Winter Escapes: Southwest Desert Snowbird Roosts
It’s time to think southern latitudes. Migration season. Follow the birds. Get away before your holding tanks freeze up and the mountain passes clog up with snow.
If you are a first time snowbird, just thinking about it (it doesn’t take RVers long to figure out which direction to head in the winter), or even if you always go to the same winter roost, below and in following weeks’ blogs, are some of the places I’ve spent the snowy-blowy months and are worth checking out for yourself.
The mother of all gem and mineral shows, flea markets, yard sales, and boondocker heavens. Quartzsite is the largest gathering of RVers in the world, spreading over several square miles of BLM land in the Arizona Sonora Desert 20 miles east of Blythe and the Colorado River on I-10. Originally just the site of a gem and mineral show, the number and size of shows has grown beyond count and so has the number of RVers, said to be nearly a million during the busy months of January and February. It’s crowded “downtown” where the shows and hook-up campgrounds are, but most desert rats head out into the surrounding desert to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA) where you can circle the wagons and be as communal or as lone coyote as you wish.
Cost for a multi-month permit good at any BLM LTVA is $180, and you can stay or move between LTVA’s as you wish with this pass (there are three LTVAs around Quartzsite). A shorter 14-day permit is also available for $40. Near the LTVAs are 14-day limit areas that allow you to camp for free on BLM public lands. These areas are plainly marked, and you can get information at the BLM Field Office or LTVA. Permits can be purchased at the entrance station to each LTVA and includes all the amenities—clean clear skies, bright stars, rainless sunny days, spectacular sunsets, dry washes to explore, howling coyotes to sing you asleep, all the mesquite and saguaros you can count, and a dumpster, water, and dump station not far away. Day time highs from the mid-60s to low70s, nights down into the upper 30s to upper 40s.
For all you need to know about camping on BLM land go here. For a unique view of Quartzsite, see Mike Steffen’s entertaining blog: Quartzsite – The RV Mecca, or A Quartzsite survival Guide (Mike has been a writer, seminar lecturer, and visitor to and about Quartzsite since one of the area’s most famous residents, Arabian camel-driver Hadji Ali (Hi Jolly), was knee-high to a camel’s elbows.)
Visit also the great desert Web site, DesertUSA, which not only will tell you all you need to know about Quartzsite, but also about just about every location in the desert you might want to visit.
Next week: Winter Escapes II: Snowbirding Along the Colorado River