Monday, January 3, 2011

US Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Areas

Backroads Information-US Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Areas

If the National Park Service is the rich uncle of the natural resource agencies, the Army Corps of Engineers (COE)  is the rich uncle you never met.

The Army Corps of Engineers actually predates the United States of America being founded by George Washington during the Revolutionary War in 1775, one year before the Declaration of Independence.  How's that for an Uncle you never met?

I have worked for private industry, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service and in all those years of attending professional meetings I NEVER met a person that worked for the Corps of Engineers (COE).  They keep a fairly low profile, even in the professional community.

The Corps has 34,000 civilian and military employees.  Inside the United States, the COE is concerned with dams, canals, and flood protection.  Those dams generate 24% of the hydropower which equates to 2% of the electricity in this country.

It is the lakes created by the dams which provide the recreation opportunities on 12 million acres of COE managed land.  Congress provides them with a budget of around 270 million dollars to manage that land, mainly for recreation.  There are 420 lakes in 43 states that provide 90,000 campsites and 4,300 miles of trail, and hundreds of boat launches.  They are clearly not in the same league as the BIG 3 Federal agencies, but much of their land is concentrated in the mid-west and east, areas where the BLM and Forest Service are under-represented.

Here is the best website to start exploring COE lands:  Click on a state and a map will come up showing the COE facilities located in the state.

There are several "oddities" about COE recreation managment.  I suspect that the Corps would rather turn over the recreation facilities to some other agency to manage, rather than doing it themselves.  In fact, they have turned over 1,800 recreation sites to state parks, Forest Service, and other agencies to manage the facilities.  This is unfortunate since in most cases the COE does a much better job than those other agencies. 

The COE is never mentioned in the Recreation Enhancement Act REA.  When reading the act, I was amazed this agency was overlooked!  I know we have the "best Congress money can buy", but really you would think some Congress person would know that the COE manages Federal recreation land and facilities!!

What this means in terms of public use is the COE cannot sell the Senior or Disability passes authorized under REA.  However, they do honor them in COE managed facilities.  So, buy them BEFORE you get to the lake, and they probably will NOT be accepted if someone else, such as a contractor, is running the COE facilities.

Boondocking on COE land is usually found on lakes far away from urban facilities.  Our favorite boondocking locations are on COE lands along the Snake River in Washington state.  The COE provides great facilities, even for boondockers.  Our boondock location has a toilet, table, fire ring, and garbage pick-up.

The COE runs a first class operation in their campgrounds and boondocks.  If you're tired of paying for sub-standard facilities, find a COE managed campground or boondock close to you. 


Linda said...

Plus, a lot of COE parks have electrical hookups so you can have cheap luxury in the midst of beauty. They are worth searching out.

Tinycamper said...

In Georgia, the COE campgrounds have electric and water hookups with dump stations. They are all on huge, gorgeous lakes and most have large, private sites.

We camp there often with our senior passes for around $10.00 a night.

They are one of the biggest, most enjoyable camping bargains in the East.

Jerry said...

There are two very nice COE campgrounds near Cottage Grove Oregon, both within 5 miles of Interstate 5. Schwartz Campground is just below the dam on Dorena Lake. It's big, paved and has all hook-ups. There is a 15 mile rails to trails bike path that runs from Cottage Grove, past the campground , then along the lake shore to the old mill site at Culp Creek.
The other is Pine Meadows CG on Cottage Grove Lake. Also all paved roads and right on the lake shore.
Roads from I-5 are paved and very nice for any rig you want to drive or drag along.

Vladimir Steblina said...

Another I-5 COE Campground is just 8 miles west or Corning, California. Black Butte Lake in California as a search will bring it up.

Here is the link:

Maggie said...

My husband and I love the COE parks that we've stayed at, and think that they are one of the best camping bargains in the country.. As I type this, I am staying at Goose Point campground near Bassett Virginia. We have water and electric and a beautiful view of Philpott Lake for $10.00 a night.