Camping Mishaps: Noisy Neighbors

Use online tools to choose a campsite away from busy areas and noisy campsites (photo by BarelyFitz)

Use online tools to choose a campsite safe from noisy neighbors (photo by BarelyFitz)

In my first post of the Camping Mishaps series I talked about the weather and what you can do to avoid, or at least minimize the impact, that bad weather can have on your camping trip. In this post, I’m going to talk about something that is much harder to predict and yet can have a huge negative impact on your camping experience: noisy neighbors.

One of the great aspects of camping is getting away from the hustle, bustle and, yes, the noise of our Monday through Friday lives. There is almost nothing worse than arriving at the campsite of your dreams, only to discover that you are camped next to an RV that wants to run their generator all night.

You can run into other kinds of problems, too, if you are camping somewhere new and are not familiar with the area. You could discover, after the sun goes down, that the campground of your dreams turns into the local high school hangout, with enough loud music and drinking to make a frat house blush. Here are some steps you can take, in order to minimize the risk of a ruined camping experience.

Pick the Right Site

Yes, it’s true that a noisy generator can resonate throughout the entire campground, but you can minimize the risk by scouting-out the campground before making a reservation. To demonstrate this strategy, I threw a dart at a map of the United States and it landed near Pine Bluff, Arkansas. So let’s see if we can find a decent campsite near there.

Search results for all federal campgrounds near Pine Bluff, AR

Search results for all federal campgrounds near Pine Bluff, AR

The first thing I did was log onto Recreation.Gov and do a quick search for all campgrounds around Pine Bluff, AR. The very first listing is almost what I’m looking for – a campground with no electrical hookups. RV’s tend to avoid these campgrounds with no hookups.

Unfortunately, this campground is only five miles outside of Pine Bluff. That is much too close to a city of 50,000 people, for me. I don’t know the area at all, but that is all the more reason to avoid an area that could potentially be the local high school hangout (or worse).

Facility map view on Recreation.Gov

Facility map view on Recreation.Gov

Continuing on down the page (and further away from Pine Bluff), I rejected numerous campgrounds that had all electrical sites, until I came across the Crystal Springs Campground, on Lake Ouachita. Granted, I’m now some 80 miles outside of Pine Bluff, but I’ll drive a couple of hours for some peace-and-quiet, if that’s what it takes.

This campground has 52 sites with electric and water hookups, but it also has 22 sites without hookups. These sites are located on both ends of the campground, but the ones on the left (circled in red) are the most attractive. The sites on the right side of the campground are located next to two group shelters, two “comfort stations” (I have no idea what that is, but I know I don’t need it), and the boat ramp – definitely too busy for my taste.

Google Maps satellite view of a section of the campground

Google Maps satellite view of a section of the campground

Now that I’ve narrowed my search down to a particular area of the campground, it’s time to click over to Google™ Maps and user its satellite view to get a better feel for the terrain. Those three campsites on the far-left look pretty good, to me, since there is some high ground and trees between them and the rest of the campground. Having never been to this campground, I would feel good about reserving one of these campsites.

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11 thoughts on “Camping Mishaps: Noisy Neighbors

  1. You can scout all you want but this will not keep some asshole from showing with a generator and destroying the peace and quiet.

    Why don’ these people just stay home if they want all the comforts of home?

  2. Well, it’s 5:41am and the drunken college students are finally passed out. Being a church secretary & only 26yrs old, I’m not someone they would be intimidated by or have respect for, so confronting them then-and-there is not an option. What’s your advice for dealing with these type of noisy neighbors (drunk, group mentality, camp host gone after 10:30pm…)? Is it appropriate to ask them to at least pay for our camp site for the ruined night of sleep? Thank you!! 🙂

  3. Steve – there is some work being done on something like this (an Internet community-based campground information site) and from what I have seen, it looks pretty close to being released. I will be covering it here, as soon as they launch it.

