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Building a private RV campsite on our new property

It's been a month now since we bought 5 acres of property in Middle Tennessee and already our plans for a private RV campsite are shaping up.

In fact, we spent most of last week on the land, overseeing the construction of a circular driveway and the first of what we think will be three private RV campsites.

The land we bought, part of a 1,500-acre mountaintop estate being sold off in multi-acre parcels not far from the town of Linden, TN, is known as the Woodlands at Buffalo River and located in a beautiful natural area abounding with great camping, hiking, and recreational opportunities.

Since we purchased this land shortly before Thanksgiving, we've been giving it a lot of thought and making lots of plans. There is no HOA here and we can do pretty much whatever we want. It's our land and we can choose to develop it our way.

In fact, the only use restriction I've seen is a prohibition of single-wide mobile home-type trailers.

Camping trailers, motorhomes, fifth wheels, toy haulers, and even park models are perfectly okay. So too are houses, barns, garages, and – something we are seriously considering someday – a barnominium.

But for right now, our plans are to develop this into our own private RV campsite so that no matter how crowded commercial and state, county, or national campgrounds may get around the country, we always have a tranquil, wilderness retreat where we can go and where we can stay as long as we want.

And we have enough room to invite friends to camp with us.

The first phase: Making a driveway for our private RV campsite

 photo of driveway construction of private rv campsite
Making the driveway for our private RV campsite

Our five acres is heavily forested and when we bought it, we tramped all over, identifying the spot where we wanted to set up an open area for our RV. We found the spot a hundred or so yards in. But there was no way to get there. The trees in that area, predominantly 20-to-30-foot high Loblolly pines, were just too close together.

We needed a driveway.

And that's what we carved out and got installed last week.

The firm we hired for the job is Philipi Excavating of nearby Waverly, TN. We couldn't be more pleased,

Click the video below to see how they cleared and mulched trees, bulldozed a flat area, and then dumped nine truckloads of crushed rock and gravel to make a permanent surface for the driveway. The first of the 20-by-30-foot RV pads were also put in.

Our first official stay on our private RV campsite

rv in to a private RV campsite near Linden, TN
Driving into our private RV campsite near Linden, TN

Once the trees were cut and mulched and the drive leveled with a dozer, we couldn't resist spending the night.

The driveway is circular, about 600 feet long.

On the night before we bought the property in November, we stayed in our RV just off the country road that fronts it, parking off the shoulder in between two trees. It was the quiet of the land that won us over.

So, just as soon as the dozer left for the day and before the crushed rock and gravel was put down the next morning, we cautiously drove our all-wheel-drive Class B motorhome onto the site, being sure to set out a ground cover so we would not be tracking in dirt.

This overnight was special. Now we were camping on our own land.

It was a perfect night. Clear and still. About 10 PM, we went out and walked the driveway. A gazillion stars shone brightly in a black velvet sky. There was absolutely no light pollution to dim their sparkle.

Then came the driveway's final touch

driveway to a private rv campsite
The circular driveway is in!

We were up at first light and moved out of our campsite back on the shoulder of the road. That's because we had to make way for the gravel trucks. For several hours three of them went back and forth to the gravel pit about a half-hour away. Nine loads were required before Jonathan Stacy from the excavating company signaled they were done.

Jonathan then spent the rest of the afternoon pushing it around and leveling it, using a laser for the RV pad area, making it so flat we didn't even need to put down the levelers when we parked for the night.

By the time he finished mid-afternoon, we still had a few hours before full-on dark.

Using an awesome app called Guru Maps Pro, loaded with a file of the development, we set off with Bo to more completely explore our five acres. We hiked to the side and back boundaries, tracking our progress on the map, noting the ridges and hollows – the locals call 'em “hollers” – of the gently rolling land.

Then, back at our private RV campsite, I used a rake to smooth out a pile of crushed rock Jonathan put down for me to make an area for a campfire. I set up the campfire ring we had bought from Amazon and we had our first campfire on our new land.

