Imperial Dam LTVA

LTVA: Long Term Visitors Area

jenny Campgrounds, Camping, LTVA 4 Comments

Note: This article has been updated May 28, 2017 to reflect the recent changes to the BLM’s Northern California campgrounds managed by the Bishop Field Office. Additionally, the BLM website, https://www.blm.gov, has been updated and the links to their field offices and information on LTVAs no longer function. The information about the LTVAs and the long-term campgrounds as cited below is factual unless we get official verification from the BLM that it has changed, at which time we will again update the article.

Imperial Dam LTVAThe Long Term Visitor Areas, or LTVAs, were set up by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) to accommodate “Snowbirds” (ie, northerners who move to a warmer southern location in the winter). While the LTVAs only offer primitive camping, without full hookups, unlike the National Park and other Federal Campgrounds, you don’t have to pack up and leave after 14 days.

In order to stay in most LTVAs, you must be “self-contained”. As the BLM states in its Supplementary Rules, “Camping is in self-contained units only. Self-contained camping units must have a permanent, affixed wastewater 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”. There are exceptions. According to BLM’s Supplementary Rules, “The La Posa, Imperial Dam,and Mule Mountain LTVAs are restricted to self-contained camping units, except within 500 feet of a vault or restroom.”

For those who wish to camp year-round without having to move every 14 days, in addition to the southern California and Arizona LTVAs, the BLM offers five campgrounds in northern California that allow long-term stays. The elevations at these northern campgrounds range from 4000 feet to 7000 feet but summer temperatures will still get into the 100s.

Before continuing with information on the LTVAs, we have to interject here about the Bishop Field Office and the “summer alternative” for full-time RVers.

Bishop Field Office

Although never a part of the “authorized” BLM LTVAs, the Bishop Field Office did offer what they called LTVA permit fees for “long-term camping” prior to 2017. At that time, the permit fee was $300 for the season lasting from the first Saturday in March to November 1st. Even then, we did not understand why Bishop charged $300 for permits while the BLM El Centro, Palm Springs and Yuma Field Offices charged only $180 for their permits.

Now, according to the BLM press release, Long-Term Camping Opportunities Available in the Eastern Sierra, dated Tuesday, May 16, 2017, the Bishop Field Office raised their long-term rates by almost 300%. The following is an excerpt from the above-cited press release: “Under the program, visitors may purchase recreation use permits, which allow camping beyond the established 14 day stay limit for campgrounds managed by the Bishop Field Office. Those interested in long-term camping have the option of purchasing either a 30-day or 90-day permit. Under the approved permit program visitors can camp for up to 180 days per year within BLM campgrounds in the Eastern Sierra. The fee for a 30-day permit is $120. The fee for a 90-day permit is $320.”

From our personal experience staying at the Tuttle Creek Campground in the summer of 2016, wildfires seem to come from nowhere and are common and we had to be ready to evacuate at any time. Smoke often fills the air which is already severely polluted due to the draining of its once pristine lake by the city of Los Angeles. The area has a high cost of living and summer temperatures, even at 5000′, get well into the 100s. We made the mistake of staying at a campsite close to the creek which we don’t recommend. People walked right through our campsite to get to the creek and it was a popular place for them to spend the night drinking and partying very near our RV. In our experience, don’t expect help from the Bishop Rangers. There’s a reason Bishop is rated the worst BLM District in the nation. We cannot in good conscience recommend staying at any of the Bishop-run campgrounds.

A Much Better Alternative

After our unpleasant experience with Bishop’s “long-term camping”, we decided to find something better. We discovered the new Baja LTVA and it is a much better alternative for full-time RVers who need a cool place to go in the summer months. The Baja LTVA has contracts with well-established campgrounds offering unheard-of rates in this magnificent “undiscovered country”. A website is in the works providing all the information and documents you need for a fabulous summer, just a day away in Baja Mexico. Long-term campsites start at only $300 for beach access and views and a double-wide 45′ site.

