Some of the worst enemies of the off-road Jeep driver are small streams and fords.

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Jeep Jamboree USA

Today, 25 of these three-day Jeep Jamboree USA events are held in 21 states. They take place from February through October and are strictly limited to Jeep vehicles. Events on the 1994 calendar included the Red River Jamboree in New Mexico, the Mohawk Trail Jamboree in Massachusetts, and the Ghost Town Jamboree in Nevada. Each attracts an average of 100 Jeeps and roughly 500 participants, half of whom are first-timers.

Both the Jeepers Jamboree and the Jeep Jamboree USA events charge fees, which include meals but not lodging. The full four-day Rubicon trip, for example, costs $235 per person, while the shorter Jeep Jamboree USA events cost $160 per adult, less for children.

Some Jeepers, particularly those with easy access to off-road running, avoid these mass excursions. Their main objection is that moving large numbers of Jeeps through the wilderness dictates too many compromises, including some bumper-to-bumper running -- an incongruous sight when you're miles from civilization.

Granted, a lone Jeep pounding through the brush, as if in some TV commercial, is a uniquely satisfying image. And officials in selected areas, such as the region around Telluride, Colorado, actively promote unorganized four-wheeling on mountain trails.

But with ever-tighter controls on public and private lands, Jamborees are the only way many Jeep owners get to experience their vehicles off-road. Indeed, as the San Jose Mercury News' Bob Scheid reported from the Rubicon Trail, "The ability of these vehicles to proceed where common sense shouts 'impassable!' is astounding to the city-bred driver."

Jamboree officials grade off-road trails by degree of difficulty on an ascending scale from one to 10. Most trails fall in the four to eight range. Some Jeep Jamboree USA routes earn a nine. But the Rubicon Trail proudly lays claim to the only 10 rating.

Standard practice on Jeep Jamboree USA trips is to make available several trails of varying difficulty. The assemblage is divided into caravans of 50 or so Jeeps. Progress along the route is usually steady until the group comes upon an obstacle: Say it must descend a gully, ford a creek, then scramble up the adjoining slope. Jeepers queue up, take on the challenge one by one, then stop again to wait for the rest of the group. There can be lots of waiting. But that's time to talk Jeep or to wander over and offer encouragement as each member of the caravan tackles the obstacle.

Driving through these obstacles requires the knowledge of some Jeepers rules and tricks, which you can learn about on the following page.

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