Communication and connectivity on our private RV campsite

Drone view directly above our private RV campsite near Linden, TN
Drone view directly above our private RV campsite near Linden, TN

The next morning, I flew my drone to get a view of our campsite and the terrain from a couple of hundred feet above the trees. As far as the drone camera viewed were trees. The countryside is beautiful wilderness.

But it is well connected.

On our phones, we had between two and three bars with Verizon.

My Pepwave hotspot and Internet router gave me solid broadband-speed connectivity for remote work from our private RV campsite.

And I loaded my ham radio transceiver with the frequencies of amateur radio repeaters in Linden and nearby Lobelville and Hohenwald, TN.

Nearby Linden has all we need

We did some more exploring of nearby Linden, a five-mile drive from our property. We have enjoyed the town (population 900) before, but this time, with our property purchased and the deed filed with the country, we introduced ourselves to several merchants, meeting Kevin and Renee of Dimples Coffee Shop, visiting the local pharmacy, the very well stocked hardware store, the supermarket, and even the Linden Medical Clinic.

We found a local vet in case we need one and Jennifer did a workout at the local Gym and Fitness Center.

We are very quickly feeling very much at home in Linden.

We spent Thursday night on Main street attending the charming Linden Christmas parade, meeting even more people.

On Friday, we had dinner and hung out at the Commodore Hotel, lovingly restored to its 1939 glory (but with modern amenities), by Mike and Kathy Dumont, a Rhode Island couple who fell in love with the area and now live in Linden full-time.

In fact, we spent Friday night at the hotel because an outbreak of severe weather was predicted with high winds and possible tornadoes. We felt it prudent to leave the woods instead of spending the night there in our RV surrounded by trees.

The next morning, back on our property, a trail cam we set out to capture any wildlife that wandered by instead showed wind-whipped debris and twigs from the trees that would have made for a very noisy night if we had stayed, as well as what would surely have been some chips and scrapes on the paint.

We even had a meet-up on the property

Photo of people who showed up for our first Meet-Up on our Private RV Campsite at the Woodlands
Our first Meet-Up on our Private RV Campsite at the Woodlands

We told our various online communities of our plans to be on the property and invited anyone who wanted to come by to visit on Saturday,

A dozen did!

Several were there as part of an open house and tour organized by Tennessee Land and Lakes, the company that is developing the Woodlands at Buffalo River.

Jennifer and I were encouraged to hear that there was a lot of interest in what we were doing as we develop our private RV campsite. We net couples from Washington state, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas who either already bought or are interested in doing so.

The trend of owning your own RV spot seems to be growing, and no wonder in these days of crowded campgrounds where you have to make reservations a year in advance.

And we've received lots of emails and online comments asking us to thoroughly document the process, which we'll do from time to time as we complete various phases like we just did with the driveway.

What's next for us there?

Building a private RV campsite on our new property
Our first private RV campsite flat parking area

Everything has slowed down as we publish this a week before Christmas 2021. But we have several things we hope to get done over the next few weeks.

We have already applied for and received permits for septic, water, and electric hookups.

Here's what we plan next and hope to see done in the next couple of months or so:

  • A concrete pad
    We thought that we could get by with the crushed rock and gravel for the RV sites. But for at least the main one – ours – we decided we want a concrete pad. Depending on the cost, we may pour concrete for the guest pads, too. We'll see how it works out.
  • Septic
    We have the permit and the drain field laid out. We decided to go with a tank big enough or a three bedroom home. While we are unsure when, or if, we will build a permanent homesite, we want that option available and now is the time to put in the septic. Besides, we'll immediately be able to use it with our private RV campsite.
  • More trees cleared
    We want to open the view a bit more towards the back of the property so we can see the hardwoods and the mountaitops around us. One of our followers has suggested we have a chainsaw party when we're ready to do so. That could be fun.
  • Electric
    Perry County is installing poles and electric along the country road we front. As soon as they get to our spot, we'll run underground connections to our RV sites.
  • Water
    City water also runs right past us along the country road right of way. We'll soon tap in and have frost-free water connections available on the RV campsites.
  • Gates
    It has been strongly suggested that we install some sort of gate across our driveway, especially after we get the RV hookups. We're somewhat conflicted about it. We hate the “keep out” look a gate presents. But we also don't want our site trashed. We're still thinking about it.
  • Fiber Optic Internet
    This, too, will run right down the road in front of us. As soon as it is in, expected in the next few months, we'll sign up. That fiber optic connection will give me blazingly fast speeds to work remotely.

