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Old 07-26-2009, 07:32 AM
Location: Cambridge, Nebraska
137 posts, read 553,863 times
Reputation: 192


The following will likely be useful to inexperienced and experienced RVers alike and even tenters may learn something. There are a lot of possibilities for camping in a tent or RV. RV owners buy their rig expecting to find that perfect place next to a mountain stream or with a great view like they see in a magazine, but the reality is they seldom find those places. THEY ARE NOT MARKED ON A MAP! You have to go looking for them. This post is about where you can go camping, I'll post about how to find those magazine shot campsites at the end of this post...

Where You Can Camp - By Brian Hoag (That's Me)

A friend of ours that owns an RV dealership commented that the #1 question they get from new RV owners is..."now that we own it, where can we take it?" The answer is the same and different for each state.

Keep in mind what your ideal campsite should have. Are you a nature lover that wants to get away from civilization as much as possible or are you more comfortable camping at developed campgrounds? Either way, just knowing the various places available for RV camping will make finding your perfect campsite much easier.

Public And Private Campgrounds (RV Parks)

Private RV parks and campgrounds are easy to find providing you have the proper tools. A campground directory is the handiest way to find RV camping locations while on the road. Listed by map and by town, these books have facility reviews, prices, directions and more. Private RV parks and campgrounds offer varying levels of amenities, but usually have power, water, and dump station available.

Public campgrounds offer a much wider range of developed camping areas. From full hookup RV campsites, to primitive camping areas with no facilities at all. Learning about public lands and the camping opportunities available will help you quickly find the best campsites.

Public Camping Locations

Here is a list of public land administrators that offer camping opportunities. Rules vary about camping on public lands from state to state, so knowing who to contact for official information is helpful. www.rv-camping.org is the best source we know of for finding all state by state RV camping opportunities. You will find all the following camping location information plus tips, ideas, and more.
  • National Parks - Our nations gems. Almost all national parks have developed campgrounds. These parks are located in the USA's most scenic and historic places. More National Parks...
  • State Parks - Every state has a park system that includes designated camping locations. Facilities range from full RV hookup campsites, to dispersed remote camping areas.
  • USDA Forest Service - Forests offer developed and dispersed camping (camping outside a developed campground) for RV campers. You can camp just about anywhere it doesn't say "No Camping". More National Forest...
  • BLM (Bureau of Land Management) - This government agency is responsible for millions of acres of public lands throughout the western USA. Primitive campgrounds are the norm for the developed campgrounds, and designated LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) camping areas in Arizona and California offer extended stays that entice thousands of snowbirds every year. More BLM...
  • USACE (US Army Corps of Engineers - also known as COE) - Water projects are located throughout the USA, and many offer camping and other recreation opportunities. More USACE...
  • FWS (US Fish & Wildlife Service) - Many national wildlife refuges offer camping suitable for RVers. Rules are different from refuge to refuge, so be sure to check carefully. The FWS website can be found here.
But wait...there are more opportunities. Many small towns offer camping at their city park, fairground, or lake. How about camping at a state wildlife management area. These lands are often only visited during hunting season, and RVers are rewarded with some of the best camping locations anywhere off season. State lands are often open to camping with or without a permit. There are county parks, community parks, state forests, state recreation areas, and more!

Finding Public Campgrounds

To find great camping locations, you need to dive in and research for the information for yourself, here are a few tips.

The Internet offers a wealth of information, and public land administrators are quite good about keeping information current on their web sites. We find some sites are difficult to navigate, but by sticking to it, you usually can find the information you want. Use various search engines. Google isn't the only search engine out there, and you may well be surprised about the different results offered by Yahoo and MSN.

Maps - There are a lot of different maps available that can help you find campgrounds and camping locations. In the western USA, we like the Benchmark Road & Recreation Atlas as it shows public lands, campgrounds, and much more. DeLorme offers great maps too, and are more popular than the Benchmark maps.

Travel Guides - These handy books are readily available at libraries, book stores, and on line at places like Amazon.com. Free travel guides are also available at every state travel and tourism office and web site. Not only will you learn about camping opportunities, you likely will find other interesting things to see and do that you hadn't thought about.

State Information Centers - Not very helpful in our experience, but there is always some camping information available.

Chamber of Commerce - This is an under rated source of information about camping opportunities. They often know of local parks and lakes that offer camping, as well as private RV parks in the area.

Camping Ethics

There are a lot of people heading onto public lands for camping and other outdoor recreation activities. It's important for all of us to remember that nobody is going around and picking up after us or our pets. We must take care of our public lands or lose the use of them. Learn about leave no trace camping principles, respect the rights of others, and always leave your campsite better than you found it.

How To Find The Best Campsites Almost Anywhere...

Boondocking is the term used for dispersed camping which is what those RVers are doing in those beautiful magazine photos we all see. You have to explore for those spots as I mentioned before, they are not marked on your map. Check out this boondocking webpage for specifics on how to find those great camping places. It includes official USFS rules and dispersed camping tips.

Hope this helps as our experience points out that most RVers and many tent campers don't know all the places available to set up camp.
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