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Types of Campgrounds

Thousands of campgrounds stretch across the nation. 
Some are at the end of dirt ruts and offer nothing more in the way of conveniences than a pump handle and a privy with a door that won't close. Others have live-in hosts, showers, laundry facilities, electrical hookups, and a complete schedule of organized activities.


Public 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.
 Counties and townships also manage campgrounds.
 Most public campgrounds are geared toward tent camping, although many offer a limited number of hookups for recreational vehicles.


National Park campgrounds are invariably clean and efficiently run.
Most provide amenities such as bathrooms with electrical lighting. 
Sites are well patrolled and campers must observe strict quiet hours
(usually between 10:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M.), 
which means you wont have to worry about noisy neighbors or disturbing generator hum.
 As a bonus, park rangers lead nature walks and host evening campfire programs that are geared to both children and adults.

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.

Popularity is another consideration.
During peak summer months, most national park campgrounds fill up daily.
 The smaller campgrounds are usually first, come, first served;
some larger campgrounds offer reserved sites.

Visit America's National Parks
United States National Park Service Site


National 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.
Many primitive forest and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) camps are free.

Get more detailed info on
Bureau of Land Management
campgrounds HERE!

Find Recreation Areas in your state at your BLM Website

Visit America's National Forests
National Forest Service Site

Address and Phone Numbers


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)
U.S. Department of Agriculture
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, DC 20090-6090


National Park Service (NPS)
P.O. Box 37127
Washington, DC 20013-7127


National Wildlife Refuge (NWR)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Washington, DC


Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street N.W
Washington, DC 20240-000 1


Bureau of Reclamation
Box 043
550 West Fort St.
Boise, ID 83724


U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
 3909 Halls Ferry Rd.
Vicksburg, MS 39180-6199


Quite 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.
There's one that we go to regularly that we happened upon when The Main Campsite we intended to stay at was full and they detoured us here.
I'm not going to reveal its location for it's our little get away and very secluded
on a BIG Fishing (well stocked) Lake,
very wooded with open areas also, unknown to many folks, etc.

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.


State 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.
So it pays to do your homework first.


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.

Click Here
to locate a KOA Campground in your State

For those that want to really get back to nature, and go beyond the somewhat civilized campgrounds of state parks and the like, extreme primitive camping is the answer.


What Kind of Experience Are You Looking For?

Choosing a campground should he based on family priorities. 
Not all of us are looking for the same experience.

 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.

Need Fishing Tips?

 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.

Others aren't looking for any kind of wilderness experience at all. 
They desire nothing more than to pull their trailer onto a manicured lawn, set out a barbecue grill, and split time between the Jet Ski and the golf course.

Sensibilities must also be taken into consideration.
Most guys are perfectly content to stay in your basic water-pump and outhouse campground; some women I've camped with were not as happy with such Spartan facilities.

Children who have been brought up in tents seldom complain, regardless of gender. 
But if you are new to camping and have a teenager who takes one look at the pit toilet and shakes her head in disgust, the odds of a first outing spawning a second will be considerably enhanced if you are willing to sacrifice a bit of nature for the basic plumbing offered in another campground down the road.

As a rule, however, kids are not as critical as adults.
 It makes little difference to them if you pitch your tent in the campground's most spacious site or the one that is most cramped!


Free Camping Possibilities!

Free campgrounds have other benefits besides saving you money. 
They are usually found in peaceful and scenic settings.
 Some are located by lakes or rivers and offer numerous recreational opportunities, such as boating, fishing, or water-skiing.

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,
it helps to understand a few key words commonly used to describe the facilities:

Full hookup indicates that the campground offers electrical hookups for recreational vehicles (RVs). Tent campers should always check the ratio of tent sites to RV sites with hookup. A high ratio of RV sites usually indicates a more urban camping experience, which is not what most tent campers are looking for.

Dumping facilities are underground waste disposal sites for RVs and trailers.

Resort doesn't identify a campground per se. However, many resorts do offer camping, but it usually won't be a wilderness experience.

Primitive campgrounds offer no hookups, no flush toilets, and sometimes no purified water. They may or may not have picnic tables. About all you can count on are pit toilets.

Group tenting sites are large sites for crowds, generally in the open.

Walk-in sites are far enough from the campground parking area that you will need to tote your supplies. In some campgrounds, the walk-in sites are reserved for hikers and bicycle campers.

Wooded indicates that the campground is built in a forest, which usually means a buffer of trees separate the sites, offering more privacy.

Open indicates the campground is built in a field, on the beach, or on a meadow of prairie grasses. The view of the countryside or ocean may compensate for the lack of privacy.

Flush toilets  flush (usually).

Pit toilets range from dilapidated outhouses to cinder block palaces with chalet roofs, but both offer views of a hole in the ground.

Never count on finding toilet paper in an outhouse.

  Bring a couple of rolls from home!

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