What Are Corps of Engineer Campgrounds?
National parks are epic bucket list camping dreams, and state parks are closer alternatives.
But did you know there’s another type of government camping option?
Army Corps of Engineers parks are the hidden gem of camping. They often have great natural attractions for a low price, many times without the scheduling hassle of popular state parks.
What is the US Army Corps of Engineers (or COE)?
The Corps of Engineers has been around since 1779.
The main purpose of this governmental group was to oversee public works including providing safe water, designing dams and hydroelectric plants, and controlling flood plains. Basically the COE is the nation’s environmental planning arm.
Luckily for our water supply, they control the land around many major bodies of water.
As they developed projects alongside lakes and reservoirs, campgrounds were added to allow the public to make use of the water in more ways than one. There are now over 4300 recreation areas and 450 lakes (most with campgrounds) in the U.S. and the COE is one of the leading providers of recreation to citizens.
Where are COE Located?
There are seven districts of the COE, and they have projects in 43 states. 90 percent of recreation areas are located within 50 miles of a major metropolitan center.
What To Expect at US Army Corps of Engineers Campgrounds?
Almost all COE campgrounds are on usable recreation water. So water activities top the list of things to do.
Fishing, boating, kayaking, or just hanging waterside are tops.
Many of the lakes have docks, boat launches, and beaches. Most have playgrounds.
Amenities are similar to state parks: many do not have full hook-ups but just have water and electric or dry camping options.
Some have dump stations. Most have toilets with showers, large sites, and paved or gravel parking/roads.
Great views and spacious natural sites are the draw to COE parks! Not just for overnights, you can make use of the amenities and the view for day use also!
Prices vary but generally camping runs from $12-$50 a night.
If you can get an America The Beautiful Senior Pass, you get 50% off. Day fees are often just $5 or $40 for an annual pass.
How to find Corps of Engineers Campgrounds
You can reserve spaces at most COE campgrounds at recreation.gov. Finding the details on some parks is a little more challenging. You can visit the Corps Lakes Gateway website to research by area.
If you enjoy spacious, beautiful campsites with water views and amenities for a budget price, the Army Corps of Engineers parks and campgrounds are right up your alley.
While a little more challenging to find and figure out, the parks are generally extremely well kept and spacious, while also being closer to civilization, allowing for quick escapes to nature.
Make use of your public lands, try out an Army Corps of Engineer campground!
Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA
To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).
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As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.
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We are currently living full time in our motorhome while our new house is being built. We found the COE campgrounds better than the state parks in our area, (Oklahoma). We are staying as cheap as $7.00 a night as we have the America the Beautiful Senior Pass. There are camp hosts at the campgrounds that was full of information about the area. We also find that the COE campgrounds are not full like the state parks are during this pandemic One of our favorites is Afton Landing with only 9 spots for RV, (first come, first serve). There have been times that we are the only ones there besides the camp host!
I’ve stayed at many COE campgrounds over the decades. Both by land and by water in boats.
I’m staying at a COE Campground right now. It has all the amenities I need and is only $10.00 a night with my senior park pass. There’s almost no one here although I expect it will be full during the upcoming Labor Day weekend.
BTW: the water pressure in the camp showers is incredible.
Please advise when Hales Landing in Bainbridge Ga will open again. We are so ready to go there. The honor system would be great again since it worked for over 23 years
Not mentioned in the article is that possession of firearms is banned in COE campgrounds. You can’t even have one stowed in your vehicle.