Parks On The Air (POTA)

RWK has had a lot of interest in Parks on the Air (POTA) operations, activations, and “how to”. The Parks on the Air program has been very popular within ham radio, responsible for some 6 Million QSOs in 2021. There are lots of reason to get out of the house and operate outside! In addition to having fun, you can earn operating awards for “activating” (operating within) and “hunting” (communicating with) designated parks.

We have a wealth of people and information that you can use to create your own setup and get on the air from your favorite POTA park. There are some specific needs for a POTA station, but with a little guidance you should be able to put together a very effective station and join this popular ham radio movement.

How To Create a POTA Station

Radio

You can use most any portable radio you want for POTA operation, although many people prefer lightweight or ultra-portable radios. Radios that have relatively low power consumption are a bonus. You can operate QRP (less than 20 watts) but you will need a very good antenna. Several of the modern 100 watt transceivers from the major manufacturers are also good choices if you’re not hiking in. Really, you can use about anything that you can carry.

You will also need a source of power for your radio such as a battery box, preferably with lightweight LiFePO4 battery(s). Many people choose to build/put together a container that has the radio, battery, and all the components (microphone, cables, etc.) for ease of transport.

Antenna

POTA operators use all kinds of antennas, depending on their specific situation. We have had great experience with a simple telescoping vertical antenna that is both compact, cheap, and effective. There are simple ways to expand it to cover 40 meters. You can also use simple “ham stick” based antennas or simple wire antennas. Park rules vary about whether you are permitted to “stick things in the ground and in trees” so check your park’s rules before you go.

POTA Operating

If this is your first time, You will need to create an account on the POTA website and complete your profile. You must choose an officially-recognized POTA park – there are thousands to choose from – but they are all State and National parks (no local City Parks are recognized). Once you are set up in the park, create a “spot” on the POTA website with the park number that you are at to let everyone know what frequency and mode that you are operating. Then just call “CQ POTA” and watch the contacts roll in! Make sure that you keep your spot up to date if you change freqs or modes.

Logging

Many people use a simple pad and pen/pencil to log their contacts, and then type them into the POTA site later. You can also use a small PC or phone/tablet. People that want to log electronically, like HAMRS (computer or phone app) for POTA logging (if you have cell service in the park). You will need to upload your contacts to the POTA website to receive POTA activation credit (and to reward the hunters).

POTA Hunting

Even if you never go to a park, you can still get in on the POTA fun as a “hunter”. All you have to do is work POTA stations when they are on the air (go to the POTA website and look at the current spots). If you have created an account on the POTA website, you will receive credit (no log submissions are required for hunters) and you can watch the awards accumulate!

Other Relevant RWK Posts

We have lots of content related to POTA activities or projects that is shown below. There’s a wealth of knowledge to aid your POTA operations.

