of campgrounds stretch across the nation.
campgrounds are managed by federal, state, and local agencies. The
National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management. National Forest
Service, National Wildlife Refuge system, and individual state park
systems all offer many camping opportunities.
Park campgrounds are invariably clean and efficiently run.
On the down side, because of concerns about erosion and preserving vistas for sightseers, camps are often tucked back into the forests, away from the rivers, lakes, and breathtaking vistas that these parks are noted for. Campsites are often pie-assigned at the gate and tend to be small, eroded by fool traffic, and built close together, although there are many exceptions.
National Park campsites usually come at a relatively high sticker price, too.
is another consideration.
Forest service and Bureau of Land Management campgrounds range from
remote and extremely primitive sites to well-maintained facilities
with live-in campground hosts. Many Forest Service campgrounds strike
a good balance between comfort and rugged outdoor living, offering
well-spaced sites in a pristine setting, while providing basic
amenities such as purified water, picnic tables, and, sometimes,
indoor plumbing. They also tend to be less pricey and less crowded
than national and state park campgrounds.
FEDERAL LAND AGENCIES
You can make activity-specific searches, including camping, for all federal lands through a single web site on the Internet at www.Recreation.Gov
National Forest Service (NFS)
National Park Service (NPS)
National Wildlife Refuge (NWR)
Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
Bureau of Reclamation
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
often, you can find overflow forest campgrounds outside park
borders, built for campers who have arrived too late to secure a park
campsite. Some are no better than parking lots. But the farther you
get from park entrances, the more spacious campgrounds tend to be.
For example, the road that follows the Shoshone River from Cody,
Wyoming, to the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park passes
through some of the nation's spectacular scenery, and the Forest
Service campsites along the riverbank are strung out like emeralds
pinned to a silver necklace.
Vacationers pass these half-campgrounds at 70 miles an hour, rushing to grab spaces 40 miles down the road that will be half as big, twice as expensive, and much less abundant in scenic charm.
Park campgrounds are often among the most posh. A number visited on
the Oregon coast have beautifully situated and well-spaced campsites;
one park had walk-in sites on a bluff overlooking the surf. On the
other hand, the most densely crowded campground was an Oregon
state park, also on the coast, where tenters slept cheek to jowl, in
the manner of Japanese businessmen cocooned in capsule motels in Tokyo.
Municipality, township, and county campgrounds are sleepers, unmarked on most maps and unheralded by campground directories. They tend to be small, inexpensive, and surprisingly private. You can find them in the Yellow Pages of the telephone book.
Privately operated campgrounds offer an alternative to those run by public agencies. Many are no more than glorified rest stops oft the highways, catering to overnight travelers. Others are strictly RV parks, where your evening fire, if permitted, will not cast its reflection upon tent walls, but rather upon the gleaming surfaces of aluminum siding.
The popular KOA chain offers examples of campgrounds with a resort atmosphere, including showers, laundry facilities, putting greens, a general store, and other amenities that urbanize the experience.
What Kind of Experience Are You Looking For?
a campground should he based on family priorities.
If you and your children love to fish, you may be willing to bypass sites on a picturesque alpine lake that freezes solid in winter for one on a mosquito-ridden pond that is dimpled with the rings of rising trout.
Some first-time campers may feel insecure in a primitive forest campground accessed by poor roads, and would utter a sigh of relief if they could trade solitude for the peace of mind found in a well-regulated facility with a live-in campground host.
aren't looking for any kind of wilderness experience at all.
must also be taken into consideration.
who have been brought up in tents seldom complain, regardless of gender.
a rule, however, kids are not as critical as adults.
Free Camping Possibilities!
campgrounds have other benefits besides saving you money.
Here are some of the possibilities:
National Forests: You can legally camp anywhere on national forest land. Unfortunately much of the forest area is so dense that official camp sites are often hard to locate. Find any level spot on the edge of the campground. A map of the National Forest will show all the places you have to choose from!
Long-Term Visitor Areas: (LTVAs) The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) established nine LTVA's in 1983 in the California desert and along the lower Colorado River where visitors may camp for the entire winter. If you wish to stay in an LTVA you'll need to buy a long-term permit for $25 and pick a location in one of the designated areas. This permit lasts from October 1 to May 31st. You may move from one LTVA to another without paying additional user fees. Guests may stay with permit holders during the season at no charge.
City Parks: Many cities allow over-night (dry) camping in their parks. Check the local Chamber of Commerce or police station about free places to spend a night.
As you negotiate the pages of road
atlases, campground directories, and books when searching for campgrounds,
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