North Dakota Indoor RV Park Keeps Oilfield Workers Out of the Cold

About seven months ago I reported that a group of Minnesota partners were planning an indoor RV park to house North Dakota oilfield workers five miles south of Watford City, North Dakota.

North Dakota Indoor RV Park Keeps Oilfield Workers Out of the Cold
North Dakota Indoor RV Park Keeps Oilfield Workers Out of the Cold

When initially proposed, the idea prompted mixed reactions.

“So many people thought we were crazy,” Louis Bonneville of Carlton, Minnesota, one of the park’s owners, told the Forum News Service.

But for workers like John Coffer, who spent North Dakota winter months in his RV and once got stuck inside when the door froze, the option to move his camper indoors was a pleasant change.

“It’s nice to step out of your RV and not step into a pile of snow,” said Coffer, a natural gas plant operator.

The North Dakota Indoor RV Park recently expanded and the owners have turned down offers to replicate the concept elsewhere, said Bonneville, the park’s managing partner.

The park consists of 10 insulated and climate-controlled buildings which house 24 RVs in each building. Each building consists of eight bays, with three RV pads per bay, three overhead doors, and two service entry doors. All doors are locked for the security of the tenants.

North Dakota Indoor RV Park Keeps Oilfield Workers Out of the Cold
North Dakota Indoor RV Park Keeps Oilfield Workers Out of the Cold

Each tenant has two parking spaces with electrical hookups in front of their overhead door.
The buildings are sectioned into eight bays for fire protection, carbon monoxide and smoke detection, climate control, air exchanger ventilation, safety, and security. The interior walls and ceiling of the buildings are insulated for the year around comfort of the tenants.

Each bay is heated with a hanging electric heater. The insulated buildings remain cool in the summer, and the ventilation allows tenants to operate their RV air conditioner. The bays are lit with halogen lighting.

Standard water, sewer, electric, and gas hookups are available for each pad. An exhaust pipe is connected to the RV sewer vent. Utilities are all inclusive in the monthly rent. Phone and cable TV are available to each pad at tenant’s expense.

There is a commons building with outdoor patio and grilling area. Within the commons building there is a drop off/pick up laundry service, common gathering room with couches, recliners, flat screen TVs, vending machines, restrooms, management office, and on-site manager’s apartments.

North Dakota Indoor RV Park Keeps Oilfield Workers Out of the Cold
North Dakota Indoor RV Park Keeps Oilfield Workers Out of the Cold

The ND Indoor RV Park concept is the only indoor RV Park in North Dakota and is approved by the ND Department of Health.

Eight of the buildings have been full for the past three months and two that were recently built to accommodate 41-foot RVs “are pretty much spoken for,” Bonneville told the Forum News Service.

The park did see some tenants leave during the summer, but some who tried to return as cold temperatures set in discovered that the park was full and they couldn’t get back in, Bonneville said.

Owners anticipate that next summer the facility will stay full so tenants don’t lose their spots. In addition, the park recently added 70 outdoor spots that will serve as a “holding area” while tenants are on a waiting list, Bonneville said.

The indoor park will save people the expense of insulating their campers and it will extend the life of their RV by protecting it from the elements, Bonneville said.

The park also does background checks on tenants and the buildings provide extra security.

Only fifth wheel and travel trailers are allowed in the RV Park. No motorhomes or campers are allowed per ND State code.

The RV Park can accommodate RVs up to 40 feet in length, and 12 feet 6 inches in height.

The ND Indoor RV Park is secluded from the traffic of Highway 85. We encourage everyone to stop by and see our site for themselves! You won’t be disappointed!

North Dakota Indoor RV Park Keeps Oilfield Workers Out of the Cold
North Dakota Indoor RV Park Keeps Oilfield Workers Out of the Cold


North Dakota Indoor RV Park

Lease Rates: May-October, $1,000-$1,200/month; November-April, $1,250-$1,450/month; outdoor sites, $900/month

Location: 5 miles south of Watford City; ½ mile east of Highway 85, with easy access via County Road 37.

Address: 2052 125th Ave NW, Watford City, ND 58854

Phone: (701) 260-3668


Worth Pondering…

Creative thinking may mean simply the realization that there’s no particular virtue in doing things the way they have always been done.

—Rudolph Flesch

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Oilfield Workers Buy Up Bakken Tough Trailers

Camps for Bakken oilfield workers in North Dakota and Montana are dotted with fifth wheel trailers shielded with foam-board insulation and skirting and whatever else workers can muster to keep water pipes and waste tanks from freezing and to lower heating costs.

Dustin Bretz is shown with a super-insulated 34-foot work crew housing unit at Tour America RV Center. Many of the dealership’s RVs are headed to the Bakken oil field where the boom in jobs has created a severe housing shortage. (Source: Larry Mayer/Billings Gazette)

When Bakken oilfield workers come calling Dustin Bretz, salesman at Tour America RV Center in Billings, Montana, knows standard RVs aren’t going to cut it.

