Boondocking At Sand Mesa Wildlife Habitat Management Area In Wyoming
- Date Visited: July 1-4, 2021
- GPS: 43.295, -108.243
- Phone: (307) 332-2688
- Price: Free
- Reservations: No
- Stay Limit: 14 Days
- Pets: Yes
- Restrooms: Vault Toilets
- Water: No
- Trash: No
- Hookups: No
- Cell Service: Varies on Location
We were looking for a nice water spot to spend the 4th of July weekend and Lake Cameahwait in the Sand Mesa Wildlife Habitat Management Area seemed like a perfect fit. It had everything we were looking for, but the best laid plans don’t always turn out as expected.
Run by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department this free recreation area is located 15 miles west of Shoshoni, Wyoming, off U.S. 26. It has a 14 day stay limit and is also known as Bass Lake. The road all the way to the lake is paved and just a bit bumpy in parts.
The road to Boysen State Park and reservoir goes right by the lake. There are a couple campgrounds located there and since it was the holiday weekend they were quite busy. Vehicles towing rigs constantly were traveling to and from on the paved road. We didn’t have the opportunity to check it out, but it seemed like a popular spot.
There is no water, trashcans, or hook-ups at Sand Mesa. It is dry camping. There are multiple pit toilets located around about half the lake though. These areas also have some picnic tables with covered shelters and a couple metal fire rings.
Most of these picnic areas are large enough for any size rig, but you can’t really park right next to the shelters because they are blocked. You would have to park in the gravel lot then do the very short walk to the shelter to use it. We saw multiple bigger rigs do this during our short stay. If tent camping you would be able to set-up right beside the shelters.
There are a few sites, very few, located right on the banks of the lake. After leaving the paved road you can travel on a dirt road around about half the lake. The other half of the lake appears to have no road access. These spots seem to be for much smaller rigs.
The access to these spots is a bit rough too and I wouldn’t want to take anything big down them. If you would like to check out these spots I would park at one of the shelter areas and take the walk to scout them out. There are very few opportunities for turning around as well.
A couple of these spots, like ours, even have metal picnic tables attached by some pretty heavy duty chains. These particular spots are literally steps away from dipping your toes in the water. This presents it’s own hazards though.
Our very first night the winds were insane. We ended up putting our awning away for fear of it being ripped apart. There were actually storms every day we were there, but they always just seemed to miss us, the wind sure didn’t though.
In the pic above you can see the picnic table and our rug in the corner. That’s how close the water got to our pop-up and that was just from the wind rolling over the lake creating waves. If we had gotten a real rainfall we would of had to move. The water receded in a couple hours after the wind died down, but a pool of water was left there the entirety of our stay. It was stagnant and when the wind blew the right way it was a pretty nasty smell.
Let’s discuss the cell service situation which quite frankly was all over the place. Depending on which spot we tested it was a coin flip if AT&T or Verizon would work. One would have 2 bars at one spot the other none. Check out the next spot it would be the opposite.
Our spot ended up having decent AT&T service. I do know after we used the booster the download speeds improved significantly.
Even for a holiday weekend this place was pretty quiet. We had a large group the whole time we were there not far from us celebrating the independence weekend and we barely heard them. It never got extremely busy so I’m assuming during the week or on a non holiday there’s hardly anyone around.
We did pick up some trash at our site, but nothing extremely excessive. We only got one grocery bag full which is way less than we’ve picked up at other places.
They have a boat ramp and this lake is very popular with the local fisherman. Every morning multiple boats were on the water casting out their lines. Schools of monster fish swam by us every day. I mean these guys were two feet or longer. They were always swimming really close to the surface with their fins sticking out of the water. First time I saw them they looked like a school a sharks!
There were multiple jet skiers using the lake as well. Lake Cameahwait isn’t large by any means, but well sized for some water sport activities. Quite a few speed boats spent time on the water too pulling people behind them on skis and tubes. Kayakers and canoers also enjoyed a little water time.
Now this place was quiet, beautiful and free which is everything we look for in a boondocking spot. Having such easy access to the water for kayaking and swimming is always an added bonus. These were the reasons we decided on this spot for the holiday. Yeah none of that worked out.
While setting up camp on the first night I bent down to pick up some random thing and threw out my back. I literally just bent over, felt the pull and spent the next couple days in pain not moving much at all. You know you’re getting old when you throw out your back doing something so mundane. So kayaking was now out.
After a couple days I felt a tad better and we decided to finally take a dip in the crystal clear cool waters of the lake. It was amazing. After an hour we decided to take a break. Within minutes of getting out of the water we started itching. I mean the most intense itching we have had in our entire lives. It was horrendous and lasted that way pretty much the rest of the day.
Turns out we got swimmer’s itch. If you never heard of it (we hadn’t) Google it and I can personally verify it sucks. We were covered in bumps that eventually turned to small little blisters and it lasted for weeks. It was just so bad. Needless to say we didn’t go swimming again. The swimmers itch and throwing out my back really put a damper on our weekend activities.
On 4th of July a very large group of locals came to celebrate the holiday at a couple of the large picnic shelters. They were loud and there all day, but hey it’s the fourth of July I expected it. When the sun went down they proceeded to put on a fireworks display for over an hour. Very cool show, completely illegal.
I bring this up, because we left the next morning and stopped by the shelter to use the facilities. The group left the place trashed. Bags and boxes full of trash everywhere. Beer bottles and pop cans scattered around the area. All the remnants of the fireworks they set off were littering the ground.
DO NOT DO THIS!
Always pack out what you pack in. This is the reason more and more free camping places are getting shut down. Respect the land and these areas and always leave them better than you find them so they will be available for future use.
So all in all this is a great little spot for an overnight or a week. It’s a quiet and beautiful little lake perfect for some rest and relaxation. It might of not worked out like we planned, but we still enjoyed our stay. We would come back here again if we were in the area for sure.
Except for the swimmer’s itch of course!
I seriously don’t know if that was an isolated event or not. I read multiple reviews about this spot and everyone mentioned swimming, but no one mentioned having any problems. We saw multiple others swimming while we were there as well.
So if you decide to check out this spot you have been warned…swim at your own risk!
Always follow the Leave No Trace Seven Principles and try to leave your camp nicer than you found it. Please research campgrounds before visiting. Rules and regulations may have changed since we stayed there.