Baja LTVA Update!

The Baja LTVA has announced the availability of Winter Season stays starting at only $300 for the entire 6 month season. Compare this with San Diego where narrow, 23′ beach access lots can go for $100 per day. Every Baja LTVA enjoys the same weather and beautiful Pacific as San Diego but lots are a minimum 45′ wide and average between 60′ and 100′ deep. $500 for beach front, $400 for row 2 and only $300 for lots in row 3 and beyond, for the entire 6 month season. All with fantastic ocean views and access for you and your vehicle. When walking along the miles of pristine Baja beach, you often find yourself totally alone, something that hasn’t been seen in San Diego for a long, long time.

You can contact the Baja LTVA with questions or to make a reservation at [email protected] while their website is under construction. Learn more from the Award Winning Baja LTVA Series.

LTVAs: Winter

The season during the winter months is from September 15 to April 15 and at $180 for a stay of up to 7 months, it’s a bargain. For short stays of up to 14 days, the permit is $75. The America The Beautiful Interagency Passes, or Golden Age/Golden Access Passports are not accepted.

There are six LTVA campgrounds located in southern California and two located in Arizona. The BLM Field Offices and their respective campgrounds are divided as follows:

El Centro Field Office: [Email]

  • Hot Spring LTVA
    LTVA permits are required from September 15th through April 15th. During the off-season, April 16th through September 14th, visitors may stay for a maximum of 14 days within a 28 day period. There is no charge during this time.
  • Pilot Knob LTVA
    An LTVA permit is required from September 15th through April 15th. During the off-season, April 16th through September 14th, visitors may stay for a maximum of 14 days within a 28 day period. There is no charge during this time.
  • Tamarisk LTVA
    An LTVA permit is required from September 15th through April 15th. During the off-season, April 16th through September 14th, visitors may stay for a maximum of 14 days within a 28 day period. There is no charge during this time.

Palm Springs Field Office: [Email]

  • Midland LTVA
    An LTVA Permit for Short-term or Long-term camping is required September 15th – April 15th. Camping is allowed in the LTVA in the ‘off’ season between April 16th – September 14th at no cost, but the standard 14-day limit for dispersed camping on BLM land applies. There is no Camp Host on site during the ‘off’ season.
  • Mule Mountain LTVA
    • Coon Hollow Camp Site
      Short term camping without self-containment is only allowed within the Coon Hollow camp site but not in the dispersed areas (the surrounding desert area). A Special Recreation Permit is required September 15th – April 15th. Camping is allowed in the LTVA in the ‘off’ season between April 16th – September 14th at no cost, but the standard 14-day limit for dispersed camping on BLM land applies. There is no Camp Host on site during the ‘off’ season.
    • Wiley’s Well Camp Site
      Short term camping without self-containment is only allowed within the Wiley’s Well camp site but not in the dispersed areas (the surrounding desert area). A Special Recreation Permit is required September 15th – April 15th. Camping is allowed in the LTVA in the ‘off’ season between April 16th – September 14th at no cost, but the standard 14-day limit for dispersed camping on BLM land applies. There is no Camp Host on site during the ‘off’ season.

Yuma Field Office: [Email]

  • La Posa LTVA
    A Long Term Visitor Area Permit is required from September 15th through April 15th each season. From April 16th through September 14th, the fee is $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 will be a $1 per person fee charged for each person over the 5 person limit. The maximum stay is 14 days in a 28-day period.
  • Imperial Dam LTVA
    A Long Term Visitor Area Permit is required from September 15th through April 15th each season. From April 16th through September 14th, the fee is $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 will be a $1 per person fee charged for each person over the 5 person limit. The maximum stay is 14 days in a 28-day period. For more information, please visit imperial-dam.rvhobo.net.

