How to Find Free Firewood

A good buddy of mine has a saying he likes to throw at me when we are camping and in the middle of breaking kindling and sawing found firewood. “A man who cuts his own wood is warmed twice.” While it is a thoughtful phrase in the spring and fall I usually want to smack him when it is uttered during a summer outing and I am sweating buckets. I have written before about how to find wood when camping, so I won’t cover that here.

While we don’t have a fireplace in our house we do have an outdoor hearth on our back deck and we usually try to take wood with us when we go camping, so I am usually on the lookout for free firewood. It’s my opinion that you should never have to pay for recreational firewood unless it is very scarce or you are physically unable to gather and cut it yourself. With the exception of cutting in a national forest I have used all of the following methods to find free firewood.

National, State and County Parks and Forests

Here in Iowa it is legal to pick up dead, fallen wood for campfires in most state and county parks and forests. Yes, there are forests in Iowa. While not free, some national forests issue permits to cut firewood. They are usually $5 per cord with a minimum number of cords required to be taken. Public land in the country can be utilized as well. If you see some dead wood on the edge of public land, such as a wildlife refuge or a public hunting area, just ask the local DNR officer if you can have it. They have almost always said “yes” when we have asked.

The Curb

Just a few weeks ago I was driving home from the grocery store and there on the curb was a huge pile of precut fire wood, with a sign declaring it free for the taking. I loaded up several dozen nice 4 to 6 inch diameter logs.

After a storm has torn through the area is a good time to collect firewood from the curb. I have also helped friends and neighbors cut up downed limbs after a storm, bartering my help with a chainsaw for the wood.

Illegal Dumping

If you get around the edge of town or along streams, rivers and wooded areas you most likely know where there are illegal dumping areas. I have found perfectly good, sometimes precut and already aged wood in these places. Not only are you getting free firewood, you are helping clean up the area.

Dumpsters and Businesses

I like to keep scrap lumber on hand to supplement my firewood supply. Sometimes I have gotten into a batch of hardwood that burns reluctantly unless aided buy some nice dry lumber. It also comes in handy if your firewood is a little damp. Dumpsters and business back dock areas can yield abundant pallets and packing crates that the owners would be more than happy to see disappear. Just go in the front office and ask what you can have.


A few months ago I did a little study on what you can find for free on Craigslist. The four cities I followed for a week (including New York City) all had multiple ads for free firewood. Go to Craigslist, find your city or state and type firewood in the search box.


  1. Also take a drive in the country. You may be surprised at the number of huge piles on the edge of a farmer's field. They clear the edge of their land and toss it on a huge pile until ready to burn it all off in the spring.

  2. Don't discount the benefits of a tree cutting services clearing limbs away from phone poles etc. I've seen them work at all times of the year. A simple trunk full once or twice a week and you could be bringing home several cords a year.

  3. Some good ideas here. However, I saw that you take firewood witn you when you go camping. This is not a good idea because forest pests and diseases are easily spread when you take firewood out of the local areas. Some of these are pretty serious such as the Gypsy Moth and Goldspotted Oak Borer. They can be pretty devestating to both wildland forests and urban trees. Better to get firewood at at or near your destination. See for more information and suggestions.

  4. I sell klim dryed scrap fall off wood
    \very nice wood no bark
    could also be used for making crafts


Agree? Disagree? Questions? Leave a comment!