GENERAL INFORMATION: Camping opportunities can be found throughout public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Primitive campsites are located in a wide variety of environments. These sites are widely dispersed, undeveloped, and are generally not signed as campsites. They are usually clear of vegetation and have a hard compacted surface. These primitive sites offer one of the best ways to experience the deserts of California.
DISPERSED SITES: The general policy of the BLM is to allow dispersed camping on all the lands it administers with the following conditions and exceptions:
- Camping is permitted for up to 14 days within a 28 day period at any location. After this time period, you must relocate to another location at least 25 miles away.
- Camping is prohibited within 300 feet of any developed water source, including water guzzlers or watering troughs. This is to keep water accessible to wildlife and livestock.
- A permit may be required for campfires. Contact the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection or El Centro Field Office prior to your camping trip if you plan to have a campfire. Restrictions on fires vary depending on fire danger, county ordinances, and other variables.
- Camping is prohibited outside the six designated campgrounds within the Yuha Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).
- Dispersed vehicle camping is allowed in limited use areas. However, visitors must camp within a specified distance from the nearest route (trail, road, etc.) These distances vary depending on the area. Please visit http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/elcentro/recreation/camping/camping_limiteduse.html or contact the El Centro Field Office for more information.
- Within the McCain Valley Resource Conservation Area, camping is restricted to campsites at Lark Canyon and Cottonwood Campgrounds . The restriction does not apply to backpacking in the area.
- Camping is prohibited within one mile of Hot Springs and Pilot Knob Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA) .
- Tent camping is permitted within all wilderness units in the El Centro Field Office.
CAMPSITE USE: Many dispersed campsites are showing signs of impact from heavy use. You can lessen your impact on the desert by following Leave No Trace - minimum impact principles:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare: Get to know the area, rules, regulations, and any other special concerns before you leave.
-Camp and Travel on Durable Surfaces: Use existing routes and trails. Camp at previously used sites. When there is no danger of rain or flash flooding, camp in washes. Signs of camping will eventually be washed away.
-Pack It In, Pack It Out: Pack out your trash and any that was left behind.
-Properly Dispose of What You Can't Pack Out: Deposit human waste in cat-holes dug 6 to 8 inches deep and at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Disguise the cat-hole when finished. Toilet paper should not be left behind. Pack it out in two sealable bags.
-Leave What You Find: Protect cultural resources. Leave all artifacts as you find them. Leave natural objects and avoid damaging vegetation.
-Minimize Use and Impact of Fire: Use a light weight gas stove for cooking. Fires should be kept small, using existing fire rings. Wood in arid environments is scarce, so bring your own firewood or do without.
-Protect and Conserve Water Resources: Camp at least 300 feet away from water sources. Avoid polluting water sources.
Bureau of Land Management
El Centro Field Office
1661 S. 4th Street
El Centro CA 92243
Phone: (760) 337-4400
Fax: (760) 337-4490
Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., M-F
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