finding a good camping spot on the river

I’m kinda new to Kayaking and would love to know how to go about weekend/extended kayak trips.

How do you find out where you are allowed to camp out at on a river/lake?

I prefer primitive camping and dont like designated camping spots/camp grounds.

any help is appreciated

depends on the spot. many areas are OK, many are private.

Commando camping is where you sneak it and (hopefully) don’t get caught.


Where are you?
Out here in the Northwest, you can camp “undesignated” in many areas. National forest land and BLM land containing most of those locations.

You can get maps that show the location of BLM land from…the BLM office nearest you. Ditto for the National forests. Those maps usually show any restrictions, but the personnel at the respective offices can answer specific questions.

Idunno about the rest of the country.

The easiest way…
is to simply stop by a local canoe/kayak outfitter and pick their brains.

If none are around we usually just ask one of the locals who lives on or near the river or lake.

You would be surprised at some of the friendly and inviting answers you’ll get.

Yesterday we were checking out a white water river gorge that has been too low to paddle the past few years, and met a guy who was doing some tractor work in a field moving boulders. - It turned out that he was a avid WW canoer and all he wanted to do was talk about the river. before we finished the conversation, he told us to feel free to pull up onto his property any time we wanted to.



check land owner

– Last Updated: May-21-09 11:06 PM EST –

Some lands, there are basic rules that are pretty open. BLM and National Forest lands generally allow "dispersed camping",which means you can camp anywhere that is not posted otherwise. Wilderness is the same, but you are supposed to get back country permit from the closest National Forest ranger office. You likely would also need to get a fire permit from the ranger station if you plan campfires.

Other lands often have info on their web sites. For example, the web site for Yellowstone National Park talks about a paddle trail on Lewis and Shoshone Lakes, including having designated campsites.

On the route you want to paddle, check to see who owns the land and then check to see web sites for those public landowners on the route.

The best spots are the ones with
the beer cans and used diapers.

full beer bottles and MT diapers.

A lot of info online
and in your local kayak/canoe club.

Outfitters are also generally very knowledgeable. Some sales people will be as well.


Call ahead
If there are management agencies overseeing the land next to the river, call the local offices and ask them what’s allowed. If the maps show the land as private, best forget about it.

Policies about dispersed camping vs. using only designated campsites vary quite a bit even in public areas. Some have both types, but the dispersed camping must be a certain distance away from any developed features (campgrounds, boat ramps, etc).

In the west, river users have encountered deadly traps hidden in the water, meant to hurt users merely for passing legally through on the river corridor. I hate to think what these landowners would do if they found anybody commando camping there…lots of shotguns around.

That’s Yellowstone, not Yosemite
All backcountry camping in Yellowstone is at designated sites, with permits obtained from the ranger’s office prior to departure. Permits are free but if you want to nail a spot in advance, you must do it by mailing in a form and a fee. If your spot is available, they will send you a confirmation notice by e-mail. The fee gets you the right to exchange your confirmation for the actual permit when you get to Yellowstone. The confirmation itself is NOT the permit.

Don’t forget the whitefish

My goof. Fixed in my original response

whatever you do
if you camp private land (stealth camp) DO NOT MAKE A MESS. No fire either. Fire is visible, and could quickly bring aforementioned shotgun-totin’ crazy people down on you. Most places I know of the river bank is part of the river, and considered (legally) to be public. Most land owners I know think otherwise.

Leave no . . .
. . . trace, good advice no matter where you camp. No fire. Don’t worry 'bout it. They ain’t gonna shoot you. They ain’t gonna arrest you. Most they can do is ask you to leave and be rude.