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Arkansas RV Camping – Ouachita National Forest

RV Camping and Location Maps for Ouachita National Forest, Arkansas

There are 2 RV camping location maps on this page

These maps and information are provided to assist you in finding RV camping locations in the Ouachita National Forest of Arkansas. Locations displayed are approximate, and are offered only as a guide and should not be used for navigation. Public lands are administered by USA and state government departments, and you should consult with the local public land management office for specific RV camping and access information if you are unsure of local policies.

To find free RV camping sites in the Ouachita National Forest, you need good maps. We recommend the Arkansas Atlas & Gazetteer by DeLorme Publishing Company as a great paper recreation atlas. Put that together with DeLorme Topo 6.0 Software and you have a powerful set of tools to find great RV camping sites.

Ouachita National Forest Location

Dispersed RV camping (boondocking) is permitted on the Ouachita National Forest. Some camping rules exist. Typical USDA Forest Service (USFS) rules are 14 day limited stay before moving to a new location. The distance you may need to move may vary by location, so you should consult with the local USFS office for rules and restrictions.

Ouachita National Forest

100 Reserve Street
P.O. Box 1270
Federal Building
Hot Springs, AR 71902 (501) 321-5202

You will need to explore these areas to find good free camping sites. You may get a good camping recommendation from the USFS offices too if you ask about “dispersed” or open camping in the forest. Click the map for the official Ouachita National Forest web site.

USFSOuachitaLocationMap

Official Dispersed Camping Information

The following information is provided by the USDA Forest Service, is quoted exactly, and applies to all National Forests. Check with local Forest Service Offices for regional rules and restrictions.

Dispersed Camping

Many people enjoy the solitude and primitive experience of camping away from developed campgrounds and other campers. “Dispersed camping” is the term used for camping anywhere in the National Forest OUTSIDE of a designated campground, and is generally allowed anywhere except where posted as closed.

Dispersed camping may mean no toilet facilities or treated water are located nearby, and no fire grates are provided. Typically, dispersed camping is not allowed in the vicinity of developed recreation areas such as campgrounds, picnic areas or trailheads. Many people drive out on Forest Service roads into the woods and find a clearing or a spot near a stream or with a view of the mountains.

There are extra responsibilities and skills that are necessary for dispersed camping. By applying Leave No Trace practices, you will ensure a safe, clean and positive experience for your family and the environment.

Choosing a Campsite

  • If you are going to an area where others have camped before, pick an established “hardened” site. Many existing “campsites” – areas where others have camped before you – are located near water on riverbanks and lakeshores. Whether you are using an existing site or camping in an area where camping use is not evident, it is important to follow these steps:
  • Camp, on bare, or compacted soil when possible, to avoid damaging or killing plants and grass. Keep activity on durable ground to prevent site expansion.
  • Park vehicles on roads and barren ground to avoid disturbing vegetation.
  • Where no campsites exist, camp at least 100 feet of a water source, as plants and wildlife near water are especially fragile.
  • When camping at existing sites near water, be prepared to wash dishes and to bathe well away from your campsite to avoid polluting streams and lakes.
  • Select a campsite with good natural drainage to eliminate the need to trench or level tent sites.
  • Avoid creating new “roads” to access your campsite.
  • Refrain from cutting or damaging vegetation, including standing dead trees. Use removable ropes instead of nails to hang things from trees.

Campfires

Many wildfires are caused by human activity, including escaped campfires from dispersed campers. Campfires are generally allowed when you are dispersed camping UNLESS there are fire restrictions in effect due to high fire danger conditions. It is YOUR responsibility to know if fire restrictions are in effect before you go camping.

Campfire Tips:

  • Use camp stoves for cooking, to minimize the use of down wood for fuel. Animals, insects and micro-organisms need downed, rotting wood to survive.
  • Use existing fire rings whenever possible. This minimizes the scarring of new rocks, soil and plants and prevents campsite expansion.
  • Bring plenty of garbage bags to pack out all of your garbage, including food scraps. Burning garbage is unacceptable.
  • Select an area for your campfire away from meadows, and trees with low, overhanging branches, AT LEAST 100 feet from any water sources.
  • Use a fire pan, or learn how to build a Leave No Trace mound-fire.
  • If you don’t bring your own firewood, collect only dead and downed wood that is on the ground, wrist size or smaller. Branches on live trees should be left in tact. If a popular camping area does not have dead and downed wood, bring your own firewood and use a camp stove. Burn the wood completely to ash.
  • ANEVER LEAVE A FIRE UNATTENDED
  • You should have a bucket, shovel, and axe available to control or extinguish escaped fire.
  • BEFORE YOU LEAVE YOUR CAMPFIRE, MAKE SURE IT IS DEAD OUT. Put your whole hand into the ashes – it should be cool to the touch.

Properly Dispose of Waste

Visitors who don’t properly manage human waste, washing or garbage contaminate water and attract animals to campsites.

Human Waste – Dispersed camping often means no toilet facilities. Extra care must be taken to properly dispose of human waste.

  • To dispose of feces, dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 100 feet from any water source, campsites or trails.
  • When you’re done, fill the hole with the dirt you dug up and place your toilet paper in a sealed Ziploc baggie for disposal in a proper waste container.
  • Empty built-in or portable toilets at sanitary dump stations.

Waste Water and Washing

  • Do all washing and dispose of waste water at least 100 feet from any water source. Dig a small hole to act as a “sump” for dishwater.
  • Use small amounts of biodegradable soap.

Treating Your Water

Increased visitation to our National Forests has lead to the contamination of water sources by invisible, micro-organisms such as Giardia and Cryptosporium. These organisms can lead to serious illness when consumed by humans. No untreated water source can be considered safe for consumption.

Be prepared to treat undeveloped water sources or bring your own water. Heating to a rolling boil, using purification tablets or a filter, can all effectively treat water. Water from faucets in developed recreation areas has been tested and treated and is safe to use

Camp Waste

Pack it in, Pack it out. This mantra applies to your camp waste as well as the waste left behind by previous campers. Be prepared to pack out all garbage, including tin, glass, plastic, paper and food scraps such as peels and bones.

Remember, your fire ring is not a garbage receptacle. Well-intended campers often consolidate their garbage in a fire ring expecting the following camper to burn or dispose of it properly. Garbage that is left behind is typically dispersed by animals making the cleanup job much more difficult and creates unwanted behaviors in birds, squirrels and bears. Yellow jackets are attracted to meat juices and sugars and can render a campsite unpleasant and unsafe for future use.

Respect Your Neighbors

Keep noise levels down to avoid disturbing other campers and recreationists in the area. If you bring pets, keep them in control at all times. Also, respect private landowners and refrain from camping and trespassing on private lands.

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Federal Public Land
RV Camping Information

US Forest Service - USFS
Describes USFS policies and rules about RV camping. Information about dispersed camping, and tips on how to find great free RV camping sites.

National Park Service (NPS)
General information about RV camping in US National Parks. With campgrounds in the most historic and scenic places in the country, the NPS offers some of the best places for RV camping.

US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE/COE )
USACE (perhaps better know as COE) manages water recreation areas throughout the USA. Information about finding Corps managed lakes, RV camping rules and policies for use of these water based recreation areas is included.

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