Free 14-day? In LTVA? Yah Hey!
You don’t say! No way! Before you cough up your last meal, I’ll simply say that I was surprised to find two areas just at the borders of the Imperial Dam LTVA that are signed as officially open to free 14-day camping. I never knew they existed, as all I could find were Mittry Lake (to be covered in a later post), several Recreation Fee areas (also to be covered), and day use or camping prohibited areas. I mention them here just to provide another free option to those wanting to stay in a secluded, traditional desert camping area for free. Unlike Yuma’s roadside sand areas I’ve seen elsewhere, both of these BLM areas together had just one camper between them. You want privacy? Here it is.
Neither imposes any demands for either ground clearance or 4WD. I could tow the Defiant into either, which is really saying something. The only thing I wouldn’t do is drive a maxo-motorhome in blind. There are tons of these within the LTVA borders, but these 14-day areas should be seen first before taking an extremely heavy, low-clearance vehicle in. It’s a prudence thing. Turn-around areas are limited, but there.
To get there from Route 95, the same west turn is made on Imperial Dam Road to head for the Imperial Dam LTVA. Once a couple of miles past the entrance to Mittry Lake, the usual turn is made on Senator Wash Road to head for the LTVA. Once over the canal, the first paved road to the left should be taken. Google calls it Senator Wash Road too, but it also calls everything else that’s undesignated as that. My GPS calls it Ferguson Road. Doesn’t matter. Take it. Go past the crossroad intersection of the real Ferguson Road and start looking for the marked 727 trail to the right. If you miss it, you’ll pass the entrance to Coyote Flats. No biggie. The road very quickly ends in a nice paved loop to head you back.
Basically, you just follow 727 on in until you’re through the LTVA. There’s no adventure to it except for one washed out area that has a very simple drive-around to the right side.
At a point not all that far in, you come to a Y, where 727 continues to the right and 832 begins to the left. I first took 832.
I retraced 727 back to the paved road, and kept thinking how I really like this 14-day area in spite of the relatively limited sites suitable for vehicle camping. Much of it is pristine, free of having people working it over and making stupid little rock trails and fencing as if to civilize it. It is starkly beautiful, utterly silent, not overly long distance-wise, and certainly worth an inspection tour. Back on the paved road, a few hundred feet down revealed the signed entrance to Coyote Flats. Signs warn that this is an LTVA permit area for self-contained rigs only.
The Coyote Flats area is more problematic to describe how to get through. Taking a Y-branch to the right led to an LTVA boundary sign and a marker prohibiting camping. But look who turned up –
Returning back to the Y and taking the left branch leads to more splits. All I can say is, stay on the main trail, which leans right and stays out of washes. It will soon offer a chance to turn right on marked trail 728, which leads to the free camping area. You’ll pass over a kind of overhang, where dirt has slowly eroded one side of the foundation of the dirt road into a wash. It’s okay, it’s wide enough for anything, but I personally wouldn’t take anything over it that’s extremely heavy and wide that doesn’t distribute weight nicely. Cave-ins happen. The 26′, 7,000-pound Defiant and 9,000-pound Furd are no issue. A 40,000-pound Class A, I’d do some soul-searching first: “How badly do I want to camp for free?”
Judging by the surrounding walls of washed-out ridge, this 14-day area is apparently low ground. Yet at the same time, I saw no evidence of trail or camp area erosion to indicate flooding. There are also higher and lower levels that allow site choices.
There you have it. Free 14-day camping that nobody’s talked about before. Should I defy the Prime Directive and visit these areas again, I will update this post with GPS coordinates. Still to go: posts on Mittry Lake, Squaw Lake, and Ferguson Lake.