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RVing with Alice and Jaimie

Winter in Quartzsite, by Jaimie Hall

10/21/07: Thanks to Quatzsite resident Terry Paulsen for updates to this article.

Quartzsite mineral show
Quartzsite gem & mineral show

RV camping
"Boondocking" on BLM land

Quartzsite antique show
Steam locomotive on display during a Quartzsite antigue show

Quartzsite Museum
Quartzsite Museum

Desert wildflowers
The desert in bloom: poppies and cholla cactus

Saguaro cactus
Saguaro cactus

Antique washers
Antique washing machines on display

Originally little more than a stage stop and way station on the California-Arizona line, Quartzsite, a small town of 1900 residents, plays host to several hundred thousand visitors in January and February each year. The majority of these part-time residents arrive in hundreds of recreational vehicles of every kind and style.

Why do those thousands of RVers come to Quartzsite in the winter? Warm weather and the many shows and swap meets! Beginning in 1967 with the first Pow-Wow Gem and Mineral Show, Quartzsite has grown to the point where today twelve main shows plus a variety of special events attract visitors. The "season" runs from November to March with the main shows in January and February.

Located 17 miles east of the California-Arizona line on either side of Interstate 10, Quartzsite at the height of its show season is one of those places RVers should visit at least once in their travels. Yes, it's crowded and traffic is horrendous, but to join the throngs of RVers out in the desert and experience the shows is a phenomenon not to be missed.

Many RVers return year after year. Not only is desert camping inexpensive, there are other draws as well. History is evident: Patton trained troops in the area, Hi Jolly's grave commemorates the army's experiment with camels in the 1850s, and evidence of mining is plentiful. In addition, there are ghost towns to explore, along with stone cabins, petroglyphs, and intaglios. Intaglios (in-tal-yos) are gigantic human, animal and geometric figures on the desert floor. The largest human figure at nearby Blythe measures 171 feet. Several smaller ones are in or near Quartzsite. (Click here for photos of Blythe intaglios.)

Recreation is plentiful. The Quartzite Gem and Mineral Club offers silver-smithing classes, rock hounding field trips and guided four-wheel drive tours. Hundreds of miles of dirt roads are accessible to hikers, ATVs and 4-WD vehicles. Pick up a tourist newspaper and you'll find activities galore.

If rains falls in the right months in the winter, the plains around Quartzite will be over-flowing with desert flowers in bloom.

QUARTZSITE VISITOR INFORMATION

Key streets: Quartzsite lies between exits 17 and 19 of Interstate 10. Main Street parallels the Interstate on the north, Kuehn Street on the south. Highway 95 (Central Blvd.), connecting Yuma and Parker, bisects the town. The intersection of Highway 95 and Cowell (one block north of Main) begins north/south and east/west numbering.

Tourism: Visit both chambers of commerce when you arrive for maps and tourist information.

Quartzsite Business Chamber of Commerce: 101 W. Main St (just east of Post Office) Telephone: 928-927-9321. Pick up a free business directory and check the Web site for RV park and BLM camping information.

Quartzsite Chamber of Commerce: 100 E. Main St (between Taco Mio and Quiet Time) Telephone: 928-927-5600. Pick up a free directory organized by services and a nice folding map with day trips ($1).

Camping: Check with the chambers for RV park information. If you want a hookup spot for January or a longer season, best to make reservations. Dry camping parking lots (paid) and RV parks abound in Quartzsite close to the shows or within walking or biking distance.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offers 14-day dry camping areas in all directions from town. La Posa Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA), one mile south of town off Highway 95, offers dry camping with water, dump and trash dumpsters available for permit holders. The full-season permit costs $140, a 14-day permit costs $30. Permits can be used at any of the other LTVAs near Yuma and in California as well.

Water, dump, propane: Free water and dump is available in Blythe, California at the Lovekin exit (go south). Two vendors in Quartzsite are Mort's Campground and the RV Pit Stop.

Laundromats/showers: Q-Laundromat at 205 E. Main has lots of washers and dryers. Showers in sanitized rooms are $5, including all supplies. Palm Plaza Laundromat is at 255 N. Central.

Mail: Have mail sent in care of General Delivery:

Quartzsite, AZ General Delivery 85346-9999

During the winter months the Post Office operates an annex on the east side of town on North Plymouth Street, near the town hall and library. All general delivery mail is handled in the annex building.

Because of crowds in Quartzsite, veteran visitors pick up their mail in Blythe (where they also go for grocery shopping, water, and dump):

Blythe, CA General Delivery, 92226-9999.

The Blythe post office is at 200 E. Murphy St. (at Broadway) north of Business I-10 (east of Lovekin).

Getting Around: Your best bet is to park on the edge and walk or ride bicycles. Traffic and parking can be horrendous, especially when the RV show is on. If you need to do errands, go early in the morning and use the Interstate to get from one end of town to the other and closer to your destination.

Internet: Love's Truck stop has WiFi only for existing truckstop.net customers. There's an Internet café on Main Street, just east of Pro Mack and Little Dealer. The Library (opens at 8:00 a.m.)has 13 Internet computers available to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

Quartzsite RV Show: The Sports, Vacation & RV Show takes place in the big tent on south Hwy 95 from January 22 through January 30.

More links about what to see and do in Quartzite

December, 2006 Field Report from Alice Zyetz

Jaimie Hall
1/9/05
(updated 10/21/07)

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