The rules for camping on Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds are pretty much consistent across all COE campgrounds in the United States. If you’ve camped at one, then you’ve camped at most of them. The differences generally fall between campgrounds with reservations versus first-come-first-serve campgrounds.
Rules for Camping on Army Corps of Engineers Campgrounds
Officially, rules are set individually for each campground on COE property. However, each campground tends to adopt the same set of rules as the other COE campgrounds across the country. For the full set of camping rules see, “Army Corps of Engineers Rules for Camping”.
Below is a synopsis of these rules…
- Where to Camp – You can only camp in areas designated for camping. You cannot camp outside of these areas. Each COE project will publish a map illustrating where these areas are. (See CFR Title 36 § 327.7 Camping)
- Maximum Length of Stay – There is a maximum stay of 14-days within a 30-day period. The 14-day maximum does not have to be consecutive days. The 30-day period begins with the first day of stay. Once that 30-day period has been reached, you get another 14-days. The maximum stay applies “per project”. (See CFR Title 36 § 327.7 Camping)
- Campsite Occupancy – If a campground is based on first-come-first-serve, you are required to personally appear at your campsite each day. You cannot place camping equipment on a site for the purpose of reserving it, nor are you allowed to store personal property on a campground without being there in person each day. (See CFR Title 36 § 327.7 Camping)
- Campfires – Campfires are allowed but must be restricted to a container provided by the COE. Outdoor cooking in your own barbecue grill or gas grill is generally allowed. (See CFR Title 36 § 327.10 Fires)
- Gathering Firewood – You are allowed to gather dead and down wood for the purpose of burning it in a campfire. But you are not allowed to remove that wood off of COE land. You are not allowed to cut down trees nor remove limbs from standing trees. (See CFR Title 36 § 327.14 Public property)
- Sewage & Trash – You are not allowed to dump gray water on the ground. You are not allowed to dispose human waste or animal waste on the ground or in the water. We assume this means you cannot dig a hole and poop in it. (See CFR Title 36 § 327.9 Sanitation)
- Weapons – The COE has a regulation stating that the possession of a loaded firearm is prohibited, sames goes for the possession of bow and arrow and crossbow. As long as the firearm is unloaded, you’re okay. We assume this to mean that possession of ammunition is okay too, as long as it is not stored inside the firearm. (See CFR Title 36 § 327.13 Hunting, fishing, and trapping). The only exception to this is if you are on a COE target shooting range, or if you are hunting.
- Quiet Hours – All COE campgrounds are subject to quiet hours from 10:00PM to 6:00AM each day. It also goes on to say that running a generator loud enough (at any time of the day) to annoy others is prohibited. (See CFR Title 36 § 327.12 Restrictions)
- Pets – All pets must be physically restrained at all times, anywhere on COE land or waters. (See CFR Title 36 § 327.11 Control of animals)
- Digging or Leveling Ground – You are not allowed to dig holes or level the ground on COE land. (See CFR Title 36 § 327.7 Camping)
- Flying Drones – Flying a drone is generally allowed over COE lands and waters. Each campground and project is free to designate areas where drones are are allowed and not allowed. As long as your drone remains over a recreation area, you’re pretty much good to go. (See CFR Title 36 § 327.4 Aircraft)
- Metal Detectors – The use of metal detectors is allowed as a general rule, however each COE campground or project is free to prohibit them, and most of them do. You are not allowed to dig up undisturbed land. (See CFR Title 36 § 327.14 Public property)
- State & Local Laws Apply – All state and local laws apply on COE lands and waters. This would include vehicle laws, nude recreation, lewd behavior, breast-feeding, campsite setbacks, etc. (See CFR Title 36 § 327.26 State and local laws)
Understanding COE Projects and Districts
The Army Corps of Engineers is divided up nationally into several divisions, districts, and projects…
- There are eight (8) divisions covering the United States. The COE also has more divisions covering other parts of the world. (Click here to see a map of COE divisions)
- Each division is broken up into districts.
- Each district contains numerous projects.
- Each project is a facility that the COE has built. Most projects are dams resulting in the creation of reservoirs. Other projects include levees, docks, and canals.
- Each reservoir may include several recreation areas.
- Each recreation area may include one or more campgrounds. Not all recreation areas have campgrounds.
- Most campgrounds are developed with numbered sites, camping pads, picnic tables, fire rings, and restroom facilities. Some of these campgrounds require fees with advance reservations.
- There are many campgrounds with no numbered sites, tables, fire rings, nor anything to identify a designated campsite. In these campgrounds you are allowed to boondock.
Each COE division, district, project, recreation area, and campground is free to establish its own rules with respect to recreation and camping. However, most of them do not, and generally stick with the camping rules listed above.