BLM Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA) are defined by the BLM as a developed campground where campers can stay for as long as 7 months. These campgrounds do not offer hookups, though a couple of them offer dump stations and fresh water.
LTVA are not free, but remain very cheap…
- The LTVA long term permit ($180) allows use of LTVAs continuously from September 15th to April 15th or for any length of time between those two dates.
- The LTVA short-visit permit ($40) allows use of LTVAs for any 14 consecutive day period from September 15th to April 15th, which begins on the day the permit receipt is exchanged for the official permit and decal. The short-visit permit may be renewed an unlimited number of times for the cost of the permit, and is valid at any LTVA.
- From April 16th through September 14th, the fee varies from one LTVA to the next…
- Hot Springs, Midland, Pilot Knob and Tamarisk LTVAs remains free during this period
- La Posa and Imperial Dam LTVAs are $10 per vehicle for day-use, $15 per vehicle for overnight use, or $75 annually per vehicle, for up to 5 people per vehicle. There is a $1 fee charged for each person over the 5 person limit. The maximum stay is 14 days in a 28-day period.
- Visitors can purchase permits on site by seeking the camp host or at the BLM field offices in El Centro, CA and Yuma, AZ.
If you plan to stay at an LTVA during the September 15th to April 15th period, keep in mind snowbirds will start flocking to these areas right away, but the heaviest migration occurs right after Thanksgiving. Make sure to claim your site before then.
You don’t have to stay the full period of the permit. You can stay for a shorter period, then move out and come back. However, the 180-day and 14-day clocks continue to run even while you’re gone. But, the fee is good for all LTVAs, so you can move from one LTVA to the next.
What’s it Like to Boondock at an LTVA
Quiet yet crowded, secluded yet communal, are perhaps ways to describe LTVAs during the popular time of the year (September 15th to April 15th).
LTVAs are popular with snowbird boondockers. They return year after year to the same LTVA, often times the same campsite. Each LTVA becomes a neighborhood where campers remember each other from previous years and hangout over campfires. The camp hosts often organize barbecues and evening socials. There is usually a community bulletin board where campers can make announcements, and usually a donation bin where you can throw away junk in hopes of finding someone who will make use of it.
Many campers will purchase the long term permit ($180) but spread it out over multiple LTVAs. They’ll spend a month in one, then move to another, usually hitting a dump station in between.
Because of the long term nature of LTVAs, most boondockers will purchase a portable black tank and haul their waste to a dump station so that they don’t have to tow/drive out of the campground.
LTVAs are generally very well kept in terms of trash and peace. Most camp hosts are pretty good about kicking out noisy campers and keeping the area clean.
Most LTVAs have areas where social campers can park close to each other and hang out, and areas where others can find seclusion.
All LTVAs are located in the southern deserts of California and Arizona. Because these areas have not already been claimed by State and Federal parks, they tend to be less desirable for their landscape, and more valued for their freedom.
Scheduling a Stay at an LTVA
LTVA camping is strictly first-come-first-serve. There is no reservation system.
Getting the best campsites starts as soon as the September 15th to April 15th season opens, but the heaviest arrival of snowbirds comes immediately after Thanksgiving.
List of LTVAs
Which LTVAs are the Best?
Imperial Dam is considered the most popular because it comes with the most amenities (dump station, fresh water, showers, etc.). La Posa is popular because it sits right in the middle of the annual Quartzsite RV show. Hot Springs is popular because it comes with a free, fully developed hot spring, and offers facilities for filling your jugs through a special faucet.
Tamarisk is considered the least desirable because it’s the smallest of the LTVAs, and offers no amenities. Wiley’s Well and Coon Hollow are the most remote of the LTVAs.
Are LTVA Rules Strict or Lenient?