There’s camping rough and then there’s Bakken rough, living full time through the winter on the frozen prairie of North Dakota and Montana, where more than a few days of arctic weather are normal, Bretz told The Billings Gazette.

“Winter time can run as cold as 30 below zero, and a lot of RVs aren’t made for that.”

So Tour America started looking for one that could handle these harsh winter conditions and came up with a Camp Lodge, Work and Play fifth wheel custom built for the Bakken environment.

“These go relatively quickly,” Bretz said.

“It has 2 to 3 inches of spray foam on the lower chasse, heated water lines, and holding tanks. They have dual-pane windows, like your house. This is a niche product.”

In this July, 2011 photo, a man walks back to his temporary housing unit in a man camp outside of Williston, N.D. Many oilfield workers say sharing an RV beats living in a man camp any day. And, some of the oilfield work is done far from the nearest man camp, making super-insulated RVs or other manufactured housing a preferred choice. (Source: AP)

Bretz has the rugged trailers, which retail for about $34,000, parked north of his main lot in full view of eastbound Interstate 90, where semis loaded with drilling equipment and bentonite are streaming to the oil patch. His show-pony RVs are in Tour America’s corral, not so easily spotted from the freeway.

Housing of all kinds is scarce in the Bakken oilfield, where high-paying jobs have lured thousands of transient workers. Real homes are hard to come by, but so are campers and trailers. The running joke is that the oilfield holds the record for homeless people with $100,000 incomes. At a western North Dakota housing summit last spring, developers identified the need for 5,000 homes over the next two years.

That insatiable demand for housing of all kinds has become good business for Billings companies with products ready to sell. Pierce Homes now markets a modular model named for the Bakken and built by Commodore Homes. At Canadian-American Structured Solutions Inc. (CASS), the demand for oilfield housing drives a significant portion of the recently created company’s business.

“I would say the fallout from the Williston area is 25 percent of our business,” said Larry Nelson, CASS investor and CFO.

CASS, which set up shop in Billings only a few months ago, shipped a four-plex to Powers Lake, North Dakota, and created duplexes bound for Regina, Saskatchewan. The company has an apartment house building in Glendive and multiple accounts from Baker to Williston.

CASS builds its products to suit the building codes for permanent structures in whatever community to which its buildings are headed.

Bakken Reservoir fields in Williston Basin

Even businesses that don’t normally target the Bakken market are picking up customers, reports The Billings Gazette.

“We say we don’t sell single-wides, but we sell a bunch of these little cabins that are right around the $60,000 mark, the cost of a nice, fifth-wheel trailer,” said Jeff Lee, of American Homes.

Lee said American Homes in Billings has sold six of the 560-square-foot cabins since August. Not all of the buildings were Bakken bound, but he expects more will be sold into the oilfield in the future.

American sells a hunting cabin that’s a super-super insulated single-wide modular home with 6-inch walls and homelike features.

“This really is just a souped up single wide, but it has a good look and feel, laminate floors, residential doors and windows and furnaces.”

Lee said American Homes in Billings has sold six of the 560-square-foot cabins since August.

Worth Pondering…

I played as much golf as I could in North Dakota, but summer up there is pretty short.  It usually falls on Tuesday.

—Mike Morley

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Indoor RV Park Opening Soon

A family joke about living in an RV parked in a pole barn has led a Minnesota contractor to come up with a new housing solution for the Bakken Oil Patch: an indoor RV park.

Indoor RV park

Chad Lekander of Mahtowa, Minnesota, said he was researching possible business opportunities in North Dakota when he remembered his uncle’s idea to put an RV indoors, The Dickinson Press reports.

Now Lekander has formed B&H Construction Companies with partner Louie Bonneville to construct an RV park about five miles south of Watford City.

The park will consist of 10 buildings to accommodate 240 RVs and will be managed by NETA Property Management of Fargo.

The goal is to provide a safer, more comfortable housing option for oil boom workers who are forced to live in campers because of the housing shortage, said Bill Triebwasser, president NETA Property Management.

“It’s basically care-free RV living,” said Triebwasser, whose company manages 500 apartment units in North Dakota and Minnesota.

The first 48 units will be available July 1, with another 48 opening every month after that, Triebwasser said.

Kenan Bullinger, director of the food and lodging division for the North Dakota Department of Health, said this is the first such project in the state.

“I think it’s a great concept,” Bullinger said.

The developers had to work out some safety issues before the health department approved it, Bullinger said.

The buildings will have drywall partitions inside to prevent fire from spreading. Each building will house 24 campers with each building separated into eight bays.

Each camper will have water and sewer hookups, and the building will have adequate ventilation, Triebwasser said.

The park also will have laundry facilities and a common gathering room.

“We’re trying to provide a healthy, safe environment,” Triebwasser said.

If the project is successful, the partners will look to build indoor RV parks in other areas, Triebwasser said.

