By Bob Difley

buenos_aires_nwr_campsiteIn the early developing years of  the new country of the United States of America, the government promoted expansion into unsettled lands, partly to accommodate settlers, but primarily to settle the land before other governments–Mexico, Spain, France–could grab the land first. In the east the land was quickly gobbled up by railroads, cities, and whoever could get some of it.

By the time settlers reached the Wild West, this fear of other nations’ land grab no longer existed, and most of the land was retained in Federal coffers. Lucky for us. Now all that land–or much of it–is what is called public land–which means that we, as voters and citizens, own it, and we designate various Federal agencies to manage our land for us. The agency that manages the most land west of the Mississippi–and most of the desert land–is the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The BLM administers 260 million acres—about one-eighth of the nation’s land mass–in the twelve western states, including not only the vast stretches of desert that are home to snowbirds in winter, but also wildernesses, monuments, and 38 wild and scenic rivers. The BLM has over 400 campgrounds, most large enough for RVs of all sizes and with low or no fees, with some more developed sites that carry higher fees.

In addition you can boondock anywhere on BLM land, unless specifically prohibited by signs or fences, for up to 14 days within a 28 consecutive day period, then you have to move at least 25 miles away. Cost for boondocking on open BLM land is free and you are permitted to camp anywhere that is off the road.

The BLM has also established specific camping areas with undesignated campsites called Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA) which usually provide some amenities, such as trash bins, a water supply, sometimes restrooms, and a host. The cost is currently $180 for the winter season from September 15 to April 15, and you can travel between LTVA locations. A short term pass for 14 days costs $40. No fees are charged for camping outside the LTVA areas in the open desert.

These passes can be purchased from any BLM office or at the entrance to the LTVA, most of which are in the Quartzsite and Yuma areas of Arizona with some in the Mojave desert of California where tens of thousands of snowbirds spend the winter in these sprawling open desert areas. You can find contact information for BLM state and local offices on the BLM Web site.

Learn more about boondocking with my new eBook, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands

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  1. Bob

    Your book sounds very interesting. I am going to take a look at it. Its amazing that the BLM controls so much land. One eighth of the nation is bigger than most other countries

  2. Hi Bob,
    How does your new ebook on Boondocking differ from your earlier book?