Generally the rules are lenient and easy for most boondockers to abide by. The most notable rules…
- Quiet hours are from 10:00pm to 6:00am
- You cannot remove wheels and tires from your RV, your RV must remain fully ready to move at any time
- No loud music (don’t set up speakers and amplifiers at your site), and no excessively loud generators
- Don’t erect structures (storage units) or fencing.
- Don’t dump gray or black tanks on the ground
- Don’t gather firewood from within the LTVA
- No shooting guns within the LTVA, nor within a 1/2 mile buffer from LTVA boundaries
- No personal aircraft (ultralights, balloons, drones)
Official BLM LTVA Rules For RV Camping
The following 35 LTVA Supplementary Rules are issued by the Bureau of Land Management.
1. Permit Requirements and Fees
You must have a permit to use a designated LTVA between September 15 and April 15. The permit authorizes you to camp within any designated LTVA using those camping or dwelling unit(s) indicated on the permit between the periods from September 15 to April 15. There are two types of permits: Long-Term and Short-Visit. The long-term permit is valid for the entire season or any part of the season. The short-visit permit is valid for 14 consecutive days, and may be renewed an unlimited number of times for the cost of the permit. LTVA users must pay the cost of the fee indicated on the LTVA permit, in U.S. funds only, before or upon arrival. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will not refund permit fees.
2. Displaying the Permit
To make it valid, at the time of purchase, you must affix your short-visit permit decal or long-term permit decal, using the adhesive backing, to the bottom right-hand corner of the windshield of all transportation vehicles and in a clearly visible location on all camping units. You may use no more than two secondary vehicles within the LTVA.
3. Permit Transfers
You may not reassign or transfer your permit.
4. Permit Revocation
An authorized BLM officer may revoke, without reimbursement, your LTVA permit if you violate any BLM rule or regulation, or if your conduct or that of your family, guest, or pets is inconsistent with the goal of BLM’s LTVA Program. Failure to return any LTVA permit to an authorized BLM officer upon demand is a violation of these supplementary rules. If BLM revokes your permit, you must remove all of your property and leave the LTVA system within 12 hours of notice, and you may not enter any other LTVA in Arizona or California for the remainder of the LTVA season.
5. Unoccupied Camping Units
Do not leave your LTVA camping unit or campsite unoccupied for a period of greater than five days unless an authorized BLM officer approves in advance.
For your safety and privacy, you must maintain a minimum of 15 feet of space between dwelling units.
7. Removal of Wheels and Campers
Campers, trailers, and other dwelling units must remain mobile. Wheels must remain on all wheeled vehicles. You may set trailers and pickup campers on jacks manufactured for that purpose.
8. Quiet Hours
Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. under applicable state time zone standards, or as otherwise posted.
Do not operate audio devices or motorized equipment, including generators, in a manner that makes unreasonable noise as determined by the authorized BLM officer. Outdoor amplified music is allowed only within La Posa and Imperial Dam LTVAs and only in locations designated by BLM and when approved in advance by an authorized BLM officer.
Do not block roads or trails commonly in public use with your parked vehicles, stones, wooden barricades, or by any other means.
11. Structures and Landscaping
- a. Fixed fences, dog runs, storage units, windbreaks, and other such structures are prohibited. Temporary structures of these types must conform to posted policies.
- b. Do not alter the natural landscape by painting rocks or defacing or damaging any natural or archaeological feature.
Boarding or keeping livestock (horses, cattle, sheep, goats, etc.) within LTVA boundaries is prohibited.
Pets must be kept on a leash at all times. Keep an eye on your pets. Unattended and unwatched pets may fall prey to coyotes or other desert predators. You are responsible for clean-up and sanitary disposal of your pet’s waste.
14. Cultural Resources
Do not disturb any archaeological or historical values including, but not limited to, petroglyphs, ruins, historic buildings, and artifacts that may occur on public lands.
You must place all trash in designated receptacles. Public trash facilities are shown in the LTVA brochure. Do not deposit trash or holding-tank sewage in vault toilets. An LTVA permit is required for trash disposal within all LTVA campgrounds. You may not change motor oil, vehicular fluids, or dispose of or possess these used substances within an LTVA.
