Federal parks. Who runs which?

-- Last Updated: Aug-24-08 5:09 PM EST --

I've been browsing for parks, wilderness areas, etc. in my neck of the the woods, but am a little confused by who has stewardship of which area and what that means.

There are National Park Service parks, which seem straight forward. Then there are areas listed under "National Forest Service", "USDA Forest Service", "U.S National Forests", "Bureau of Land Management" etc. Add oddball areas like Land Between the Lakes, which is administered by the TVA and it can be very confusing. Who runs what, what are their official names and how does that effect rules, philosophies, etc.? Is there a clearinghouse of parks/wilderness area information?

Some state parks are quite nice and some aren't. County parks are a total crapshoot. Federally administered parks seem better, but information about them seems scattered all over the place. Last year, my friend and I started our Green River trip (day 1) in the Mammoth Cave Nat'l Park campground. The sites had electricity, but were very quite, clean and wooded/secluded. A vastly different experience than the state and county parks I've been to.

I'd like to find the more out of the way parks that cater to primitive campers, canoe camping, etc....places that don't attract drunken loudmouths who need an RV hookup and 50 Amp circuits, but instead nature lovers who are happy to pack in their tools and supplies or at least practice simple base camping.




– Last Updated: Aug-24-08 10:31 PM EST –

The National Parks like Glacier etc are run by the National Park Service, part of the Department of the Interior.

National Forests and the National Forest campgrounds are run by the Forest Service, part of the department of Agriculture. The BWCAW comes under the Forest Service.

My preference has always been for Forest Service campgrounds over National Park or state park campgrounds. Less people usually.

No experience w/the rest.

lol, good luck with this, if you find
"the source" let us all know. I have never found a complete guide to the type of campgrounds you are looking for. Its all about word-of-mouth and personal experience and some luck. Unfortunately, we have a huge hodge-podge of agencies managing different land areas. Thats unlikely to change so enjoy the adventure of finding that little piece of solitude !

You might want to Google
National Scenic Waterways and National Scenic Rivers. These area where created to maintain just the kind of canoe camping experience you want. They may have sections that are overrun with River Dorks on weekends, but you should be able to find sections that remain primitive even on weekends.


All I know
is there are too many agencies and way too many different kinds of lands. They (fedreal, state, local) all need to get on the same page a create ONE fricken park pass. Between all of their passes that we have to purchase each year, I often wonder how they could all be so broke.

federal agencies
You’re close to having it-

USDA Forest Service oversees all national forests. Within those forests various areas are managed for “multiple uses” including logging and wilderness. National forests usually offer more solitude than other areas and are usually home to more acres of federally designated wilderness areas than the National Parks.

National Parks are usually smaller more complete (few or no private inholdings) and are usually more crowded. They tend to have all sorts of gift shops and campgrounds run by private concessionaires. The general public knows about “National Parks” and so they go. These areas are not “multiple use” and therefore recreation or the preservation of natural beauty is what they are managed for.

Bureau of Land Management is a lot like the Forest Service. They manage land west of the Mississippi if I recall correctly. I believe they are also multiple use.

Tennessee Valley Authority- I have no experience with them, although my understanding is that the land is managed similarly to the Adirondack Park in New York.

Your best bet for finding out about places is to check maps. Depending on what it says go to the appropriate website and buy another map with more detail provided by the agency.

TVA is probably best known as a federally owned electric utility with some other activities thrown in: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennessee_Valley_Authority

The list
National parks, national monuments, national seashores, and national recreation areas (such as Lake Powell, Roosevelt Lakes, and many other large waterways): National Park Service, which is under the Department of the Interior

Bureau of Land Management: Department of the Interior

National forests: Department of Agriculture

State parks and forests: State agencies of various types, sometimes with strange bedfellows

County parks and municipal parks are under their respective governments.

Some large areas are jointly governed. For example, some areas include BLM, USFS, NPS, and Bureau of Indian Affairs properties. This is not uncommon in the western U.S.