By Bob Difley
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 and repair shop, and provide local restaurant reviews. Some of the LTVAs 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 website, 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 farther 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.
• 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.