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Boondocking at the BLM

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Peak of Mt. Washington in the Oregon Cascades

Peak of Mt. Washington in the Oregon Cascades

©2010 Kevin Cooley

Boondocking is popular among RVers for many reasons that range from wanting a remote and isolated nature experience, to financial ones. Boondocking is popular with full timers as well as vacationers. So, I’ll tell you where to find some good boondocking places. 

Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offers some of the most picturesque and isolated boondocking locations in the country. In fact the BLM manages 264 million acres of public lands mostly in the 12 western states. 

For an annual fee of $100 you can boondock almost anywhere on BLM lands. You can stay in each location for about two weeks, but then must move at least 25 miles from that spot, where you can stay another two weeks. 

Along with the quiet and peace of these remote locations, there are some that are a bit more populated for those who don’t mind camping neighbors. These are usually along beaches or places where there is likely to be some commonly enjoyed outdoors activities. Lakes provide a place for fishing, boating, swimming and a nice atmosphere. People are drawn to water, even if only for the view. 

BLM Monuments

The BLM lands have a number of monuments that would make a great long-term tour. These include:

Arizona:

  • Agua Fria National Monument: over 450 prehistoric Ancient Native American ruin sites dating from 1250 to 1450 A.D. and covering 72,000 acres.
  • Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument: Paleozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary rock layers, fossils, biological resources, giant Mojave yucca, mule deer, California condor, desert tortoise, and southwestern willow flycatcher seem to offer something for everyone. 
  • Ironwood Forest National Monument: Sonoran Desert, ancient legume and cactus forests, 130,000 acres, ironwood trees stands, desert bighorn sheep, birds, flowers and plants not found in other parts of the country.
  • Sonoran Desert National Monument: 500,000 acres of functional desert ecosystem, supporting mountain lions, bighorn sheep, Sonoran desert tortoises, and over 200 bird species. 
  • Vermillion Cliffs National Monument: Formerly home to at least 20 species of raptors, the colorful Vermillion Cliffs rise 3,000 feet above the Paria Plateau. 

California:

  • California Coastal National Monument: You’ll have a hard time boondocking here as this BLM Monument is located OFF of the coastline, and runs the entire distance of California coast, 1,100 miles from Oregon to Mexico. But there isn’t a single spot along the California coast that doesn’t offer peace and beauty, though it changes dramatically from one end to the other. Just the trip along Highway 1 is worth it. 
  • Carrizo Plain National Monument: Over 200,000 acres providing sanctuary to the largest concentration of endangered species in California. Several recreation opportunities.
  • Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains national Monument: Enjoy the biological, cultural, recreational, geological, educational, scientific and wildlife resources in this natural habitat. 

Colorado:

  • Canyons of the Ancients National Monument: The highest known density of archaeological sites (over 6,000) in the nation is an educational trip that makes boondocking look like a stay at a luxury resort. See how the Puebloan and Anasazi cultures survived this rugged land.

Idaho:

  • Craters of the Moon National Monument: One of the older national monuments, established in 1924, Craters of the Moon protects its vast lava fields spanning 661,000 acres. 

Montana:

  • Pompeys Pillar National Monument: On the banks of the Yellowstone River Pompeys Pillar rises to provide an ancient observation point dating back 11,000 years of known human occupation in this area.
  • Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument: 370,000 acres surrounding a 149 mile stretch of river preserves historical sites like the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail and the Nez Perce National Historic Trail. 

New Mexico:

  • Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument: Located in north central New Mexico are 4,000 acres of volcanic eruptions that took place 7 million years ago and left behind cone-shaped tent rock formations. Wow, beautiful!
  • Prehistoric Trackways National Monument: In southern New Mexico this 5,280 acre monument preserves Paleozoic megatrackways of fossilized footprints. Lots of opportunities for hiking and horseback riding.

Oregon:

  • Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument: If you like bird watching there are more than 200 species of birds to keep you busy here, along with the incredible beauty of these mountain ranges, fir forests, oak groves, a wide variety of wildlife, wildflowers and canyons. 52,000 acres of awe inspiring beauty–enough to make you want to be a full time boondocker here.

Utah:

  • Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument: This 1.9 million acre monument preserves dinosaur excavations and beautiful landscapes of steep canyons and rugged backways perfect for camping, climbing, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, outfitters and guides and more.

Learn More About the BLM

You can learn more about recreation opportunities on BLM lands on their national site. There’s so much to do for outdoors lovers you may never return to your civilian life.

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