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Operating Your Argo on Federal Land

Commercial parks are fun if you want a technical challenge, but for exploring, it’s hard to beat national lands. America has millions of acres of public lands open to off-roading, but getting past the regulations and legal requirements can be confusing.

What Kind of Vehicle Do I Have?

Vehicle requirements and restrictions vary from area to area to meet local ecological requirements. In most cases, the vehicle also needs to meet operating requirements for the state, even though you’re on federal lands. There is no separate category for XTVs, so its classification will vary depending on how and where you use it. Here’s a breakdown of vehicle categories and how your vehicle fits into them.

OHV: An off-highway vehicle is any vehicle that is not legal for use on highways, but can cross open water or terrain. This includes everything from boats to dirt bikes.

ORV: Off-road vehicles include everything with four or more wheels including everything from ATVs to four wheel drive trucks.

ATV: Federal regulations lump all small off-road vehicles with at least four wheels in this category, including side-by-sides and XTVs.

UTV: This is defined by vehicle width, putting all Argo XTVs fall into this category. UTV classification is used only for individual trail restrictions. Otherwise, your vehicle needs to meet ATV regulations for trail and land use.

LSV: Equipment and insurance requirements for Low Speed Vehicles (LSVs) vary widely from state to state. Generally speaking, these vehicles can be legally operated on any road with a speed limit of 35 MPH or less. Getting your Argo certified as an LSV allows you to drive on road in some areas, saving you from having to trailer your vehicle between trails. However, you may still be barred from traveling on service roads, campground roads or other park roads.

Motorized watercraft: If you’re doing more in the water than just crossing a stream, your XTV is also categorized as a boat. This requires separate boat inspections and licensing. Even if you don’t plan on venturing out into the water for any length of time, you may be required to quarantine your vehicle for up to a month before you can cross waterways in ecologically sensitive areas. This prevents the spread of invasive species like zebra mussels that may be attached to your Argo’s hull.

Snowmobile: Even though your XTV has no problem driving on snow, it can’t be classified as a snowmobile. This prevents your vehicle from being used on groomed snowmobile trails.

Where Can I Take My Argo?

The government publishes Motor Vehicle Usage Maps (MVUMs) that show vehicle restrictions for each federal land area. Most of these are available online on the web site for the park, land or recreational area.

ATVs cannot be used in any national park. However, there are 5 national recreation areas and 7 seashores that currently allow ATVs.

National Recreational Areas:
Glen Canyon
Big Cypress
Gateway National
Lake Meredith

National Seashores:
Cape Cod
Cape Hatteras
Cape Lookout
Fire Island
Gulf Islands
Padre Island

National forests usually allow OHV use in limited areas.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land generally allows ATV and ORV use either on designated trails or across the entire area, letting you explore the land as you see fit. Of the 200 million or so acres of BLM land, about 65% of the area has open trails, 30% is open to ATVs on and off trails, and only about 6% is completely closed to ATVs.

Trails and open areas can be closed with little notice to prevent environmental damage. No matter where you’re going, be sure to look over the MVUM and check the website for news on recent closings before your visit.

What Does “Best Technology” Mean?

To protect the ecosystem and make the land friendlier to other trail users, federal lands mandate the use of “best technology” for managing noise and emissions. These restrictions mostly apply to older two-stroke engines, but there are two key features your XTV needs to meet regulations. Your Argo’s muffler must be installed and working to limit noise, and it must be fitted with a spark arrestor.

Argo makes an arrestor that fits all of their 2011 and later vehicles. It fits between the muffler and the exhaust pipe. The company recommends cleaning the arrestor or replacing it at least every three years.

Gear Up for Your Next Outdoor Adventure

Is it time to upgrade to an Argo amphibious ATV? Do you need to add a spark arrestor or a windshield before your next trip? If it’s Argo, you can get the help you need from Shank’s Argo. We’re more than an authorized dealer: we’re one of the largest dealers in the East, and we have decades of experience selling and servicing outdoor equipment. Visit our showroom at 4900 Molly Pitcher Hwy, Chambersburg, PA.

Need something out in the field? Schedule a test drive here:

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