A Brief Introduction to GPS
A GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver is a device, usually ruggedized and handheld, that tells you where you are in the world. The GPS receiver (about the size of a cell phone) receives signals from dozens of satellites in space to center in on your position. GPS apps are commonly found on smartphones, tablets, and other devices as well. This information is displayed on a screen as a coordinate pair such as latitude and longitude, or as a dot on a map. Generally, the more satellite signals your GPS can receive the more accurate your location is displayed.
Yet, your GPS can also be used to tell you how to get somewhere. Your GPS knows where you are, but you can tell it the location of somewhere else (as long as you have the coordinates), referred to as a waypoint, and the GPS will direct you to that location. An example would be from the top of a mountain peak back to your car.
What Activities Can You Do with a GPS?
One of the fastest growing activities using a GPS is referred to as geocaching. Think of it like a treasure hunt where your GPS has the coordinates of the treasure and you have to hike, bike, climb, or even swim to get to it. These treasures are commonly known as caches. Click here to learn about all the different types of caches.
What Do You Need to Look for a Cache?
The most important thing you'll need is a GPS unit. They range in price from $75 and up. The more expensive the system, the more features it will have.
For a list of over 1,000,000 caches worldwide, you'll have to create a FREE account with www.geocaching.com. There you can search for, log, and even hide your own caches. When you enter the website you can type in your zip code and see all the cache sites in your area along with each site's latitude, longitude, a narrative description of the site location, the contents of the cache, and sometimes a map.
Know Before You Go
Geocaching provides an opportunity to hone orienteering skills, to get outdoors, and it can be a wholesome family activity. It can also be conducted with minimal impact to the environment when conscientious land use ethics are followed. Even though geocaching appears to be an acceptable activity on BLM managed land, it is an activity that would only be welcome in appropriate locations.
There are some locations where placement of physical geocaches are prohibited on BLM administered lands on the Prineville District. These include:
- Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas
- Research Natural Areas (RNAs)
- Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) created for protection of archaeological/cultural resources
- Areas closed to public access for protection of resources such as wildlife or fire closures (seasonally closed areas may be used when the closure is not in effect)
Click this Google Earth link to view areas in Central Oregon where geocaching restrictions are present.
In general, most lands on the district are available for geocaching; however, responsible geocaching should be practiced. Click here for the printable Tread Lightly® Responsible Geocaching brochure.
Prineville District BLM monitors the placement and use of geocaches to ensure no resource damage occurs on Public Lands. If you are contemplating placing a geocache on Public Lands in Central Oregon first view the Google Earth file to see areas which have permanent or seasonal restrictions in place and, if necessary, contact Prineville BLM to assist you in placing a fun and enduring geocache. Please include pertinent coordinates.
As the world of geocaching grows more and more popular, there will be different types of caches available for you to find and experience. Other spatially oriented activities enjoyed on central Oregon Public Lands include: