A Typology of North Dakota Work Camps 2

Yesterday, I began to detail (and work out) and document the results of my first formal research trip to the Western part of the state. This is tied into my North Dakota Oil Boom project. My goal is to document the work camps that have grown up in the western part of the state to house the workers arriving to support the oil industry.

We determined that the best approach to document the existing camps in the Bakken counties was to sample the camps according to a formal typology.  Yesterday, I offered a formal typological description of the best-known type of work camps (Type 1). Today, I’ll provide a brief formal description of a Type 2 camp.

Type 2: This camp appears to be every bit as ubiquitous as Type 1 camps. The most significant difference between a Type 1 and Type 2 camp is the type of vehicles present in the camp. Type 1 camps consist of trailers or units that are identical, whereas Type 2 camps contain a wide range of vehicles from small “third wheel” type campers to large motor coaches. Type 2 camps offer hookups for electrical and sewage utilities. The appearance of metered electrical posts at these camps indicates that units are charged individually for electrical consumption.  The sewage and water pipes show significant signs of insulation.

Type2 2

The arrangement of the hooks-ups for electricity and sewage influenced the arrangement of the camp. Typically the units are arranged into some kind of rough grid pattern and often sit on a level gravel surface.  There were few indication of concrete pads or other surfaces around the units.  Informal alleys and roads provided access to the units and in many cases it is possible for the residents to pull their vehicles up to their units.  In the most informal of the Type 2 camps, units are arranged at angles on their lots or even parallel to the main direction of travel to carve out some private space between units.

Type2 6

Most units in the Type 2 camp show some signs of modification to make the units more suitable for the North Dakota winter. They often cover the space between the unit and the ground with either wooden panels of various panels of foam insulation. In some cases, the wheels of the vehicle are removed to allow the resident to seal the wheel wells where cold air apparently could enter the unit. It was common to see efforts to seal the windows with either insulation or metal foil to block both light and the blustery North Dakota winter wind. Some more elaborate units have plywood built mudrooms outside the main doors provided a place for the residents to take their boots and winter gear off before entering the more cramped quarters of the unit.  Some of these units have satellite television receivers attached to the sides of the trailers or on wooden posts set into the ground.

Type2 3

The diversity of units present in the camp provides a backdrop for a wide range of objects distributed around the camps. Unlike Type 1 camps which tend to be almost sterile in their lack of The object range from objects common to any household like coolers, small and large charcoal grills, small propane tanks, children’s bikes, camping and patio chairs, and tables. One of the most elaborate units had a rough fence set up around a small grassy area perhaps for a pet dog. Wooden pallets are ubiquitous at Type 2 sites. They provide raised surfaces for storage, pathways from the unit to parking areas and make shift patios. Some units had generators and larger propane tanks.

Type2 4

Units in Type 2 camps also frequently had discarded or provisional storage of objects associated with industrial work. Large blue barrels, oil cans, tires and wheels from large trucks, and various pieces of equipment.

Type2 5

Finally, we noted that Type 2 camps sometimes had units without proper hooks up arranged around the periphery of the camp. Called “boondocking” by the RV community, long term camps without hooks ups or with particular informal arrangements for electricity or waste disposal (extension cords, port-a-potties, et c.) are described as Type 3 camps. The combination of both types of units in the same camp presents a hybrid type.  At the same time, we did note at least one instance of a Type 2 camp being arranged next to a Type 1 camp that was under construction.


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