Planning a Successful Adventure on Your National Grasslands

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Preparedness is the key to having a good and safe time at any of our national forests or grasslands. Before you head out on your next grassland adventure, be sure to prepare for any surprises or challenges - wildlife, harsh weather, medical emergency - you might encounter at the grassland you are visiting.

We are committed to everyone’s physical, psychological and social safety. So we encourage you to check off each item on this outdoor checklist before heading on your next grassland adventure.

Know before you go logo






Know before you go

Check with your local grassland to find out if the campground you desire is available and whether there are any trail closures or fire restrictions.

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Have a plan

Check road conditions and fill your gas tank. Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

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Bring water

Stay hydrated! Water is scarce outside of developed campgrounds. Be aware that water is not available in dispersed camping areas.

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Know your route

GPS technology is not available in all areas of our national grasslands. We recommend you download, print, or purchase a map of the area you are visiting. Mark alternate exit routes and emergency services stations in case of emergency.

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Prevent wildfires

Don’t build a campfire during periods of high fire danger, even if there are no restrictions. Use an alternative. Humans cause nine out of 10 fires so, if you do build a campfire, be careful. Never leave your campfire unattended. Campfires are one of the pleasures of camping in the on the Dakota Prairie Grasslands. No matter what time of year, people need to be careful when deciding when and where to build a campfire.

Please check to see if any campfire restrictions are in effect before building a campfire.

If you are going to have a campfire:

  • Use an existing fire ring, don't create a new one. When not in a designated campground, build your fire within a ring of rocks.
  • Clear all vegetation away from the fire ring (remove all flammable materials such as needles, leaves, sticks, etc.)
  • Select an open level spot away from trees, logs, stumps, overhanging branches, dense dry grass, and forest litter.
  • Keep your campfire small.
  • Keep plenty of water and a shovel nearby for throwing dirt on the fire if it gets out of control.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended! Even a small breeze could quickly cause the fire to spread. Make sure a responsible adult is always in attendance.

When putting out your campfire:

  • First, drown the campfire with water!
  • Next, mix the ashes and embers with soil. Scrape all partially-burned sticks and logs to make sure all the hot embers are off them.
  • Stir the embers after they are covered with water and make sure that everything is wet.
  • Feel the coals, embers, and any partially-burned wood with your hands. Everything (including the rock fire ring) should be cool to the touch. Feel under the rocks to make sure no embers underneath.
  • When you think you are done, take an extra minute and add more water.
  • Finally, check the entire campsite for possible sparks or embers, because it only takes one to start a forest fire.
  • Remember…if it is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave. 

Please take the time to completely put out your campfire, it could prevent a wildfire.

Drown it Smokey Logo Stir it Smokey Logo Feel it Smokey Logo

Bring supplies to properly extinguish it, such as water and a shovel. Remember, if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.

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Pocket knife

A pocket knife or multi-tool can help with food preparation, gear repair, first aid and other emergency needs.

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You can whistle for much longer than you can yell for help. If you become lost, stay put and signal by blowing three blasts (a well-known emergency signal). You may run into areas that lack cellular service on the Grasslands. Even if you have a fully charged cell phone, you may not have enough signal strength to send/receive calls or messages. Make sure you bring a whistle in case you become lost, or too injured to travel.

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Proper gear

Whether you’re hiking, biking, camping or fishing, be sure to pack the right gear for your forest activity. Proper shoes, clothing and a first aid kit are key for a good time at the forest

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Sun protection

Sunny days are great for forest adventures, but sun exposure can damage your skin. Sunscreen, hats and sunglasses can help protect you from sun exposure

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Flashlight or headlamp and extra batteries

Forest adventures can take you to both high places and low. Having a source of light can guide you out of a dark place or help you return to your vehicle at night.

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A nutritious meal or snack can give you the energy you need for all your grassland activities.

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Cooking supplies

Ensure you have matches or a lighter for a stove or campfire. Bring pots, eating utensils and trash bags.

Our forests and grasslands provide incredible recreational activities for you and your family. Preparing properly can help ensure these activities are both fun and safe.