  • QRV Tech – April 2024 – Get Ready For POTA
    Our April 2024 QRV Tech program will be a discussion of what you need to know and do for your first POTA (Parks on the Air) outing. Let’s get prepared for this weekend’s RWK POTA outing at Spring Creek Forest Preserve. What to bring, how to set up, how to operate, deconfliction with other stations,…
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  • Cancelled: RWK Parks-On-The-Air Outing Coming April 20th
    UPDATE: CANCELLED 🙂 The POTA Weather gods are not smiling on us.  After hoping all week that the weather forecast would slide to the right, unfortunately it has not happened.  There is a 70+% chance of widespread rain from early morning through the rest of the day, so it doesn’t look good for a POTA…
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  • Youth-on-the-Air Round 1 – POTA Event
    We had a fun park outing on March 10 working the Youth On The Air (YOTA) Contest Round 1 from our POTA Park (Spring Creek Forest Preserve K-4423 in Garland just east of Richardson). Joe N1JOE, Ron K5SUS, Logan N9QZ, Alice KI1TEN, and Reese KJ5COP made over 100 QSOs in just a bit over 3…
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  • Youth-on-the-Air Round 1 – Sun Mar 10 POTA Event
    RWK Youth Members get ready to dive into the excitement of the 2024 YOTA Contest! We’re thrilled to announce that our youth members will be taking part in the inaugural round. Join us as we gather at Park K-4423 to kick off this thrilling event. Expect a blast of fun with this stationary activity –…
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  • QRV Tech – October 2023 – Navigating and Logging POTA
    Our October QRV Tech program will be on navigating the POTA website and logging POTA contacts.  To continue our month focus on Logging and QSLing, Shawn is going to show the specific things that are needed for a POTA operation. Signing into and getting around on the POTA website, and logging while operating POTA and…
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  • RWK Parks-On-The-Air Outing Coming Oct 21st
    After a way-too-hot summer, plans are coming together for another Parks-On-The-Air (POTA) outing to the Spring Creek Forest State Preserve in Garland. Texas State Park K-4423 is the closest POTA-eligible location to Richardson (and only about 10 minutes east of here). Our RWK POTA events have been fairly popular, and we’re planning another one for…
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  • Activating Las Vegas K-4443
    By Josh Barfield N4NZ Last month I attended a conference in Las Vegas, which gave me the opportunity to activate POTA park K-4443. The Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Park is about 3.16 acres and sits roughly 3 miles North of the strip. The Fort is one of the first structures in the area…
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  • RWK Parks-On-The-Air Outing Coming Sept 23rd
    After a way-too-hot summer, plans are coming together for another Parks-On-The-Air (POTA) outing to the Spring Creek Forest State Preserve in Garland. Texas State Park K-4423 is the closest POTA-eligible location to Richardson (and only about 10 minutes east of here). Our RWK POTA events have been fairly popular, and we’re planning another one for…
    Read more
  • My First DXpedition Experience to The Turks & Caicos
    By Shawn Prestridge KI5PXG I know that many people think about doing a DXpedition but are intimidated by the idea, assuming that the amount of work needed to prepare for such a trip won’t offset the fun you can have with your favorite hobby.  To encourage more people to try their hand at a DXpedition,…
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  • Activating Mother Neff State Park
    By John DiFilippo AF5MN I really enjoyed the RWK Parks-On-The-Air (POTA) group activity a couple of months ago when we activated the Spring Creek Forest Preserve in Garland.  Seeing everyone’s go-kits and set-ups that day inspired me to try my hand at activating some parks on my own.  So I decided to operate from Mother…
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  • How To Sync Your PC Time For POTA Operation of WSJT-X
    by Chip Coker KD4C We’ve all seen how easy it is to set up and operate out in the field using the low cost quick deploy portable antenna and using battery power and portable radios. But that only gets you SSB and CW. What if the bands aren’t great and you want to work FT-8?…
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  • The Chawed Rag – April 2023
    Here’s The Chawed Rag for April 2023. We’ve got Earth and Space Weather, a foxhunt milestone, 6 Meters, HamClock, a new RWK learning series, expanding your POTA antenna to 40M, time sync for portable FT-8, group foxhunt fun, and so much more. Hope you enjoy! – KD4C
  • Add 40M to your Cheap POTA Vertical
    by Bob Hill KG5WRY In a previous article I wrote about a low cost quick deploy portable antenna (in the February 2023 Chawed Rag). I described building the telescoping 16.5 foot vertical antenna and the ground spike mount. The antenna works great on bands 20, 17, 15, 12 and 10 meters. This is great for…
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  • RWK Parks-On-The-Air Outing for Techs Coming March 18th
    Plans are coming together for another Parks-On-The-Air (POTA) outing to the Spring Creek Forest State Preserve in Garland. Texas State Park K-4423 is the closest POTA-eligible location to Richardson (and only about 10 minutes east of here). Our RWK POTA events have been fairly popular, and recently someone suggested that we have a POTA event…
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  • A Low Cost Quick Deploy Portable Antenna for POTA or Backyard
    By Bob Hill KG5WRY After watching the video, “Lowest Cost Antenna Ground Spike You Will Find”, (featured in the January 2023 Chawed Rag), I decided to try this antenna build. I purchased a MFJ-1979 17 foot telescoping antenna from DX Engineering, a CB Radio Antenna Mirror Mount and a right-angle UHF adapter from Amazon, and…
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Recent RWK POTA outing at K-4423 Spring Creek Forest Preserve (photo: KD4C)

Closest POTA Location

There are a few recognized POTA locations within a short driving distance (30 min) from Richardson. We are lucky that we have the Spring Creek Forest Preserve (K-4423) within 6 miles of Richardson. It’s a great spot for POTA activations, and it’s easily accessible.

Directions to 6110 N. Shiloh Road: From Arapaho, proceed east until you reach Shiloh Rd. (approx 6 miles from Richardson City Hall). Turn left on Shiloh and go north approx 1/4 mile. Park entrance is on the right just after the bridge and just before the apartment complex. From Campbell, go east to Shiloh and turn right, but you will have to make a U-turn cause there is no median access to the park entrance.

Helpful Intro POTA Video

Mike K8MRD has an intro video that describes how to get started working POTA.

Getting Started in Parks on the Air with Mike K8MRD

Upcoming Events

Past Posts