According to one of the most famous folk songs in the United States, written by Woody Guthrie:
“This land is your land, this land is my land,
From California, to the New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.”
What better way to enjoy this land of ours than to see it up close? And, what better way to see it up close than to camp on it? The Yellowstone Act of 1872 established by Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant, was the first act to set a tract of land apart for public use. Today, there are over 100 million acres of public land in state and national parks. Camping on public land is a wonderful way to appreciate and enjoy nature from coast to coast.
What’s the Difference Between Federal and State Land?
The main difference between state and federal land is who owns it and who has access to it. Technically, federally-owned land is “owned” by the American people – you. Your income tax dollars support it. While public land is accessible for free, state land often includes access fees and other fees used to help cover maintenance cost. Public lands are maintained through federal taxes.
According to the Wall Street Journal, about $0.08 of every $100 in taxes goes to national parks. This means you generally always have access to this land. So, if you are paying for it, get out there and enjoy it! Whether you enjoy hiking, fishing, biking, kayaking, or other outdoor activities, camping on public land is a great way to get your money’s worth from your taxes!
State land is owned and operated by an individual state government. This means each state can do many things with the land they own, including selling it to generate revenue or balance a budget – and they can do that without any public input. State-owned land may have unique rules, which is why it’s important to do your research before a trip! The rules governing camping on public land can vary from state to state, as can the fees that may be required for state parks and state land.
The Bureau of Land Management manages public lands, the majority in 12 western states, which were originally lands that no one wanted because homesteaders had passed them by. Rules for public lands managed by the BLM are consistent across the country.
What About Private Campgrounds?
While camping on public land is popular, there are plenty of private campgrounds across the country. As with any trip, it’s important to do your due diligence when planning a trip to private campgrounds. The quality and style of these campgrounds varies immensely. There are thousands of wonderful private campgrounds throughout the country.
Private campgrounds are privately owned and funded, so it’s possible for them to diminish or increase in quality since your last visit or the last major review. Rates and rules for camping will also differ from campground to campground. Since they are private, they can also be barred from the public at any time. The reasons can range from special events to exclusivity such as a members-only campground.
Benefits of Camping on Public Land
One of the biggest benefits of camping on public land – especially when it comes to federally owned public land – is that camping is less expensive. In fact, if you don’t plan to use the amenities offered, you can often camp for a week or two completely free! That gives you plenty of time to see the sights and hit the trails at some amazing national parks.
Camping on public land is a popular way for boondockers to find ideal campsites for free. You can find a quiet corner to make your own. Public lands are also essentially free for use across the entire property as long as it’s safe and you follow proper camping etiquette.
While state-owned public land can often come with camping or access fees, one benefit is that they’re also largely open to the public year-round.
Disadvantages of Camping on Public Lands
When camping on public land, you’re unlikely to find a great deal of modern or comfort amenities beyond the basics. This is one area where private campgrounds are likely to shine.
One reason public lands are more popular with RVers than tent campers is that public lands often don’t have bathrooms or easy places to deposit trash, forcing you to rely on your own equipment.
Additionally, public lands are open to everyone. However, that means camping on public land is based on a first-come, first serve system – you can’t “reserve” a spot or time. There are exceptions as some state parks and lands have reservations and fees associated with them. But if you want to camp for free and you are determined to be camping on public land at a highly popular spot, your best bet may be to consider a trip during the off-season! You are much more likely to avoid the crowds and find just the right place to camp and enjoy the great outdoors.
Whether you are camping on public land in California, New York, the redwood forest, or near the waters of the Gulf, there are millions of acres to be explored and appreciated. Get out there and enjoy this land! It was made public for you and me.
The professionals at RV Wholesale Superstore are ready to help you find the perfect RV for you and your family. Visit us in-person at 5080 W. Alexis Road, in Sylvania, OH or call us at (866) 640-9871
Connect with us on Social Media!