Events / HAM Radio 101

Ham Radio 101: Parks on the Air® (POTA)

CQ POTA! Where do you hear and/or see that and what does it mean?

Parks on the Air®, or POTA, is an international amateur radio operation that encourages licensed hams to visit and operate portable equipment in a variety of parks and public lands while promoting emergency awareness and communications.

The POTA movement began in the United States after an ARRL event that hosted a one-year program called NPOTA (National Parks on the Air) in 2016. NPOTA celebrated the 100th anniversary of the National Park System and generated a large amount of interest in portable radio operations. A nonprofit organization was founded in 2018 to continue POTA on a permanent basis. Since then, it has been a popular method of community and student outreach, with events taking place in national/federal and state/provincial level parks. The nonprofit organization expanded worldwide, and participation now occurs at all times around the world. Park locations range from large national parks covering many square miles to small urban locations and/or islands.

Interested? Here are some tips on getting in on the excitement from

Getting Started with POTA

POTA organizers highly recommend checking out the general information about the program at Other options include joining the POTA Slack Channel or POTA Facebook group to interact with the POTA community online. POTA also maintains accounts on Twitter and Mastodon if you prefer to use those social media platforms.

Above all, the golden rule of POTA is to have fun and keep it simple. The program is designed to provide hams with as much flexibility as possible so you can have fun your way.

You can get involved in POTA as an “activator” who heads out into the parks, as a “hunter” who is trying to contact someone in a park, or both.

Getting Started for Hunters 

As a hunter, you will need to follow a few simple rules, according to POTA:

Per the POTA website, the first place to start as a hunter is The home page you land on will be the spotting page, which lets you know who is on the air, what parks they are in, and what frequencies and modes they are currently operating on. Spin the dial and answer their call. Make a contact and you’ve officially started in POTA!

Click “sign up” to create an account. It will let you see your progress toward certificates/awards based on the logs that the activators you contacted submit. The website notes that POTA is on the honor system based exclusively on activator logs.

Getting Started for Activators

The rules for activating a park are also fairly simple, according to POTA:

  • Follow the law
  • Follow the DX Code of Conduct
  • Follow the Golden Rule
  • Leave no trace
  • Follow any instructions from park rangers you encounter
  • Be courteous of the public space you are using
  • You must have an account registered at
  • You and all your equipment must be within the boundaries of the park(s)
  • You must submit an ADIF log after your activation is complete
  • Follow the rules detailed here

Once you know POTA’s rules, visit the website’s map ( Zoom quickly to your location using location services or choose an entity and location using the drop-downs. The yellow dots are approximate locations of parks in your area. The website cautions that you should check official sources (park websites, etc.) to ensure that you are within the park’s boundary.

Once in the park, set up your gear, find a quiet frequency, and start calling CQ. While initially calling CQ, POTA suggests that you visit, click the button to add a spot, and be prepared to start logging your QSOs.

Use any logging method that generates a valid ADIF file (see POTA rules for logging requirements regarding required fields). After generating your ADIF file, go to the “My Log Uploads” section found under your callsign in the menu. Use the file dialog to upload your logs. Your stats will be available within a few hours, along with notification of any earned awards.

POTA lets amateur radio enthusiasts enjoy the beauty of nature and the joy of ham radio, providing operators with another way to make contacts while uniquely operating from various parks and protected areas in the great outdoors.

Questions? Share them in the comments below or email me at

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