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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Boondockers flock to LTVAs for winter camping

One of the most common and easiest ways to start boondocking in the desert is to head for one of the BLM’s Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA), which are designated camping areas, but do not have designated campsites, hookups, or convenient amenities.

Most will have a ranger that patrols and an onsite host that can answer questions, aim you in the right direction when you need help, direct you to the nearest dump station, water fill, Laundromat, grocery store, repair shop, and provide local restaurant reviews. Some of the LTVA have onsite dump stations, restrooms, fresh water taps, and trash collection.

Make a special effort to visit a BLM Field Office in Arizona or California for the area you intend to boondock, or the BLM Web site, for more information, brochures, displays, safety tips, and helpful hints for exploring, camping, and boondocking in the deserts.

LTVAs cost $180 for the season or any part of the season from September 15 to April 15. With a seasonal permit you can move between LTVAs and between states. For $40 you can camp up to two weeks. LTVAs will be more popular (i.e. more crowded) than open desert camping in most cases (the Slabs at Niland on the Salton Sea being one exception) since they provide some organization to boondocking and camaraderie between like-minded RVers and usually lie near popular areas, such as on the California side of Yuma and at Quartzsite in Arizona.

However, the further away you go from the entrance, the more spaced apart campers become. Even during the busiest part of the winter, you can usually find solitary spots away from others (and their continuously running generators), in case you like nude sunbathing or perform strange rituals.

For the beginning desert boondocker, choosing an LTVA is a good choice for learning and practicing boondocking, since all those around you are doing the same thing, the sources of "expert" help or assistance is boundless. The advantages of LTVA include:

• Availability of drinking water on site or nearby
• Dump station on site or nearby
• Restroom on site or nearby
• On site camp host
• On site purchasing of LTVA permit
• Maps, brochures, local information
• Extended seasonal camping permitted
• Most of camping area’s surface is desert pavement, a hard, solid, supportive surface of closely spaced stones much like crude tile, or hard-packed dirt.
• A collection of RVers of every level of experience will be nearby if you need advice or help, or just want to talk about boondocking and the interesting locations others have discovered.
• If you have a problem, just open your hood and peer inside and soon all the help you could possibly need—or ever want—will be gathered around offering advice. It’s a great way to break the ice, though breaking the ice is not a difficult task among boondocking snowbirds.

Check out Bob Difley's BOONDOCKING and SNOWBIRD GUIDE eBooks at

1 comment:

  1. As usual another great informative article. I didn't know that you could "With a seasonal permit you can move between LTVAs and between states."
    I had been told that I could use an LTVA in several campgrounds that were in the BLM area around Bishop. I believe. I was told that at the BLM Office they include Crowley Lake Campground ,Goodale Creek Campground,Horton Creek Campground,Tuttle Creek Campgound,
    Pleasant Valley Pit Campground. only. I didn't know that you could use then in different states. Thanks