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Dry camping increasingly popular in Havasu area

April 8, 2019

Part of living or spending time in the American West are the feelings of freedom and independence that many relish.

For those who enjoy dry camping, they get a better chance at enjoying those sensations.

Dry camping, also known as boondocking, is the practice of camping in a recreational vehicle without hookups for electricity, water or sewage.

It’s a popular pastime in the Lake Havasu City area as well as across the West where public land is plentiful.

But, like much everything else, there is a negative side to dry campers.

“We’ve had people camping on private land and other places they shouldn’t be, so we’ve had the sheriff’s office out getting people out of where they don’t belong,” Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson said. “It does get to be a problem with some of the transients that move in, you have litter, fecal matter and that has a negative effect on the natural resources. We’ve found people painting boats, leaving lots of garbage.

“But the BLM has been good about setting aside places where people can camp and we put a 30-day limit on camping near the lake,” Johnson said. “The county and city both have free cleanup days and the dump lets people take one or two large items there a year.”

According to information from the county Sheriff’s Office, it has noticed an increase of dry campers in the area.

The county ordinance regarding camping states “It shall be unlawful for a person to camp on a particular piece of public or private property located within the boundaries of the county and outside of the incorporated areas in the county or on any property within 20 miles thereof that also is within the boundaries of the county and outside of the incorporated areas in the county for a period in excess of 14 consecutive days.

Violating the measure is a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment in jail for a period of time not in excess of 30 days, or both. Each and every day of violation under this article shall constitute a separate offense.

Federal Bureau of Land Management lands account for millions of acres while State Trust Lands also provide areas for dry campers.

Glenn Bellefeuille is a retired long-haul truck driver from Minnesota who has been in the Havasu region since the first week of December.

He retired from his job hauling goods all over the United States last summer and bought a Raptor Toyhauler RV. The Raptor has more than enough space for Bellefeuille and it’s also capable of hauling his Kawasaki 1500 Vulcan motorcycle.

“It’s the second camper I’ve owned,” Bellefeuille said. “We had a popup camper years ago that we took the kids on trips to different places.”

He said this is the first time he has been in Arizona.

“For all the driving I did all over the country, the Southwest is one area I had never been to,” Bellefeuille said. “But it’s been great.

“I love it, I love the open road and I like getting on the back roads, seeing different animals and meeting a lot of interesting people,” he said.

One of the interesting people he met was a man who was camping near him who happened to be a mechanic, who offered to help fix the brake lines on his 2003 Ford F250 diesel truck when they gave out after Bellefeuille arrived at his latest spot on State Trust land near the city limits.

“I got pretty lucky,” Bellefeuille said. “I had made it here and had just dropped my camper when I got in the truck to go into town and realized the brakes weren’t working. It could have been bad, hauling a big camper like that, but I was fortunate and even more so when I learned my neighbor could fix it.”

Like many who live in the desert, Bellefeuille is careful with his resources, particularly water.

“The camper has a 100-gallon water tank, but I only use that for washing and flushing. I buy spring water to drink or make coffee,” he said.

His camper has a generator that provides electric and he has a propane tank that provides him heat and operates his stove and refrigerator.

“I don’t run the generator any more than I have to, and the water pump broke so that needed fixing,” Bellefeuille said. “It seems like I’m always so busy, something always needs repaired.”

Bellefeuille said he likes to change spots every so often. He’s camped on BLM land, State Trust land and at an RV park.

“You can get a permit to camp for 14 days on state trust land for $16 and you can go to a state park and pay $15 to dump your tanks and refill them,” Bellefeuille said.

He has joined friends at various places in the region, exploring old mine sites, ghost towns and wildlife refuges.

“When I retired last year, I really felt lazy but I’m getting used to it,” Bellefeuille said. “I’ve made a lot of friends I wouldn’t have.”

There are regulations that must be followed by those who choose to dry camp. Both the BLM and Arizona State Land Department have rules governing their use.

“Dry camping is very popular here,” BLM Havasu office Public Information Officer Valerie Gohlke said. “There’s a lot of public land, recreation on the lake and certainly the winter weather here is a big draw.”

On State Trust Land, permits must be purchased for camping or general use such as hiking or off-roading.

For more information, go to https://land.az.gov/natural-resources/recreational-permits.

For more information on BLM land, go to https://www.blm.gov/sites/blm.gov/files/BLM%20Camping%20Guidelines.pdf or call 928-505-1200.

Scott Shindledecker can be reached at 928-453-4237 or sshindledecker@havasunews.com.

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