Do you like camping near the water? If so, you need to add Army Corp of Engineer campgrounds to your camping trip plans. You may have already stayed at one and not even realized the campground was managed by the Army Corp of Engineers.
People that I know that have camped at them (and they are popular campgrounds in Georgia!) often just refer to them by the name of the lake they are at or the individual campground surrounding that lake.
Whether you are a tent or RV camper, there is sure to be a site for you. The Army Corp of Engineers manage more than 400 lake and river projects in 43 states consisting of more than 92,000 campsites. With 90% of these recreation areas located within 50 miles of a major metropolitan area it is no wonder they are popular (and convenient for traveling Rvers too).
Even though it has often said that it is hard to find information about the Army Corp of Engineers campgrounds, I think it is just knowing where to look! Actually several sources exists about COE campgrounds.
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How to Find Corp of Engineers Campgrounds
The first place to begin searching is on the Corp of Engineers website. You can select a state, lake, or activity from the drop down boxes at the top of the page or just use the handy, clickable US map. Click the state you want to camp in and another page will open with a state map showing available camping options. On this page you can select a specific lake and activities you are looking for. Each lake has its own page with recreation area info, trail maps, lake maps, and links to lake websites and reservations.
Corp Lakes on the Go is also an app for your phone. You can find the link for it on corplakes.us.
Not all campgrounds and facilities at these lakes are managed by the Corp of Engineers. Partnerships exist with state, city, and county parks. Commercial campgrounds, resorts, and marinas are found at some of the lakes. Although they are located at Corp of Engineer lakes, they are not operated by the Corp of Engineers.
The second place to look (or just head here first as you’ll be directed to this site to make your reservations) is the recreation.gov website. Recreation.gov is the reservation home to all the federal operated recreation areas like National Parks and Army Corp of Engineers.
For example, if you are looking for Army Corp of Engineer campgrounds in Georgia, just type Georgia Army Corp of Engineers in the search bar on the main screen. Then you can select which campground you want – a map is also available. Commercially operated campgrounds at the lakes will not be on recreation.gov. Only those campgrounds operated by the Corp of Engineers will be listed.
Campground information, reservations, reviews, photos, and a campground map showing campsites can be found.
I personally like to look at both websites. I love researching outdoor activities and destinations, so I think it is fun to pursue any available info on the campgrounds
YouTube is another resource if you are just looking for a little more info on certain campgrounds. Search for Army Corp of Engineers campgrounds or by campground name – there are several videos there.
This Army Corp of Engineers video is a little dated, but it gives you a look at one of the campgrounds.
If you would like a book covering the COE campgrounds, a couple are available, including the popular Camping with the Corp of Engineers: The Complete Guide to Campgrounds Built and Operated by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers by Don Wright.
Corp of Engineers Campground Fees
Once of the great things about these campgrounds is the reasonable campsite fees. Individual campsites range from $18.00 – $56.00 with the average being $22.00 – $35.00. Full hook up sites with sewer are usually the ones that cost more. Group campsites are also available and are more than individual sites.
I have even found primitive tent sites that are FREE! Some of these sites may only be accessed by hiking or boating in, but still have designated tent pads, picnic tables, lantern hooks, fire rings, and pit toilets.
Senior Pass and Access Pass for Army Corp of Engineers Campgrounds
If you are 62 or older, you can save money on campsite fees with the America the Beautiful Senior Pass. The senior pass can be purchased online and through the mail. You can also purchase them in person at these locations.
A lifetime pass is $80.00 plus a $10.00 processing fee. An annual pass is $20.00. This pass gives you free entrance to federal sites (like National Parks and Army Corp of Engineers sites) that charge day use fees. It may offer a 50% discount on camping fees.
If you are disabled, you can obtain an Access Pass for the $10.00 processing fee. This pass has the same benefits as the Senior Pass.
Army Corp of Engineers Campground Reservations
Campground reservations, if offered, are strongly recommended! Not all campgrounds offer reservations, but if they do and you don’t reserve your site, there is a good chance no campsite will be available when you arrive. COE campground reservations are made through recreation.gov.
Campsite reservations are usually released on a 6 or 12 month rolling basis. Campgrounds are open for different lengths, depending on the location. I have seen campgrounds open for only 3 months to those open year round.
You can reserve specific sites. The campground maps, site descriptions, and photos make this easy and a huge plus. Premium sites in the campgrounds, like those that are waterfront and larger, often are reserved first.
Corp of Engineers Campground Amenities
Don’t be put off by the bland, brown entrance signs, which are common for federal operated recreation areas. These campgrounds offer the same amenities that many private or franchise campgrounds offer.
Personally, I think the views and locale make up for any drab structures you may come across!
COE campgrounds are great for RV camping as many of the roads are well maintained and often asphalt. Campsites are known for being level with ample room. Read the reviews and campground description thoroughly on recreation.gov to find more info on road and campsite access, especially if your have a big rig. Depending on the terrain where the COE campground is located, there could be steep, curvy roads and smaller campsites, just like with any campground.
Because COE campgrounds are located at lakes it is common to find water front campsites.Some of these campsites have wood decks or concrete patio areas overlooking the lake.
Sites range from primitive to full hook up with water, electric, and sewer. Most, if not all, have picnic tables, lantern hooks, grill, and a fire ring.
Bathrooms, with showers, are usually available and some even have laundry areas with washers and dryers. Many campgrounds offer accessible sites, bathrooms, and facilities.
Activities at Corp of Engineers Campgrounds
If you want to do more than just relax and enjoy the lake views at your campsite, COE campgrounds have tons of activities.
It is a given that water sports and activities often top the list of thing to do considering these campgrounds are at lakes and rivers
Fishing is popular at the campgrounds. Bank access will vary depending on the terrain surrounding the lake. In north Georgia, steep banks lead to the water’s edge, making it almost impossible to fish from the bank and your campsite. Fishing docks and piers are often available. Many fish while boating.
Boating of all kinds is another popular activity. Most campgrounds have boat ramps. If you are in a kayak or canoe, please watch out for larger boats. Likewise, If you are in a motor boat, look for those in smaller water craft. Always wear a life jacket!
It is common to see water skiers and tubers on the lakes in the summer months.
Many lakes have marinas and other commercial facilities operated by state, city, and county departments and others that have agreements with the Corp of Engineers.
Swimming beaches are a fun place to cool off at COE campgrounds, especially for the kids!
There are over 7,800 miles of trails within COE recreation areas. Most of the trails are open to hikers, with some open to bicyclists, equestrians, and even ATV/ORV riders.
Playgrounds and picnic areas are available at many COE campgrounds.
The thousands of acres that make up COE lands are also popular hunting destinations. Don’t worry, hunting rules and regulations are enforced and each recreation area has specific regulations and restrictions.
Outdoor recreation activities at Corp of Engineer campgrounds seem endless – golf, stand up paddle boarding, snorkeling, rafting, and more!
Camping with the Corp of Engineers
Corp of Engineer campgrounds are another popular federally owned recreation destination. Have you camped at a COE campground? Let me know about your favorites in the comments below!