Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts: LTVAs
By Bob Difley
Snowbirding season is upon us already, and soon RVers will be flapping their proverbial wings and flocking to the warm and sunny southwestern deserts for a part–if not all–of the winter.
This section describes the defined boondocking areas operated by the Bureau of Land Management in the the Southwest.
The easiest way to start boondocking in the desert is to head for one of the BLM’s Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA), which are designated as camping areas, but do not have designated campsites or hookups. Most will have a 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, and provide local restaurant reviews.
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 (Arizona is the only other state to have LTVAs). 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 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 find solitary spots away from others, in case you like nude sunbathing or perform strange rituals.
For the beginning desert boondocker, choosing an LTVA is a good choice to learn and practice boondocking, since all those around you are doing the same thing. The advantages 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.
• 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.
Talking with other RVers is always a good plan, as is studying their various—and often creative—ways they have found to make boondocking easier, more comfortable, or more efficient.
Learn more from my website, Healthy RV Lifestyle, where you will also find my ebooks: BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (PDF or Kindle), 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck (PDF or Kindle), and Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (PDF or Kindle), and my newest, The RV Lifestyle: Reflections of Life on the Road (PDF or Kindle reader version). NOTE: Use the Kindle version to read on iPad and iPhone or any device that has the free Kindle reader app.