By Bob Difley Before flapping your snowbird wings and taking flight to the Southwestern Deserts this winter, you will probably need to make one key decision: whether you want to spend the entire season–or most of it– in the same RV resort or travel about visiting historic locations, ghosts towns, or just to see what the desert has to offer.
If you plan on a single roost, you had better make reservations ASAP since the most popular RV resorts fill up for the season rarely having room for drop-ins. If, however, you plan on wandering around, you will only need to make reservations at the most popular state and national parks ahead of time.
For boondocking, there is always room for another rig–even at Quartzsite where more than a half million RVers pass through in the three months of winter. Most boondockers buy a $180 season pass from the BLM for unlimited camping in any of their Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA) from September through April 15. You can also buy a two week pass for $40. LTVA are located both north and south of Quartzsite, around Yuma, and in the Southern California desert.
As you roam around and talk to other boondockers you will find more desert boondocking locations than you ever imagined. Many are just places where an RVer has pulled off onto an unnamed, unpaved desert track and found a nice spot behind a hill, overlooking a wash, or hidden in a grove of desert willow or mesquite trees.
Others become popular simply because one boondocker spots another and decides to join and soon there are half a dozen RVers. Though they space themselves apart from each other, they still enjoy the proximity of other boondockers. If you would like to try this open desert camping, here are some of the basic rules and tips you need to know.
- The BLM allows free camping for up to 14 consecutive days out of every 28 days on open land.
- After 14 days, you must move at least 25 miles away from your current location and cannot return for another 14 days.
- Camping is legal except where specifically prohibited by signs or fences. This may change as the BLM is working on a Travel Management Plan in which they will identify those roads that are legal to drive on. When initiated this may eliminate some boondocking locations.
- No camping within 300 feet of a man-made watering hole or tank to allow wildlife unhindered access.
- Use existing routes and trails. Do not blaze new roads.
- Camp at previously used sites, being careful not to damage vegetation.
- Pack It In, Pack It Out: Pack out your trash and any that was left by others.
- Leave What You Find: Protect cultural resources by leaving all artifacts, arrowheads, potsheards, and bones as you find them.
Check out my website for more RVing tips and destinations and for my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands, Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (now available in a Kindle version), and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Dollar (also in Kindle version).