Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How Long Can I Camp?

Backroads Information:  Stay Limits

This is some of the stuff you probably haven't really thought about, but someting you do need to know.  Stay limits!  The rules (CFR's) are set-up so you cannot live full-time on public land.  Yes, the Homestead Act is one of the very few laws that Congress has repealed.

The stay limits differ between the various federal land management agencies.  State agencies also set stay limits.  In some areas with high demand for boondocking, the agencies set shorter stay limits.  When in doubt, check with the local office. The most common stay limit is 14 days.

Stay limits on BLM lands are set by national BLM regulations at 14 days.  Unless a different stay limit is posted, you can assume it is fourteen days.  There are areas where the stay limit has been reduced to 10 or even 7 days, and these limita are usually posted on the bulletin boards. 

On National Forests, the stay limit is set by each individual National Forest.  Many times these are NOT posted.  So you should contact the forest you are boondocking on for the exact stay limits.  Generally, the stay limits will range between 14 and 21 days.  There is usually one additional wrinkle, and that is you cannot stay more than 30 days a year on an individual National Forest. But don't be discouraged by this regulation. There are well over a hundred National Forests in the US, so it always possible to move to another great spot.   The stay limit on National Forest campgrounds is usually 14 days.  Fourteen is a popular number.

Lands managed by the Army Corp of Engineers generally have a stay limit of 14 days!!  But this can also vary from unit to unit.  Again, call the local office and ask about dispersed camping limits.

For state resource agencies and Fish and Wildlife sites the limits can vary from ZERO to over 14 days.  On some sites, due to party crowds and resulting law enforcement issues there is no boondocking, while on other similar sites you may be welcome to stay well over a week.

The Park Service is generally not boondock friendly, so check with the individual units for their stay limits.  Their campgrounds are generally at 14 days.  Lake Mead, which does allow boondocking, has a 15 day stay limit.  I guess 14 was just too short a stay for them.

As a general rule, you can probably assume the limit is 14 days unless it is posted otherwise.

The best way to camp is like the picture on top.  A clean camp with most stuff securely put away.  No litter or disorganized equipment thrown about the campsite.

Now this will get you noticed!  Do not look like your filing a claim under the repealed Homestead Act.  Notice the dog.  Notice the dog food out in the open.  Notice all the junk tossed around the campsite.  Notice the wine glass.  Yes, alcohol and firearms will get you noticed.  According to BLM they really notice a full size refrigerator running off a generator parked next to an RV.   Do not make your campsite look like a garage sale and DO NOT put up a GARAGE SALE sign whatever you do!! That's illegal.

Keep a clean site.  Keep your garbage out of sight and neatly stored.  Remember ALL boondock locations are now pack-it-in pack-it-out.   So, if you brought it with you, you are expected to take it with you when you leave. 

On that note, I have to finish with a story from fairly early in my career.  I was doing a recreational carrying capacity study at a National Recreation Area that featured a large lake with water skiing, boat camping, fishing, and houseboats.  At our initial planning meeting with the rangers, I asked if there were any questions outside the study they were curious about and would like answered.

Yes, replied one ranger, "I want to know why some members of the public go to all the trouble of bagging their garbage and then leave it on the beach when they leave?  Then the coyotes come down to the beach and tear open the garbage bags and garbage is up and down the beach and when the lake level comes up it floats and is generally disgusting". 

I was well into the study when, after completing an interview, I asked a gentleman if there was anything he wanted me to put in the notes to forward to the Park Service.

"Why yes, he said, we were told by the Rangers to bag our garbage and leave it on the beach.  They would come by and pick it up.  Then the coyotes come down to the beach and tear open the garbage bags and garbage is up and down the beach and then when the lake level comes up it floats and is generally disgusting".

It turns out that particular Ranger transferred out ten years earlier, but the new message had not gone out to the public using the lake about pack-it-in then pack-it-out.

Just pack it out.  Ranger Rick is no longer there on garbage duty.

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