If you have been RVing very long, or even just reading the blogs of others who do, you will eventually come across “Quartzsite.”
Quartzsite, Arizona is in the southwestern area, about 30 miles from the California border, and on Interstate 10. It is a very small community, whose claim to fame is that it is home to more than 60 RV Parks. Which is a feat in itself, since the town’s population is listed as 879.
But the real popularity of Quartzsite are the hundreds of acres of BLM land that surround it, which is mostly FREE to dry camp (or boondock) on for up to 14 days – or the entire winter for an amazingly low cost.
In January, when the rest of the country is hunkered down by the fireplace trying to stay out of winter, Quartzsite is ablaze with thousands and thousands of winter RVers. Some estimates even say a million folks come and go from this area during the winter.
Whether you are there to attend a Rock & Gem Show (It’s the Rock Capital of the Country), the annual RV and Vacation Show, or any of the regular flea market stands that dot the streets in town. There are a few local restaurants, a couple of fast food places, 2 large truck fuel stops and a smattering of other small businesses.
And the place is CHEAP!! As in doesn’t-cost-much-to-live-here. Which may be the reason so many retired ‘snowbirds’ land here each year. One advertisement posted on the bulletin board of a restaurant said a full-hookup site could be reserved for $1,600 FOR THE ENTIRE YEAR. This is definitely less expensive than most RV Parks in other parts of the country, or even up the road north about 70 miles, to Lake Havasu City.
We parked in an area about 2 miles off Highway 95 and Plomosa Road. Because we were interested in trying our hand at boondocking, we looked for a place away from any other campers. We were able to park at the angle to benefit our rig’s windowless rear, helping us to manage the late heat of the day. We were there in early November with the temps in the low 80s or high 70s everyday. Nights were typical of the desert – as soon as the sun goes down, a sweater and jeans will be needed.
Since we work everyday, our exploring was limited to a couple of visits to town (about 6 miles away), and a Saturday Jeep adventure to The Desert Bar and Swansea Ghost Town. We tried a couple of restaurants, and I spent one morning at the very large laundromat.
We had stocked up on groceries before arriving (thanks to reading about the area in advance), but we did stop at the small grocery store one time, and I was pleasantly surprised at the selection of fresh vegetables and general supplies.
The other fun topic around the history of Quartzsite is the famed “Hi Jolly Camels.” The area was used in the 1850’s to train camels in use of the military. More than 70 camels came over to Arizona, along with a Syrian caretaker, whose name was Hadji Ali. Of course, it got americanized to “Hi Jolly.” He remained in Quartzsite till his death, even though the camel project was abandoned the the animals were left to roam the desert.
We spent nine days hanging out in the desert, and the sunsets were amazing! We hiked some, road a road bike (no easy way to ride a mountain bike in the rock capital of the country!), enjoyed the solitude. Mac, our mini Aussie Explorateur, enjoyed it the most. He was free to roam, roll in the dirt and rocks, and chase lizards.
Will we return? I doubt it. The idea of 50,000 RVers trying to park in the rocks just isn’t that appealing to us. But we were glad to have completed the boondocking adventure! Even without much in the way of solar (we have only a couple of small panels, and older batteries), we wanted to see what our capacity for this type of adventure would be.