Concerns about health and safety of living in RVs year-round have prompted Williston officials to consider banning them from yards, driveways, and other areas within the city that are not part of an RV park.

Map of Williston Basin with Bakken and Three Forks Formations. (Source: EPRINC)

The developers haven’t finalized the rental price, but say it’s going to be less expensive than an apartment in western North Dakota and comparable to outdoor RV parks in the area. Tenants would have to sign 12-month leases.

“We’re not trying to gouge,” Triebwasser said. “We’re trying to offer something that’s obtainable and make people a little more at ease about the living situation.”

Lekander said he started researching opportunities in North Dakota after hearing about the oil development.

“We live in a very stagnant economy right now,” Lekander said of the Mahtowa area, about 30 miles from Duluth, Minnesota.

He and Bonneville will be living in North Dakota during the construction, and some of their family members will help them during the summer.

They are keeping their homes in Minnesota for now, but are looking to make a long-term commitment to working in North Dakota.

“We’re so excited to be part of this,” Lekander said.

When the buildings are no longer needed to house RVs, they would be ideally suited to be storage units, Triebwasser said.

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Worth Pondering…
Creative thinking may mean simply the realization that there’s no particular virtue in doing things the way they have always been done.

—Rudolph Flesch

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4 RV Parks Pending in Bakken Shale Area of North Dakota

During the first quarter of 2012 nearly $40 million worth of projects were permitted in Williams County, North Dakota—including three RV parks—with a fourth campground being planned in the Bakken (BOKK-en) Industrial Park.

GMX Resources finishes drilling a horizontal well targeting the Three Forks formation in North Dakota. (Source:

Stacks and stacks of paper fill the make-shift office of the Williams County Planning and Zoning Department.

The growing staff recently took over what used to be the Williams County Commission meeting room. The setting is still in the organizational stage—but it gives everyone the room they need to handle the influx of construction projects.

“I am swamped—just like everybody else,” says Jill Edson, Williams County Planning and Zoning Administrator.

While the RV Parks will help ease concern about banning them from parking within the Williston City limits, they won’t be ready anytime soon, reports the Williston Daily Herald.

“The Williams County Commissioners instructed us to fast-track RV park applications,” Edson says.

The current applications will be reviewed in May by the planning and zoning commission. The three pending projects include:

  • A 30-acre park being planned by David Loyens in the Missouri Ridge Commercial Park
  • Bill Sheldon is seeking permission to build a 5-acre project with 38 lots in the Nesson Valley area
  • Kevin Heinen is planning to build a 10-acre RV Park near 60th Street on the west side of US Highway 2

A fourth campground called the Prairie RV Park is being planned in the Bakken Industrial Park—which is located within the Williston city limits.

Bakken/Three Forks Play (Source:

Edson says the county expected a lot more interest in RV campgrounds.

Other projects that were permitted during the first quarter of 2012 in Williams County were a Jehovah’s Witness church, a school in Ray, 36 single family homes, six shops, two water depots, eight office buildings, two ready mix plants, six commercial buildings, and two apartment buildings.

Edson says they have seen a lot of residential and commercial projects during the first three months of the year and they expect the pace to continue.

“They all want high density housing, townhomes, and apartments,” she says. “There are a lot of people that really do want to help with the housing shortage.”

Bakken/Three Forks Shale Oil Area

The Bakken and Three Forks are vast, deep rock formations rich in both natural gas and quality crude underlying much of the western third of North Dakota in addition to broad areas of both Montana and Saskatchewan, an area the size of France.

North Dakota’s oil and gas fields have continued to grow and produce as rapidly as labor, materials, housing, transportation, and state permitting allow.

Expansion continues to be fueled by innovative drilling and extracting technologies, demand, and favorable crude prices.

Explorers have targeted the Bakken system for oil and gas for many years.

Three‐Dimensional Geologic Model of Northwestern North Dakota. The Bakken lies at a depth of around 11,500 feet with the additional need for rigs to drill 20,000 feet coming from the use of horizontal drilling along the formation, which is typically only around 150 feet thick. (Source:

The contemporary Bakken story began in Montana in 2000, when horizontal drilling started to open up the shale oil play.

In 2006, discovery of the Parshall Field in Mountrail County, North Dakota, created a second front of intense drilling activity.

Both the Bakken and the Three Forks have long been known as productive oil targets, but with mostly hit-and-miss economics—until the advent of a new approach to unconventional reservoirs.

It took long-lateral drilling and multi-stage fracks to tap the full potential of shale-oil production, first in the Bakken Shale, now in the Three Forks.

The Three Forks is some of the oldest production in the Williston Basin—it goes back to the 1950s. It has taken 50 years for the technology to catch up with this reservoir.

Current thinking puts recoverable oil from the Bakken Shale at just over two billion barrels, and from the Three Forks Formation at just under two billion.

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Worth Pondering…
WORRYING does not take away tomorrow’s TROUBLES; it takes away today’s PEACE.

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