  4. Good points Roy, I suppose I’m thinking about a google street view for campsites. If we could somehow get those tricked out photo vans that drive through our neighborhoods pasting the store and house fronts, to drive through the campsites. That Santa Clara site ( is pretty cool, definitely on the right track.

    Any ideas on setting up a database for campers to upload photos of their favorite sites? Just a quick upload, comment section, and then a rating function that allows other users to add comments and rank the site (5 marshmallows) they could then be sorted by number of marshmallows to you could get to the best ones faster. Obviously this only works if a bunch of users do it, and the more who do the bigger it gets.

    Does this already exist? Is camping ready for this?


  5. It’s a real challenge, Steve. The real benefit of something like Google Maps is being able to see the spatial relationship of the campground to other features around it; i.e. railroad tracks, busy roads, etc. (rifle ranges – yikes!). Used in conjunction with the crude campground maps offered by the reservation sites, it can also be helpful in picking an individual campsite that meets certain criteria. I often use this combination to pick a campsite with direct beach access, for example.

    More to your point of being able to see the individual campsites themselves, Santa Clara County offers Quicktime “virtual tours” of campsites ( It is a nice feature, but not the panacea that you might think. The virtual tours do not give you a feel for the overall size of the campsite and you can end-up squeezed-in pretty close to a neighbor if you are not careful.

  6. Just curious, it seems currently the best way to pick a camp site in an unfamiliar park is to search on reserveamerica (horrible site!-how are you supposed to know what you are getting into?) and then go to google maps and check out the satellite. But what if you’re in the woods off the beaten path, google maps just shows the trees. Ok, so you could type Hendy Camping (for example) into Flicker and browse all 215 picts and maybe find one that doesn’t have people, food, bugs or fire, just a shot of what the campsite actually looks like, in the daylight from a few angles.

    This is turning into more of a rant. But what if there was a place that when you got back from your trip, and you took a few shots of the campsites, with the campsite numbers, you could upload them with comments. And then we would have a much better resource than Google maps and reserveamerica.

    Just a thought.

    oh and speaking of Hendy, (Mendocino- Nor. Cal) watch out for the big boom. There must be a firing range around there with high caliber weapons, those are some early morning bone rattlin booms! Great park otherwise.


  7. I was bumming around northwestern New York one summer in the early 1980s. One late afternoon, I wandered upon a state campground in Plattsburg, New York and decided to make camp for the night. The next morning I was woken up at around 6:00 AM by these ear splitting and ground shaking dooms. I learned later that the campground was only a few miles from the Plattsburg Air Force Base and the booms were B-52s taken off for training mission. I didn’t stay another night at that camp. The campground was pretty full. I do not how the people camping there deal with the noise.

    Eric’s last blog post..Clayton Park Pictures

  8. Mike – “The Loudmans” – ha, ha!

    Shawna – those are the worst, it’s just so hard to tell if you’re going to end up camping next to a frat party.

    Ty – no doubt about it. I remember being at the beach once and there were these people in a nice new toy hauler that ran one of those little Hondas (that are supposed to be so quiet) almost 24/7. Drove me up the wall!

  9. Nice post! I had a memorable sleepless night at a campsite outside of Jackson Hole, WY. We were to wake at 4 a.m. to start our ascent of the middle teton. I cussed those drunk guitar players, singers and generators all the way up.

    shawna’s last blog post..Family Outing – The Renfroe Family

  10. Great advice on scouting. What did we ever do before the innernets? We’ve camped next to noisy neighbors on a few occasions… one family seemed so oblivious to their “normal” conversational volume that we nicknamed them The Loudmans. A little dose of their own medicine cured these guys… we just increased our own volume until the Loudmans took notice and quieted down, probably saying something to themselves like, “Gosh… let’s not be like THOSE guys.”

    Mike Hahn’s last blog post..FHR pirates somehow dodge calamity. Yarr…