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What Are Army 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.

Yes, 17.

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.

Here’s an ACOE site we camped at near Sequoia National Park.

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 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 Engineers campground!

The 11 Best Army Corps of Engineers Campgrounds

While there are many great campgrounds to choose from, here are 11 notable ones:

  1. McKinney Campground – McKinney, Texas
  2. Lake Guntersville State Park – Guntersville, Alabama
  3. Eastbank Campground – Willamette Valley, Oregon
  4. West Thompson Lake – North Grosvenor Dale, Connecticut
  5. Piney Campground – Dover, Tennessee
  6. Jordan Lake State Recreation Area – Apex, North Carolina
  7. Clearwater Lake – Piedmont, Missouri
  8. Alum Creek Lake – Lewis Center, Ohio
  9. Cheatham Lake – Ashland City, Tennessee
  10. John Martin Reservoir – Hasty, Colorado
  11. Raystown Lake – Hesston, Pennsylvania

These campgrounds offer a range of amenities such as hiking trails, swimming areas, fishing opportunities, and scenic views. Keep in mind that availability and specific amenities may vary, so it’s always a good idea to check with the respective campground for up-to-date information and reservations.

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).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below:

  1. Kathy Niemeyer says:

    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!

  2. Bob says:

    I’ve stayed at many COE campgrounds over the decades. Both by land and by water in boats.

  3. Jim says:

    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.

  4. Gloria Cochran says:

    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

  5. Erik says:

    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.

  6. Ruby says:

    I love your blog. I always lean something new. New Casita owner here on a tight budget. Looking fir best ins and outs of camping around our great country.
    Thank you for your contribution
    I love you guys!!❤️

  7. Ruby says:

    I love your blog. I always learn something new. New Casita owner here on a tight budget. Looking for best ins and outs of camping around our great country.
    Thank you for your contribution
    I love you guys!!❤️

  8. Robin Cutler says:

    We are trying to find a camp ground near, Sumner Washington, long story short, we paid for 13 days at a Army base CG.
    We don’t have the correct information on his veterans ID. ( MY husband, Russ Cutler)so now its a sponser to get on base, or another campground. And today this Army Corps of Engineers CG came up
    Are there any of these CG within a few to 20ish miles. From Sumner WA.
    Thank you. Robin Cutler

  9. Raymond says:

    There is a campground we use in Pahokee FL that is run by the city but is on COE ground.
    It’s the only spot with a view of Lake Okeechobee

  10. Larry says:

    Love the COE Campgrounds. Always Clean and spaces

  11. Don says:

    Piney Campground – Dover, Tennessee
    Piney and the entire Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area was transferred to the Forest Service a few years ago. The America The Beautiful Senior Pass is applied only to the basic site, water, electric etc is still full price.

  12. michael welnicki says:

    Been using coe campgrounds for years they are the best clean quiet we liked the first come first served we don’t always plan a trip it was the best now we have to make reservations we don’t care for that

  13. Bill says:

    Thanks guys, great article. The USACE camping areas are not familiar to most folks. We plan on exploring more of them in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. As kayakers we are always looking for water. We’re camping on Moosehead Lake in Maine right now. Keep up the good work and thanks again.

  14. Anna Oaks says:

    COE’s suck! By God, if you don’t do what they ORDER you to do, they make your life a living hell! The camps are disgusting & the rangers are nothing but wanna be cops who strut around acting high & mighty. Try calling a campground. You never can reach anyone cause they are busy harassing people to help. The corp takes your money, then leaves you on your own. According to COE, the rules are there to be broken!

  15. Rook says:

    Going full time soon.

  16. Jay Bee says:

    Eastbank Campground- Willamette Valley, Oregon? I can’t find that one at all. However, I do see an Eastbank Campground in Seminole Georgia that is an Army Corps of Engineers campground. Please advise. Thanks

  17. Kevin C says:

    COE campgrounds have a no weapons policy. What should people that are traveling with firearms and wish to stay a few nights do? Are they not welcome and forced to pass on COE campgrounds?

  18. Bobbie Spinks says:

    We love camping, always have,now it’s difficult to go camping with the prices of everything so expensive, we are lucky to get outdoors once a year for a few days because campgrounds are almost as much as staying in a motel.

  19. Sandra K Greenheck says:

    Awesome info in this day of horrible finances

  20. Jimmy m. Rice jr says:

    Fantastic information on Army Corp camps. This is exciting.

  21. Ed says:

    Awesome places out there. I can’t wait to go camping.. it be fun

  22. Tom Schlenker says:

    Lake Guntersville State Park is not listed on
    As the name says, it is a state park

Comments are closed.