Owning our own private RV campsite is so much fun

We're clearly not the only folks buying property there. Since we've started reporting on this project, I've heard from several other buyers who are now neighbors. I know parcels at the Woodlands have been selling really fast. The best source for information is their website at

We will return to the property as the next phases of the amenities and improvements are done on our five acres, hopefully by late January or early February. It will probably take until summer for everything to be in.

While we love boondocking and are very comfortable off-grid, the possibility of having full hookups in a wilderness area like this seems almost too good to be true. We can't wait till the hookups get installed.

The peace of mind we now have in owning our own private RV campsite has excited us so that we are also considering finding some similar property in Northern Michigan so that we have our Tennessee property to camp on from late fall until spring and Michigan for spring and summer.

It's no secret that many campgrounds in popular destinations are pretty much all sold out for 2022. As a result, even finding boondocking spots is getting harder.

Owning our own land eliminates those problems for us.

Besides, developing it and dreaming about what can be done with our private RV campsite is very exciting. We all need dreams and this land we found at the Woodlands has sure given us a new excitement about the RV Lifestyle.

As if we needed more!

Mike and Jennifer's Favorite Places in Florida – all 3 ebooks!

Building a private RV campsite on our new property 1

We RVers may wander far and wide but it’s true for most of us that we end up with some favorite “Go-To” places – places that draw us back again and again.

Florida is one of those places for us. And we know it is for many RVers looking to get away and explore during the winter. 

That's why we've created three guides, covering Florida's Atlantic Coast, the Gulf Coast, and the Keys. 

Each of these guides is a seven-day guided exploration of one of the coasts. And each stop is a curated view of the best things that we’ve enjoyed on this trip and want you to experience.

Altogether these guides are over 300 pages of content! 

FAQ's about Florida Gulf Coast beaches of interest to RVers

What is the weather like along Florida's Gulf Coast?

The weather along Florida's Gulf Coast can vary depending on the time of year and the specific location. In general, the area experiences hot, humid summers and mild, pleasant winters.
The Panhandle region can be quite cool in January. It is seldom below freezing, but daytime highs are typically in the 50s. It warms up about 10 degrees each month.
You can also generally add about 10 degrees for every 150 miles you travel south down the Florida peninsula.
By the time you hit Naples, daytime highs in January are in the comfortable 70s.

Did Hurricane Ian destroy many beach campgrounds on the Gulf Coast?

While it severely damaged almost two dozen RV parks and campgrounds, about 8-10 campgrounds in the Naples-Ft. Myers area were completely destroyed. Most of the damaged campgrounds have been repaired and reopened.
Check with the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds if you have questions or concerns.

Are there any websites that can help me get a reservation for a Florida beach campground?

One of the best resources we can recommend is called Campnab. This service monitors parks for cancelations and sends you an alert when an opening matches your criteria. That said, it isn’t magic. The app doesn’t create availabilities. 
The service works – but it is not free.
Campnab offers two ways to use the service. The first is individual pay-per-use scans. These watch for vacancies at a specific park for a specific date. These work well if you know exactly when and where you intend to camp. Pay-per-use scans cost $10 – $20, depending on how frequently you want them to check availability.
The second way to use the service is through a membership. These typically run monthly and are tailored to those who camp more frequently or are looking to maximize their chance of finding a site. Membership allows you to scan multiple parks and/or dates simultaneously. With memberships, you pay a monthly recurring fee ($10, $20, $30, or $50), depending on your needs.

