Boondocking at Flying Eagle Preserve

Once we had spent a few days in the Everglades without hook-ups, we were itching to further explore boondocking opportunities. Florida is a great place to do that, both because of weather and availability, so after a few days of resting and recharging back at Peace River, we chose a boondocking site near our next destination.

What is boondocking? Definitions vary and in some circles are hotly debated (Seriously? Find something better to spend your energy on people!) but we like this one, borrowed from

Florida has some great opportunities for ‘dispersed camping’ on public lands. Many of these lands fall under the jurisdiction of water management districts. Each regional district has a website where these opportunities can be found, though some are easier to use than others. The best ones have a map that help you find public lands along your route or near a specific destination. Most are just lists of places and it takes a little extra research to figure out where they all are.

But the payoff is a free place to camp, usually in a beautiful and somewhat secluded place. While there are many advantages to campgrounds, we find that sometimes we just need to get out in nature and be by ourselves for a while. And free is right in our price range. So, with the help of the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s website, we found Flying Eagle Preserve. We filled out a reservation request online and before too long we got a confirmation email including the combination to the lock on the gate.

It was a special feeling pulling through that gate and locking it again behind us – like we were shutting out the rest of the world for a little while. There was one other camper parked in the area while we were there, but there was plenty of space and we could barely see them through the trees. The site was spacious and included a fire ring and a picnic table. There was a big sandy area that the kids took to be their own personal sandbox. It was a beautiful site, and it was completely free.

Flying Eagle
Wide open spaces!

We spent a few days at Flying Eagle, relaxing, building fires, cooking and eating outside, and spotting armadillos. The environment was so peaceful, with the exception of the sound of air boats on the nearby lake. From Flying Eagle we took a day trip to Crystal River to swim with manatees (more on that coming soon). We had no phone or internet signal, no electricity beyond what our solar panel produced, and only the water we had with us in our tank. And we loved it.

Learning how to build a fire.


Somehow all food seems to taste better when it’s eaten outside!


Flying Eagle Preserve was a place to truly be unplugged for a while. Our first experiment with boondocking on public land was a success and we plan to look for more opportunities to do it again in the future!

Any tips for us on good places for free dispersed camping on public lands around the country? We’d love to hear others’ suggestions and experiences!



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