pismo State Beach1 station$10 fee
San Elijo State Beach2 stations$10 fee
San Onofre State Beach6 stations$10 fee
Silver Strand State Beach1 station$10 fee
South Carlsbad State Beach2 stations$10 fee

State Recreation Areas

Lake Perris – 3 stations – $10 fee3 stations$10 fee
Oceano Dunes3 stations$10 fee
Silverwood Lake2 stations$10 fee

In Summary

The changes California is making to its state parks by installing paid and automated RV dump stations will help the environment and provide a source of income to keep the facilities in good working order.

If you’re planning a visit to California State Beach or campground, refer to the list above to know if you’ll get a chance to use one of these new RV dump stations and see if you give it a thumbs up.

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