One of the ways many RVers save money, and get to stay in some really beautiful locations, is to hang out in US Corps of Engineers parks.
The mission of the Corps of Engineers for OUR purpose was established back in the 1820's to control and protect US waterways; especially as concerns flood control. The Corps is also the largest supplier of fresh water in the United States through the construction of dams and creation of reservoirs. The electricity these dams create account for 25% of all hydroelectric power generated in the US. While the Corps of Engineers manage 8 different districts across the United States, the one's that interest those of us who RV are the three southern districts, as they manage the majority of Corps-created parks and campgrounds.
As you can imagine, when you create reservoirs to provide drinking water to many areas, or to simply control flooding during wet seasons, you inevitably create shorelines. Those shorelines become prime real estate for recreation, and the Corps of Engineers have provided the US with hundreds of parks and campgrounds to enjoy. A few are small and only accommodate tent camping, but the rest range from mid-sized parks that encompass 50-80 largely level campsites that can take most RVs, to larger campgrounds that swell to more than 200 sites and can handle the biggest of motorhomes.
Because of their location, most sites in Corps campgrounds offer views of the water, and that's their charm. Very rarely are there site that are landlocked. It's one of the big positives to Corps camping. The downside is that while most sites offer power and water hookups, very few Corps parks have sewer connections. This means that the longer you stay, the more you have to leave your site temporarily to dump your black and gray water tanks. Not the most difficult thing to do, but disconnecting from water and electric, as well as securing items in the RV for a move, can get a bit tedious the more you have to do it. One other minor downside: If you're visiting people at night outside of the park, you have to time your return to be before 10:30 as the park's gates close then.
It actually helps that the Corps has restrictions on how long you can stay at their parks, and how long BETWEEN stays at the same park. This keeps full-timers from establishing “permanent” residency in parks like many do in private parks, and reduces the amount of “junk” that people bring to recreate. At least most people. I'm always amazed at the amount of “stuff” people pack into their pickup trucks and storage spaces that get unloaded for a week or weekend, only to be crammed back into their spaces when people leave.
Anyway, back to limits on stays. The rule is that you can stay for up to 14 days at a time, and only within a 30-day timeframe. So for example, you can stay from the 1st to the 14th of a given month, but you have to leave the park and cannot come back in until 30 days from the 1st has transpired. So if you want to keep moving between local parks (like we've done in Georgia from late March until the end of April), you need a rotation of at least 3 Corps parks to make this work. Two weeks in one park, two weeks in another park, and because you've only taken up 28 days thus far, you need at least one week in a third park before you can go back to the first one. All this is predicated on being able to find an open campsite for the timeframes you need if you don't plan way ahead when campgrounds begin to take reservations.
It can be challenging.
But the payoff is HUGE. Not only do you get to recreate on (or near) water, but Corps park are generally quiet due to being situated well off of most roadways. In addition, most of them have long driveways to handle your vehicles, and wide spots separated by relatively dense trees so that you don't see or hear your neighbor very often. In addition, they have level packed-sand areas for chairs, tables, and shelters that the RVer might bring with them, plus fire rings so you and your friends can gather around a warm and cozy fire at the end of the day.
And you can't beat the price. Anywhere from $26 - $30 per night, and if you have certain passes like our Senior Park Pass or Military Park Pass, you pay half price for every night. Very nice, even if you do have to dump tanks every 3-6 days.
Reservations are handled on a very user-friendly app at Recreation.gov.. You can look at pictures of your specific site at many parks, and the site descriptions detailing what equipment is allowed are usually pretty accurate (if on the safe side). We've seen quite a few sites that their description might have caused us to avoid, yet could fit our motorhome in with just a bit of difficulty.
If you're an RVer and haven't tried Corps of Engineers campgrounds, you're missing out on one of the best benefits of RVing.
We're Dave and Barbara Richard, and we're planning the ultimate retirement experience - travel the U.S. and Canada in style in a Tiffin Open Road 36LA Class A motor home, play golf and stop at every weird and wacky roadside attraction we can find.