Are there places in Florida where you can literally camp on the beach for free?

Not many. And they are very pricey. If you want to sleep directly on the sand in an RV, you'll have to stay at a developed commercial campground like Camp Gulf on the Emerald Coast or an RV resort like Big Pine Key Resort in the keys. Some state parks like the Gamble Rogers State Memorial Recreation Area in the Atlantic Coast or  Bahia Honda State Park in the keys or Fort Desto State Park near St. Petersburg have beachside sites, too.

But are there free, unrestricted RV beach camping spots in Florida?

Sorry, none that I know of that would work for RVs.
There is unrestricted camping on wild beaches on a couple of islands, but you need a boat to get there, and it is for tent camping only. If you want to sleep directly on the sand, there is Anclote Key offshore Tarpon Springs, and Shell Key in Pinellas County. Another favorite is Keewaydin Island between Naples and Marco Island but that area remains pretty devasted from Hurricane Ian.

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Mike Wendland

Published on 2021-12-18

Mike Wendland is an Emmy award-winning journalist, traveler, and producer of RV Podcast, the RV Lifestyle travel blog, and the RV Lifestyle Channel on YouTube. Mike, traveling with his wife Jennifer and their Norwegian Elkhound, Bo, has vast experience and a great passion for exploring North America, previously working as a long-time NBC-TV News Channel Technology Correspondent and now sharing his love for the RV lifestyle with millions. Mike is not only an adept RV life enthusiast but also a skillful storyteller, bringing to his channels stories from the road that perfectly capture the magic and hardships of this lifestyle.

26 Responses to “Building a private RV campsite on our new property”

May 11, 2022at3:22 pm, Paul Bancroft said:

Very nice. We’re considering doing something similar. If you get a chance, take the factory tour at Oliver Travel Trailers in Hohenwald. Worth a visit since you’re so close.


May 13, 2022at10:11 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Thank you for the suggestion! Team RV Lifestyle


November 17, 2022at8:42 am, Brenda Jackson said:

Oliver Trailers are the golden standard of pull behinds. Those guys get it right!


March 22, 2022at11:35 am, Craig Thomas said:

Doesn’t sound very private anymore since you’ve told everybody about it.


March 22, 2022at2:52 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

If you know Mike, you know he has trouble not telling everyone when he is excited about something. It is the reporter in him – and how he started this whole RVLifestyle vlog. He was having so much fun – he had to share! Take care, Team RV Lifestyle


March 13, 2022at3:10 pm, Tony Swilley said:

Hi Mike:
My wife and I saw your videos of your new property at the Woodlands. We have an appointment on 3/19 to view some property. We are new weekend warriors. We live and work in Florida. We were very excited to see your guys’ experience. We wanted to know if you are still happy with your decision to purchase the 5 acres at the Woodlands?


March 13, 2022at10:50 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Hi Tony! Mike and Jen are very happy with their decision to purchase the 5 acres. They love their spot and just were out there a few days ago camping for a couple days with Bo. They like having a private place to camp, in a beautiful setting, and are very excited about it. Let us know if you like it, too! Team RV Lifestyle


January 13, 2022at12:02 pm, Art Gilchrist said:

Would like to know cost for driveways and pads


December 30, 2021at12:24 pm, Barbara Bennewitz said:

Hi, I am going to buy a tiny house built by Randy just up the road from you .His villages are all sold out . I am a retired U.S.A.F. vet. MyTiny will be built self contained and off grid but I can’t afford to buy 5 acres of my own .If you would be interesred in my joining your campsite please contact me at 304-644-8082 or Thankyou , Barbara Bennewitz


December 30, 2021at11:13 am, Joel Embry said:

Costs documented anywhere?


