One of our least favorite things we have to do is announce that yet another camping spot has closed. For a while, it seemed like we were making an announcement every other day regarding the next wave of campsite closures sweeping the country. Luckily, things seem to have slowed down a bit, and we’re not experiencing nearly as many camping closures as often.
However, we’re feeling a bit nostalgic today. We want to take the opportunity to reflect on and pay tribute to five of our favorite camping spots that have closed for good. Let’s get started!
Can You Legally Camp on Public Lands?
It’s possible to camp on public lands legally. However, just because there are public lands doesn’t mean you are free to camp anywhere you want. It’s not the wild west anymore, and there are rules and regulations that rangers and land agencies enforce to protect our public lands.
The rules and regulations vary considerably depending on who manages the land. If you want to keep yourself out of trouble, take the time to research the rules and regulations for camping at each specific camping spot.
When in doubt, contact the local office for the agency that manages the land. They’ll likely be happy to answer any questions you might have regarding specific rules and regulations.
Where Are the Most Free Camping Locations?
If you’re looking for free camping locations, you’ll want to look west. Most free camping locations used by RVers and other travelers sit west of the Mississippi River.
Some of the most popular states for free camping include Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, and California. Many full-time travelers can travel between camping spots while traveling full time to avoid paying expensive camping fees.
If you haven’t done it before, learn how to camp overnight for free!
5 Popular Camping Spots That Have Closed
It’s always sad to hear of a camping spot closing. These spots typically get shut down due to the misuse and abuse of the land.
These were some of the best spots for camping, and it makes us sad to think of how they’re no longer available for anyone wanting to make camping memories. So grab a box of tissues, and let’s look at some of our favorite popular camping spots that have closed.
Natchez Visitor Center
The Natchez Visitor Center camping spot was in Mississippi and was one of the few spots east of the Mississippi River that allowed free RV camping. This wasn’t just any ordinary spot to park your RV for free overnight. The camping spot offered free water, power, and a sewer connection.
Not only was it full of free amenities that you rarely find, but it also overlooked the Mississippi River. It was a beautiful spot that we dearly miss.
According to the Visitor Center Manager, Anna Byrne, “The building has been given to The National Park Service. Gov’t has their own rules.”
The National Park Service (NPS) rarely lets anyone park overnight outside designated camping areas. So it’s no surprise they would change the restrictions for this camping spot.
West Sedona Designated Dispersed Camping and Day-use Areas
In May 2022, Sedona, Ariz., lost more than 55,000 acres of land available for dispersed camping. Local officials said the area had become overrun with RVs, tents, and vans, home to hundreds of campers at any given time.
Instead of the massive amount of land for campers to spread out, campers will have to cram into 150 to 200 campsites in eight designated areas.
Red Rock District Ranger, Amy Tinderholt said, “This will help balance the use of this area, curb impacts to the land, protect natural resources and private property, while providing areas for visitors to enjoy camping.”
By forcing campers to stay in designated campers, local officials can keep an eye on who is using the campsites. They’ll also be able to enforce the 14-day stay limit. While we’re sad to see these campsites disappear, we’re happy that the land will have time to heal and hopefully give future generations a second chance not to abuse it.
Middle Fork Campground
Sometimes campers forget that they’re not in a zoo when they see wildlife in the wild. Nothing separates them from the massive beasts that could toss them across the forest without blinking an eye. Unfortunately, Middle Fork Campground in North Bend, Wash., had to close due to bear activity resulting from what officials believe to be careless campers.
A Snoqualmie District Ranger, Martie Schramm said, “The bears were becoming too comfortable, especially around the campers. It’s been very easy for the bears to get after that food.”
It was largely easy because campers left food readily available or in their vehicles. The camping area remains closed for camping, but day use is still acceptable. We’ll cross our fingers it’ll reopen again someday, but there’s no indication of that changing anytime soon.
Crested Butte Valley
One of the most beautiful areas in all of Colorado, Crested Butte Valley, closed six of the most popular dispersed camping areas. Dispersed camping will no longer be allowed, instead replacing it with camping in designated areas.
While designated camping is better than no camping, it provides an entirely different experience. It also creates some serious issues should campers arrive at camp and all of the designated campsites are taken. Not an ideal situation for anyone looking to spend time camping in this area!
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages Rabbit Valley, which sits on the western border of Colorado. Unfortunately, the massive increase in people wanting to get outdoors has severely hit this region.
