Friday, April 20, 2007

Where To Go Camping

First, this blog entry is not about "camping" at Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Sam's Club, shopping malls, or any other private property location. This is about primitive camping on public land.

Many public land areas require a low cost access permit of some type, so you will need to do some research about where you go no matter what! Learning how to research camping locations is the key to finding camping sites. If you are reading this, you have the necessary tools, other than needing a big dose of patience.

Here are some ideas to help get you started finding free public camping locations...

Free dispersed camping (boondocking) is available in every USDA National Forest. There are restrictions and you should learn the rules, though they are pretty much the same in every forest. Areas can be closed to camping because of wildlife or environmental impacts, and finding dispersed RV camping may be very difficult in highly populated areas. Ask the rangers where to go. (Not all USFS employees are aware of "dispersed camping")

BLM (Bureau of Land Management) has extensive managed lands throughout the western USA. Free dispersed camping is allowed just about anywhere on BLM lands. Again, there are areas that are closed to camping for wildlife, archealogical, environmental concerns etc. BLM has more free developed camping sites than any other agency.

State Forests - Many states have state forests available for free dispersed camping. "Horse Camps" is a common term used for designated camping areas.

State Parks - While not common, some state's offer dispersed camping in their parks. A good example recently mentioned on this forum is Utah's Gooseneck's State Park.

US Bureau of Reclamation - Many dams and areas around reservoirs created by these dams have free camping. USACE (US Army Corps of Engineers) - The corps lakes offer water based recreation, and often have free camping sites available. There are usually fee camping areas with RV hookup facilites too.

State Land Trust - Most states have lands held in reserve to be used to benefit schools. Some states allow free camping on these lands, but some require a pass to camp.

State Wildlife Areas - The hidden gems! Almost every state has a division of wildlife, fish & wildlife, or similar agency. These state agencies manage wildlife areas, often called WMA's (wildlife management area)or game refuges, and primitive camping is usually allowed.

US Fish & Wildlife Service Refuges - Not all refuges allow camping, but the ones that do, have great locations!

City and county parks - There are many towns that offer free camping at the city park, and some counties allow camping at fairgrounds or other designated camping areas.

RV Camping is attempting to simplify your search by providing links to each states public lands camping information web sites. Hope this helps you find those great RV camping sites you see on the covers of magazines...they are out there waiting for you to find!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

RV Campsite Location Mapping

We've been trying to come up with a user friendly Internet map interface that will perform multiple functions. We think we may be on the right track using Google maps for example...

ALLEN <--- Clicking here will take you to a Google map with camping information in Allen, Nebraska. By clicking on the yellow marker that is displayed on the Google map, links to RV Camping Nebraska, and official camping information from the State of Nebraska is available for the town.

We would love to hear your input about using this type of information to reference free and low cost camping locations across the country.

RV Camping Home

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

New Math And
Public Campground Fees Going Up

An Open Letter to the USDA Forest Service

We received information today about fee increases for day use in the USDA Chequamegon-Nicolet NF. The information we received is copied below but the conclusion really bothers us. It states...

"Results: The Forest received four written comments concerning the proposed fee increase to date. Two were against the fee increase, one was in favor of the increase, and one thought that an increase was OK but not a 100% increase and suggested a 20% increase. The Forest received about 4 phone calls concerning the proposed increase, all of which were opposed to the increase. No other comments were received after two years of postings at fee sites. Forest press releases concerning proposed increased fees went out on March 1, 2007.

Analysis: There is general support for an increase in fees to maintain the historical level of site, setting, and service provided. "

Amazing to me that 100% of phone calls (only 4 calls), and 75% of written comments were opposed to or recommended a 4/5 smaller increase in fees at the areas you surveyed, yet the analysis states...

"There is general support for an increase in fees..."

Is this new math? I missed it!

Sorry to tell you, but out of 8 responses mentioned, 75% were against the increase completely, that would seem to me that 3 out of 4 people completely oppose the increase, yet it is stated "there is general support for an increase in fees"? No wonder the USFS is out of money, you don't listen to the people that own the land, and YOU (USDA Forest Service) asked for the information...why don't you use it!

It is my belief that most of the public using USDA Forest Service administered lands are not using improved facilities. My family and I would much prefer to camp in a quiet dispersed campsite with our self contained RV than be in a campground with others that don't care about the facilities, don't take care of them, and sometimes leave without paying the day and camping rate anyway. I know this from personal experience...I've campground hosted for USFS in Colorado.

RV Camping Home

We received the following document via email from

National Forest, State: Chequamegon-Nicolet NF, Wisconsin
Proposed Action: Increase day use fees at all current developed site fee areas on the forest. The fee is a vehicle based fee allowing all participants in a vehicle access.

Fees are outlined below.
Day Use Fees
Current Fee
Proposed Fee

Daily Vehicle Fee
$3 -$5 +$2
Annual Vehicle Fee
$10 - $20* +$10
* A second vehicle annual pass for the same household would cost $10. Limit one $10 vehicle household pass per each $20 pass purchased.

Site Description: This proposal affects 77 developed day use sites on the Forest. These sites include developed trailheads, boat launches, picnic areas, and beaches. All of the sites provide the Recreation Enhancement Act required amenities for charging a standard amenity fee.
Current Fee: See table above.
Reason for New Fee or Fee Change: The developed day use site fees have not changed since 1998. The forest has made significant improvements to most of our day use sites over the past several years.