December 27, 2021at4:10 pm, Laura A said:

Can I ask why you would need a gate, if this area is already fully gated at the entrance? I would think that would be security enough? Just curious. We have not started RVing yet, hope to in future, or one of us does. Like you, we would be looking for a place to store our RV and land seems like a great option rather than a storage facility. Just curious. Merry Late Christmas and Happy New Year!


December 29, 2021at9:13 am, Mike Wendland said:

There is no gate for the Woodlands… this is raw land, in the middle of w=the wilderness. It is not a “gated community” by any means.


December 18, 2021at5:31 pm, Douglas McCain said:

We have our own private RV site in our 40 acre woods far from any house or road. One night we were there, getting ready for bed. It was about 10 o’clock. The woods were dark, and we were sure that we were quite alone, isolated, far from anybody else. Then……..there was a knock on the door. Carefully, hesitantly, I opened the door. It was a coon hunter with his dogs! He wanted permission to go coon hunting in my woods. Of course I said yes. We went to bed and listened to the dogs.


December 18, 2021at12:46 pm, Chris Williamson said:

We will be watching with keen interest. Nice to know Phillipi has done such a good job; we will use them once Susan and I start on our plot (lot 11). Yes, Kathy and Mike at the Commodore are great. Look forward to meeting you guys soon.


December 18, 2021at1:14 pm, Mike Wendland said:

I’m thinking of starting a Facebook Group for owners there… we can share ideas, organize work parties…or just parties 🙂


December 18, 2021at4:45 pm, Thomas Stapleton said:

Mike, the Facebook page for owners at the Woodlands is a great idea. We enjoyed your videos of your property and look forward to more. Phillipi Excavating did a nice job putting in your driveway. Tom & Debra Lot #23


January 29, 2022at1:37 pm, Chris duBois said:

We just closed on a lot at the eastern end of Phase I at The Woodlands. Will be contacting your contractor for drive and septic also. Would be interested in specifics for applications for utility connections. And does Phillipi handle the septic permit application? We hope to schedule a site visit with them in March and get things going in June,
Love the dedicated Facebook Group idea. My wife is a new avid follower of yours on FB and I listen to your podcast every week.

Chris and Susie
Belton, Texas


February 12, 2022at5:04 pm, Lindsay Victory said:

If you start that Facebook group, we would love to join (Lindsay & Jason) soon to be Lot 87! We were actually in escrow on Lot 22 and we decided to bigger. I heard some friends of yours scooped up Lot 22! It’s a special one for sure 🙂 We are heading out of Linden tomorrow but hope to meet you both soon!


February 16, 2022at7:48 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Safe travels!


March 22, 2022at11:25 am, Craig Thomas said:

Does anybody go camping in the woods to get away from everyone?


November 17, 2022at8:46 am, Brenda Jackson said:

Of course. We own 10 acres in Oregon but go to the mountains and along streams to boondock away from anyone.


December 18, 2021at12:42 pm, Kay Brown said:

I live on 50 acres outside of Huntsville, Alabama and have followed you for several years now. Please remember that Waverly, TN is still hurting from devastating weather and need many types of help. BTW Florence, Alabama is a nice trip for restaurants, shopping and sports!


December 18, 2021at11:14 am, Leslie Moss said:

Considering doing something similar and was wondering at what the cost was for the gravel and clearing. Have to save some money up before we set out on this venture.


December 18, 2021at9:45 am, Janine Tacey said:

How exciting!
Please keep us in the loop when you look at Northern Michigan. We live in Bay City and would be interested in a place Up North.


December 18, 2021at1:15 pm, Mike Wendland said:

Bay City is our hometown! Jen and I were both born and raised there.


December 18, 2021at8:45 am, Thomas Clark, DMD FACD FICD said:

Looks really good, Mike! Long range plans sound good as well. Lotsa cool possibilities for sure!


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