BLM officials announced in March of 2022 that they plan to close this area to dispersed camping. They will begin revamping campsites to make an established camping area. Camping will only be allowed in the designated campsites, and dispersed camping will not be possible.
Rabbit Valley is another example of ruined campsites because of overuse. Officials do whatever they can to salvage a bad situation and protect the land. Trash and waste were left behind by campers, which caused a potentially dangerous situation for the trout populations in the area.
Why Are Camping Spots Closing?
There are a few common reasons we’re seeing camping spot closures. Unfortunately, it’s typically because of human behavior. Let’s see why camping spots often close.
Campers Ignoring Stay Limits
Camping on public lands typically offers tremendous freedom but doesn’t come without restrictions. Stay limits typically range from five to 14 days in most camping areas. Unfortunately, some people think they’re above the law or will go unnoticed if they stay a few days or weeks longer.
The last thing park officials should do with their time is ask campers to follow such a simple regulation. Those overstaying their welcome and ignoring the limits know what they’re doing. They’re intentionally ignoring these regulations and causing increased camp site wear and tear.
Sites Getting Trashed
If you’re anything like us, you were probably taught to clean up after yourself when you were a kid. However, it appears as if some people’s kids never learned this lesson. As a result, many of the best camping spots are getting trashed.
Rude campers leave bags of garbage and human waste behind. Instead of finding an appropriate place to dispose of their garbage, they leave it for the next camper. Nobody wants to have to clean up after somebody else.
To make matters worse, animals will often get into the trash bags left at campsites. This causes trash to get scattered throughout and blow away in the wind. What was easy to contain in a bag and quickly tossed in the trash is now littering the area’s landscape.
Destroying of Land/Vandalism
One additional reason we see campsites closing is the intentional destruction of the land and vandalism to facilities. Some campgrounds that experience this type of behavior shut down temporarily to address the situation.
However, there’s no telling how long some of these locations will close or if they’ll ever reopen. Cleaning up and repairing these issues is a massive waste of tax dollars that could be better spent elsewhere in these already underfunded camping spots.
How to Be a Good Camper
There are several things you can do to be a good camper. You can help protect the land and camping spots and help ensure they’re available for future use. Let’s take a look at some things you should do to protect your favorite camping spots.
Report Violators ASAP
Don’t be afraid of snitching on someone when you see them violating one of the rules or regulations. Call the authorities immediately if you see someone illegally dumping, ignoring a burn ban, or violating other rules.
Take pictures and record any information about the individual that you possibly can. You want to be able to give the information to authorities if they choose to investigate the situation.
Ignoring some rules can come with severe consequences and fines. We’ve heard of campers receiving over $5,000 fines for ignoring burn bans and not storing their food properly in bear country. Rangers take these violations seriously, and so should you.
Clean Up After Yourself
Always leave a campsite better than you found it. Make sure you pick up your trash and any gear you use. When it’s time to leave, walk around the entire site. Look for any debris or items you may have left on the ground.
Clean Up After Others (When Needed)
While you may have no problem cleaning up after yourself, you’ll need to clean up after others from time to time. If a previous camper left trash around the campsite, pick it up and ensure it finds its way into a trash can. It may be frustrating, but it’s everybody’s responsibility to keep campsites clean, so officials don’t have a reason to close them.
As annoying as it may be to pick up the slack of others who can’t clean up after themselves, it’s a small price to pay if you want to ensure campsites remain available for you to use in the future. Make a game of who can collect the most trash in a certain amount of time. Make sure you wear gloves and wash your hands at the end.
Obey All Rules and Regulations
Nobody is above the rules and regulations. There are rules and regulations for a reason. If you see how some people treat the land even with the rules and regulations, could you imagine what they would look like without them? Many of these incredible lands would surely be dumps!
Do your best to model correct behavior and respect the rules and regulations. Help instill a sense of respect for these rules in future generations. This will help them to grow to respect the lands and protect them long after your camping trips with them are over.
Help Prevent Camping Spots from Closing
It’s everybody’s responsibility to do their part to prevent camping spots from closing. Taking the time to pick up trash blowing around an area isn’t fun, but it’s necessary.
Without caring individuals helping to keep camping spots clean, we’ll all be camping in private campgrounds or RV parks. If you want to continue to enjoy the freedom of camping in remote locations away from the crowds, do your part and help keep them as clean as possible.
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