What are COE Campgrounds?

Belton Lake COE Campground

Looking for a campsite, but the state and national parks are full? Want to plan a weekend getaway, but don’t want to stray too far from town? Why not try camping at a COE campground? These campgrounds have varying amenities and can often accommodate RVs of any size. Many of these campgrounds are along a lake or a river providing plenty of water recreation such as boating, fishing, or swimming. What exactly is a COE campground? Read on to learn more!

What is the COE?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, also known as COE or USACE, plan, develop, and maintain many of our rivers, dams, and other waterways. Much of their work focuses on flood control, conservation, and recreation. The COE has existed for centuries. George Washington appointed the first officers back in 1775. In 1802, the Corps of Engineers was established as a permanent branch of the Army.

Since their beginnings, they’ve provided public engineering services that have both bolstered the economy and reduced risks from natural disasters such as floods. During the 19th century, they constructed lighthouses, harbors, and coastal defenses. Other notable buildings and landmarks they were involved in the construction of include the Washington Monument, Library of Congress, and the U.S. Capitol. More recently, they have constructed and continue to operate many dams for flood control as well as coastal and harbor facilities.

Today, the COE has a focus on waterways within the U.S. With dams and other technologies, they can monitor and control flooding, water movement, and other conservation efforts. Over the last few decades, they have developed hundreds of recreation areas throughout the country, including many campgrounds.


Below are few facts about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and their public engineering projects:

  • The Corps of Engineers has about 37,000 members, including both civilians and soldiers
  • They operate not only in the U.S. but in over 130 other countries
  • With over 400 lake and river projects in 43 states, they are one of the leading federal sources of outdoor recreation
  • The COE manages approximately 12 million acres of public lands and waters throughout the U.S.

Recreation Areas

The COE maintains and operates hundreds of recreation areas throughout the U.S. About 90% of the COE recreation areas are located within 50 miles of a city making for a great day trip or a quick weekend getaway. A small fee is often required for day-use and an additional fee for overnight stays at campgrounds. These fees are considerably cheaper than many other campground options. Many of these parks are along lakes or rivers providing visitors with recreational opportunities such as fishing, boating, hiking, and camping. To put it in perspective, a visitor to all of the COE recreation areas would find that there are:

  • 92,588 campsites
  • 7,856 miles of trails
  • 3,754 boat ramps
  • 55,390 miles of shoreline

How to Find a COE Campground

The many army corps of engineers campgrounds offer a variety of campsite options from no hookups to partial to full hookups. These campgrounds tend to have mostly level campsites that can accommodate even the largest rigs. To find a COE campground, you’ll want to visit Corps Lakes Gateway. Once there, select a state and the desired activities. A list of campgrounds will be populated meeting your search criteria. While you can easily find campgrounds on the Corps Lakes website, you’ll need to head over to Recreation.gov to make your reservation.

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