Wednesday, June 17, 2015

BLM campgrounds easy on RVers' budgets

BLM campground in northern Arizona
Many RVers are on a budget and always looking for ways to cut costs. Campground fees are one area where they can do this. Private RV parks charge monthly rates as low as $10 per night, plus electricity, where they may charge overnighters as much as $40 to $50 a night.
Camping facilities operated by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management make it easy on an RVer's budget with dirt cheap, even free, fees.
As we drove through Arizona and Nevada, we’d see RVs parked in the middle of nowhere, with no other rigs in sight. Camping like this on BLM land is free.  Slightly more organized are BLM campgrounds like those on the outskirts of Lake Havasu City and Quartzsite in Arizona.  At Quartzsite, especially, you’ll see hundreds of rigs in BLM campgrounds that cost $140 for three months during the winter season. Rigs must be self-contained; businesses selling propane and potable water, or collecting waste water in the black and gray tanks, come to you. I don’t know what these services cost, but they should be factored into the budget.

We boondocked a couple of days at a BLM campground a few miles out of Lake Havasu City. Located just off a major highway, you had to drive over a very bumpy road to get there. The camping area itself was not level and covered with a fine, almost sand like, gravel. We stayed there two nights, enjoying the peace and beauty, and would have stayed longer if we could have had a level spot where the trailer jacks didn’t sink into the ground.

BLM campgrounds generally aren’t very fancy, like those operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but they’re workable. Not all of them are like the BLM campground at McKays Bend, about 20 miles east of Lewiston, Idaho, on Highway 12 to Missoula, Montana.

McKays Bend campground in Idaho
McKays Bend is gorgeous, better even than some of the private RV parks we’ve stayed at. Picnic tables sitting on concrete pads, barbecues, asphalt pads for parking the RVs on, spacious sites with beautiful green grass and lots of shade trees, and full hookups, all for $18 a night ($9 if you have federal access or senior passes). Oh, it even has showers, which I’m told makes it the only BLM campground to have them. BLM generally isn’t into showers. But they were here when BLM took over managing the campground from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

And did I mention McKay Bends is on the Clearwater River? The river is just a short walk away. Strolling along the river bank at sunset is a nice way to end the day.

There's another BLM campground a few miles east of McKays Bend. We took a look at it. Sites seem bigger, but there's less shade and green grass. Still, it's nicer than some private parks we've been in, But, clearly, McKays Bend is going to ruin us for other BLM campgrounds.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Not all RV spaces are created equal

Camping at an Oregon State Park
It’s no surprise to learn that all RV parks are not created equal, but it may surprise some, especially those new to RVing, that not all sites within a park are equal. They’re not.

Some spots are gravel, others gravel with concrete pads and still others are all asphalt.  In some parks, what you pay for a site determines the surface of your spot. Some sites have lawn, picnic tables and shade trees, yet in the same park, other RVers will find themselves wilting under a hot sun.

In some parks, the sites are different widths.  It never fails that park management will put the smallest rigs in the wider spots, while big rigs get sites so narrow they can barely drive through them. I’ve seen this happen at parks where every site pays the same rate.

Some parks leave plenty of room between spaces, which is nice. Others force rigs to  park so close together, you sometimes are unable to put out your slides; sometimes rigs are so close together, you can hear the people next door snoring or making other bodily noises.

Some pull throughs are so short, the back of the trailer or the front of the truck, sometimes both, extend into the street, making it difficult for other vehicles to get through.

Price doesn't seem to matter. Two of the most expensive parks we've stayed in had the worst facilities. In both cases, we would have not stayed at these places if we'd had other choices.

Some of the nicest parks we stayed at were the least expensive with clean, nice facilities and friendly managers.