By Bob Difley
In last week’s post, Do you follow the responsible–but unwritten–rules of boondocking? I wrote about the responsibilities of boondockers, common sense rules of camping in nature where there isn’t an official or ranger looking over your shoulder to make sure you don’t pollute, trash the area, destroy the natural features, or any other clueless activity that some (not you, of course) public lands users do.
But that’s the end of that lecture. And assuming you wouldn’t perform any of those evil deeds, I would like to show you some additional public lands–other than the well known BLM and Forest Service land–that you may not have thought about. These public lands are also open for boondocking, though with varying restrictions from one to the other.
NATIONAL GRASSLANDS (NG) The 20 National Grasslands administered by the Forest Service cover nearly four million acres of waving fields and rolling hills of prairie grasses in thirteen states, with more than 82% of the total land area in nine of the NG located in the Great Plains states of Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. The largest is the sprawling one million plus acres of the Little Missouri NG in North Dakota (photo above) and the smallest the 1,449-acre McClellan Creek in Texas. Camping and boondocking is limited on NG, though some do have primitive camping. If you are passing near a NG, check it out for recreational and camping possibilities. You will find the NG page on the Forest Service website.
US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS (USACE) The Corps manages and conserves the land and waters of several water resource projects and provides public recreation opportunities in all states. Recreation at Corps locations can include fishing, boating, water sports, and camping. On the Corps Web site map, click on the state on the map you are interested in for the USACE locations. Click the “Camping” box and the resulting map will display all the Corps properties in the state along with camping facilities along with those that allow boondocking. (photo – Hood Park, Ice Harbor Dam, Snake River, Pasco, WA).
US BUREAU OF RECLAMATION Reclamation manages, develops, and protects water and related resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner. This includes 289 developed recreation areas on
6.5 million acres of land and water in 17 western states for water-based outdoor recreation including camping (350 campgrounds), fishing, boating (1,000 boat launch ramps), swimming (140 swimming beaches), bird and wildlife viewing, and sightseeing. Many of Reclamation’s projects are co-managed with Indian Tribes, states, and other Federal agencies such as the FS, BLM, Fish & Wildlife Service, and National Park Service (NPS).
STATE FORESTS Each state has its own management agency. This agency frequently also manages the state parks or forestry departments, and not all state forests have recreational activities or camping–though many do. Internet searches by state or at visitor centers can provide this information.
US FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE & NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES The USFWS manages 150 million acres including the nation’s 550 National Wildlife Refuges and 37 wetland management districts. Primitive camping is allowed on some of the refuges but you might want to find out when the hunting seasons are and avoid them at that time. Usually the cost is free or minimal. Many NWRs are located next to major water ways, lakes, or constructed ponds and can provide excellent birdwatching in non-hunting seasons, often with chaotically busy nesting and roosting areas called rookeries.
STATE GAME & FISH AREAS Like state parks and forests, these state agencies have to be individually checked by state. However, be on the lookout as you travel for signed game and fish areas or places marked as fishing access and look for signs of previous campers. That is a clue to whether camping is allowed. If camping is not permitted it would most likely be signed. Otherwise, go for it.
For more RVing articles and tips take a look at my Healthy RV Lifestyle website, where you will also find my ebooks: BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (PDF or Kindle), 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck (PDF or Kindle), and Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (PDF or Kindle), and my newest, The RV Lifestyle: Reflections of Life on the Road (Kindle reader version). NOTE: Use the Kindle version to read on iPad and iPhone or any device that has the free Kindle reader app.