Here’s a question from a reader of RVtravel.com about boondocking.
We’re from the Midwest and are leaving after Christmas for our first trip to the desert. We hope to spend a few months and do a lot of boondocking but don’t know where to start. Can you point us in the right direction where we’re not too isolated (we’re not that confident yet)? Thanks. —Warren and Bernice
Hi Warren and Bernice,
Unlike the Midwest, East and Southeast parts of the country where most of the land was divvied up in giant parcels to privileged founding colonists in the 1600s and 1700s, much of the western deserts remains in the hands of the U.S. government. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), certain designated portions of these public lands have been set aside as Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVAs) specifically for self-contained RVs.
A seasonal permit, which is good at any LTVA, costs $180 and you can stay or move between LTVAs as you wish with this pass. A shorter 14-day permit is also available for $40. Amenities usually consist of a water source, trash cans, and a dump station – and the ambiance and camaraderie of other boondockers. Near the LTVAs are areas of open desert where you can stay free for 14 days.
LTVAs are the ideal place to try some primitive camping, where you are in the company – but only as close as you want to be – of other friendly folks. Try the LTVAs at Quartzsite or at Senator Wash, adjacent to the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge near Yuma. If you want to learn about boondocking and the methods, ideas, and inventions that these independent RVers utilize, time spent in one of these LTVAs can be an eye-opening RV education.
For a little more privacy, check into the many Short Term BLM visitor areas that are restricted to two weeks and are free. Here you can camp in-close with neighbors, or spread out and be as solitary as you like. Then take time to enjoy the desert. Take hikes, watch for the emergence of spring’s wildflowers, hang out a bird feeder, climb a mountain, follow critter tracks in the sand, stalk a javelina, spot a phainopepla, and howl back to a coyote. Go ahead. You’re among boondockers – they understand.
Do you have a question for Bob? Email him at bob.rvtravel (at) gmail.com .