Do not dump sewage, gray water, or garbage on the ground. This includes motor oil and any other waste products. Federal, State, and county sanitation laws and county ordinance specifically prohibit these practices. Sanitary dump station locations are shown in the LTVA brochure. You must have an LTVA permit for dumping within all LTVA campgrounds.
17. Self-Contained Vehicles
- a. In Pilot Knob, Midland, Tamarisk, and Hot Springs LTVAs, you may camp only in self-contained camping units. The La Posa, Imperial Dam, and Mule Mountain LTVAs are restricted to self-contained camping units, except within 500 feet of a vault or rest room.
- b. Self-contained camping units must have a permanent, affixed waste water holding tank of 10-gallon minimum capacity. BLM does not consider port-a-potty systems, systems that utilize portable holding tanks, or permanent holding tanks of less than 10-gallon capacity, to be self-contained.
You may have campfires in LTVAs, subject to all local, state, and Federal regulations. You must comply with posted rules.
19. Wood Collection
Do not collect wood within LTVAs. You may not possess native firewood (i.e., mesquite, ironwood, palo verde) within LTVAs. Please contact the nearest BLM office for current regulations concerning wood collection.
20. Speed Limit
The speed limit in LTVAs is 15 mph or as otherwise posted.
21. Off-Highway Vehicle Use
Motorized vehicles must remain on existing roads, trails, and washes.
22. Vehicle Use
Do not operate any vehicle in violation of state or local laws and regulations relating to use, standards, registration, operation, and inspection.
Do not discharge or otherwise use firearms or weapons inside or within 1/2 mile of LTVAs.
24. Vending Permits
You must have a vending permit to carry on any commercial activity. Please contact the nearest BLM office for information on vending or concession permits.
25. Aircraft Use
Do not land or take off in aircraft, including ultralights and hot air balloons, in LTVAs.
26. Perimeter Camping
Do not camp within 1 mile outside the boundaries of Hot Springs, Tamarisk, and Pilot Knob LTVAs and within 2 miles outside the boundary of Midland LTVA.
27. Hot Spring Spa and Day Use Area
Food, beverages, glass containers, soap, pets, and/or motorized vehicles are prohibited within the fenced-in area at the Hot Springs Spa. Day use hours are 5 a.m. to midnight.
28. Mule Mountain LTVA
You may camp only at designated sites within Wiley’s Well and Coon Hollow campgrounds. You may have only one (1) camping or dwelling unit per site.
29. Imperial Dam and La Posa LTVAs
Do not camp overnight in desert washes in Imperial Dam and La Posa LTVAs.
30. La Posa LTVA
You may enter La Posa LTVA only by legal access roads along U.S. Highway 95. Do not create or use any other access points. Do not remove or modify barricades, such as fences, ditches, and berms.
31. Posted Rules
You must observe and obey all posted rules. Individual LTVAs may have additional specific rules in addition to these supplementary rules. If posted rules differ from these supplementary rules, the posted rules take precedence.
32. Other Laws
If you hold an LTVA permit, you must observe and obey all Federal, state, and local laws and regulations applicable to the LTVA.
33. Campsite Maintenance
You must keep the LTVA and, specifically, your campsite, in a neat, orderly, and sanitary condition.
34. Length of Stay
Between April 16 and September 14, you may stay in an LTVA only 14 days in any 28-day period. After your 14th day of occupation at an LTVA, you must move outside of a 25-mile radius of that LTVA.
Under 43 CFR 2932.56(b), if you knowingly and willfully violate or fail to comply with any of the supplementary rules provided in this notice, BLM will revoke your LTVA permit. You may also be subject to issuance of a citation and/or arrest with a fine under 18 U.S.C. 3571 and/or imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. 3581, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1733(a)).