The following list reflects those improvements accomplished since 2001:
Installed 6 new vault toilet buildings
Rebuilt 10 boat ramps
Installed 7 accessible boat docks
Installed 3 accessible fishing piers
Constructed and installed 10 bulletin boards
Purchased and installed 56 recreation trail signs
Reprinted 8 recreation brochures/maps
Constructed 19 miles of bike and snowshoe trail
Remodeled flush toilet bathrooms at two day use sites
Reconstructed 3 trailhead parking areas

The above improvements are in addition to annual maintenance items such as cross country ski trail grooming; snow plowing ski trail parking lots; snow plowing boat landings for winter access for ice fishing; and maintenance of trailheads, boat landings, and beaches. This proposed increase in fees reflects these improved facilities and allows the forest to continue the high level of maintenance that the public has grown accustomed to by continuing to clean facilities on a regularly scheduled basis, maintain parking and other improvements, and maintain a Forest Service presence in the developed day use sites both for visitor information and law enforcement purposes.

Benchmark Price Comparisons for Similar Facilities & Services:
Forest Service: In the Eastern Region within the lake states area (Chippewa, Superior, Ottawa, Huron-Manistee, and Hiawatha National Forests), the price for daily access to higher developed day use sites ranges from $3-$5 per vehicle per day to $20 to $25 for an annual vehicle pass.
Local Private and Public Providers: Private recreation providers generally do not provide this type of opportunity. County and State of Wisconsin Parks provide similar opportunities in a range of prices from $0 to $20 per person per year. Specific examples include: The State of Wisconsin Trails Pass which costs $4 per person per day or $15 per person per year fee. Oneida County Forestry has a trail pass for the Washburn trail that cost $5 per day per person or $20 per person per year. Sawyer County trails have voluntary fee that is $5 per day per vehicle or $30 per year per vehicle. State Parks also charge $7 per day per vehicle or $25 per year per vehicle to come into state parks or campgrounds for day use activities.

Public Participation:
Methods: Posted the proposed fees for 2 years at the fee sites. Discussed proposal with recreation users who commented on the fees. News releases in local newspapers. Updates on Chequamegon-Nicolet NF website.

Results: The Forest received four written comments concerning the proposed fee increase to date. Two were against the fee increase, one was in favor of the increase, and one thought that an increase was ok but not a 100% increase and suggested a 20% increase. The Forest received about 4 phone calls concerning the proposed increase, all of which were opposed to the increase. No other comments were received after two years of postings at fee sites. Forest press releases concerning proposed increased fees went out on March 1, 2007.

Analysis: There is general support for an increase in fees to maintain the historical level of site, setting, and service provided.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Where To Go Camping

The RV Camping website got it's start after a conversation with family friends that own an RV dealership in Minnesota. We were amazed to hear that the most common question they get from new RV owners is "where can we go now that we own it?". It got us thinking that there are few web sites that provide a broad range of public and private camping location information.

Every state has state parks available for RV camping. Many states have USDA Forest Service and Grasslands, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service campgrounds. State and federal wildlife areas and refuges offer opportunities. County parks often have camping facilities, and even town parks can have great campsites next to a lake or in a forest location.

Researching and remembering that there may be more camping locations than you know about in your neck of the woods will reward you with terrific campsites.

RV Camping Home

Monday, April 16, 2007

Camping & Eighty Eight!

Today, my mother turns 88. She was born in 1919 in northeastern Nebraska to Perry and Emma, and grew up in the town of Ewing. Ewing was, and is a small town where her father was the rural US Mail carrier. He was dedicated and went so far as hiring an airplane to drop mail and food to rural farmers after blizzards closed all roads.

She worked for the War Department during WWII, and she and my Dad adopted me from the Nebraska Children's Home in 1951 when I was 3 months old. My Dad traveled most of my early life as a Railway Mail Service clerk sorting mail on trains from Omaha to Cheyenne, Wyoming, Me and Mom had lots of time together, and I'm glad for that!

My folks liked the outdoors, and they made sure I learned about nature and the outdoors. We car camped all across the USA, especially in the western states. Dad made a cool box to house cooking and eating utensils, and the old Coleman gas stove was the heat source Mom used for our hot meals, and almost every meal was hot.

We hiked and camped in the Rocky Mountains, and I'm pretty sure it was Mom that talked Dad into letting me go on the ranger led hike into Grizzly Bear country in Glacier National Park around 1962. When I was diagnosed with cancer and nearly "bought the farm", Mom was there when I needed her most too. Dad died a couple years ago after a long illness, and they had discussed going to Alaska for many years but never got it done. Margie and I offered, and Mom agreed to go to Alaska with us last summer. Our Alaska Journal.

I could go on for hours about great experiences I remember from my childhood and my mother, but a simple "Thank You Mom!" will have to do. You helped me learn a deep appreciation of the outdoors and all of nature, and we wouldn't be living, camping, and traveling in our RV if it wasn't for lessons learned from you.
Happy Birthday Mom! - I Love You - Brian

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Outdoor Values

One of the fun aspects of writing this weblog is researching topics to write about. Today is no exception. We started out to write about how todays kids are usually more savy about technology than they are about what grows in their backyard. We wanted to write about camping and other outdoor activities now seem to be taking a backseat to video games and Ipods. We got sidetracked...

A Salt Lake Tribune article written by Tom Wharton spoke about just this topic, but the response to the article is what grabbed us. One response called teaching children about hunting and fishing as family fun to be "tantamount to child abuse", while another respondant was pleased because it would mean fewer people on the trail. Not one positive response about the need of kids to learn about nature and the outdoors.

We think it's important to learn about nature and the outdoors. Escape from the hustle and bustle of society and it's stress will likely become more important to people as the planet becomes more and more populated. Popular camping locations are booked months in advance already, so people will tend to extend their recreation more and more into public lands. An understanding of nature, and the limits of it's ability to sustain impact will dictate its use.

Please...take it easy on our public lands, and teach your children that same respect.

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