Long-Term Camping: Summer

The following information was valid prior to the 2017 season and will be updated if any verified changes by the BLM are obtained. Long Term Visitor Area has been changed to long-term as per the BLM’s press release regarding the Eastern Sierra. The Pleasant Valley Pit campgrounds in Inyo County has recently been added, also according to their press release, and information regarding that campground will be updated when the BLM provides it.

Bishop Field Office: [Email]

  • Tuttle Creek Campground, Elevation 5,120 ft
    Open year round.
    Campsite fees: First Come, First Served, No reservations accepted. $5.00/night per site, long-term permits accepted. Golden Age and Golden Access passes accepted for daily fee discounts. The annual long-term use season is from the first Saturday in March to November 1st. During this use season, visitors who wish to camp on public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management Bishop Field Office for extended periods greater than 14 days, must stay in the designated long-term campgrounds and purchase a long-term permit.
  • Goodale Creek Campground, Elevation 4,000 ft
    Open mid-April to Nov 30, weather permitting
    Campsite fees: First Come, First Served, No reservations accepted. $5.00/night per site, long-term permits accepted. Golden Age and Golden Access passes accepted for daily fee discounts. The annual long-term use season is from the first Saturday in March to November 1st. During this use season, visitors who wish to camp on public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management Bishop Field Office for extended periods greater than 14 days, must stay in the designated long-term campgrounds and purchase a long-term permit.
  • Crowley Lake Campground, Elevation 7000 ft.
    Open mid-April to Oct. 30
    Campsite fees: First Come, First Served, No reservations accepted. $5.00/night per site, long-term permits accepted. Golden Age and Golden Access passes accepted for daily fee discounts.The annual long-term use season is from the first Saturday in March to November 1st. During this use season, visitors who wish to camp on public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management Bishop Field Office for extended periods greater than 14 days, must stay in the designated long-term campgrounds and purchase a long-term permit.
  • Horton Creek Campground, Elevation 4,975 ft.
    Open May 1 to Oct 30
    Campsite fees: First Come, First Served, No reservations accepted. $5.00/night per site, long-term permits accepted. Golden Age and Golden Access passes accepted for daily fee discounts.
  • Pleasant Valley Pit campgrounds in Inyo County, Elevation about 4,200 ft.

The Art of Boondocking

Now you know where to stay for extended periods. The trick is to be able to camp comfortably without breaking your budget. Be sure to read our article, The RVHobo Art of Boondocking, written by a couple of seasoned RVers outlining how to stay for extended periods.

Comments 4

    1. jenny

      Hello Dennis, welcome to the RV Hobo. There are no BLM LTVAs that we know of other than those located in Southern California and Arizona.

  1. Pam D'Alessandro

    I’m hearing that they are doing away with the northern LTVA program. We can only stay in these camps for two weeks. Call BLM and complain!

    1. jenny

      Thank you for your comment Pam. The only BLM-authorized LTVAs are in Southern California and Arizona. Note that the BLM Field Offices in the south are quick to point out that the Bishop Field Office has never been a part of the LTVA program. The following is an excerpt from the press release regarding Long-Term Camping Opportunities Available in the Eastern Sierra, issued by the BLM on May 16, 2017:

      “Those interested in long-term camping have the option of purchasing either a 30-day or 90-day permit. Under the approved permit program visitors can camp for up to 180 days per year within BLM campgrounds in the Eastern Sierra. The fee for a 30-day permit is $120. The fee for a 90-day permit is $320.”

      As you can see, as their previous long-term permit fee was $300 for the season (the first Saturday in March until November 1st), they have raised their long-term rates by almost 300%. Note that in the Eastern Sierra, wildfires are common and the cost of living is much higher than the southern LTVAs. We will be updating the article with this information.

      In our opinion a much better alternative is the Baja LTVA. Prices range from $300 for the entire summer season (March 15 – September 15) with beach access and view. The same rate applies for the winter season (September 15 – March 15). While the official web site (bajaltva.com) isn’t up yet, the summer season is under-way and you can make a reservation for a campsite and pay online right now.

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