Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Quartzsite boondocking questions answered

I've been asked some questions by commenters about boondocking at Quartzsite.  I'm by no means an expert, this is only my second year camping here, but I've never had so many questions about a single topic at one time, so I'll do the best I can.  If I'm wrong about anything and you RVers with more experience have a better or different answer, please leave a comment for us.

Good morning, everyone!

Following is some general information:

There are RV parks here with hook-ups, but the BLM areas are for boondocking.  You can drive all around the LTVA desert areas (West, North, South and Tyson Wash Camping Areas) and check out what you want for a campsite.  These require a permit, either for the season, or for two weeks.  Or check out the free 14-day limit areas.  

Some people want the wide open spaces.  That makes it easy to get full solar and when you drive off to dump your tanks and get fresh water, you just drive off, and when you return, you just drive back into your approximate area.  That's what most people seem to do.  Last year there were a few of us up against the wash where we had bushes behind us, but most RVers around where I was were just parked here and there around the area.  Some people moved their rig here and there, some people stayed in the same place, it doesn't matter because there's tons of room.

These photos are from last year when I was at La Posa West:

 The Q on the mountain can easily be seen from La Posa West LTVA.

These are some of the rigs of the group I was parked with. They park in one area together, not too close but still near each other in the same area. They visit in the afternoon and share a campfire in the evenings.

I took this shot to show a representative area - that's The Palms in one of the areas I was in.  There weren't many RVers close to me.

 When I got here I could take landscape shots without any RVs in the distance. After a while, they were all over.

The Palms parked near the wood pile for a group fire pit.

This was after I returned from a period of time in San Diego, and my space was taken by someone else. I left in a hurry and didn't think I'd be back and told the group to take my things and my site if they wanted. 

Some people just park and put out a chair; others build elaborate rock boundaries for their site, ringing the trees and bushes with rocks, building pathways and flat areas with the available rocks in the area.

When I arrived here this year, I wanted to be in the LTVA where the dump site and fresh water faucets are.  This is further from town and if I stay here for the duration, I'm hoping the Big Tent Show traffic won't affect me as much.  It's also easier to get to the "facilities."  I was looking for a campsite near some trees or bushes, so I could hang my bird feeders and hummer food.   I like to nest, have my own area, have rocks defining my space.  I was the middle child and always had to share a bedroom with my little sister - what can I say?

When you check in at the La Posa little brown office buildings that are at the entrance to the four LTVAs in Quartzsite, they will explain things to you, give you the rules and regulations and a map, and sell you a permit for 7 months or 2 weeks.  The map has all the places that are covered under your new permit.

Each of the 4 La Posa LTVA areas have one of these little offices as you drive in.

The permit costs $180 for the season, which is from September 15 through April 15 each year.  If you stay for the whole season, that works out to $25.71 per month, or 85.7 cents per day.   You can also stay for two weeks for $40 ($2.86/day).  There are four La Posa LTVAs, and one has a dump site and  eight fresh water spigots that service all four campgrounds.  Each LTVA has it's own trash dumpsters. 

Other BLM campgrounds in the area are free for two weeks, then you have to move out to another BLM campground that has to be at least, I think, 25 miles away?   I'm not sure how far you have to go, something like that.  These campgrounds have no trash bins, no fresh water, and no dump site.  There are places in town where you can pay for fresh water and to dump, and getting rid of your trash can be done for free at the city refuse area right off highway 95 between the town and Hi Jolly BLM campground.  Some people just stash their trash in business dumpsters around the town. I didn't like doing that when I stayed at Hi Jolly at the end of the season.

Most people arrive in Quartzsite later in the season because September is still way too hot.  Last year I arrived on November 25 and was disappointed that it wasn't warmer.  I thought it would be warm in the Arizona desert, but it does get cool or cold, and breezy or windy or very windy here. So this year it worked out that I arrived earlier because it was getting too cold at Bluewater Lake State Park in northeast New Mexico. It was time to head south and I arrived on October 23, a full month earlier.

Click on this map to get a better view

I am told the weather is different each year, but this is the kind of weather I was looking forward to.  I know it will cool off, but I'm loving the heat.  In the afternoon lately it's been 90 degrees or higher in The Palms, but with my two Fantastic fans, one in the ceiling pulling out the hot air and one plugged into my 12 volt outlet that provides cool air, it's been comfortable.  This heat is so dry it really makes a difference.  The mornings are gorgeous and the nights are cool enough to sleep well.

These are the specific questions:

There was a question about the night skies, and yes, the night skies are beautiful - lots of stars, the moon is super visible and the full moon lights up the desert, but without a good moon, it's really dark.  It's very quiet.

"When should you get there to get a good campsite?  How long do you plan to stay?"   Since I missed all of January due to unscheduled surgery in California, I don't know how bad (crowded) it gets in January, but if you arrive before the Big Tent Show is scheduled, I'd guess you'll be fine.  The earlier the better, of course, to get the best choices, but there are thousands of acres of desert, and there's no way it will fill up.

Other than San Diego for Christmas, I'll be somewhere in the LTVA system until it gets too hot next spring.  That's one of the great things about full-timing - I can leave whenever and wherever I want.  Or not.  :)

"How do you keep your site when you run into town to do your shopping?"  I have things out - chairs, a table, bird feeders, a mat by my entry door, etc.  It's obvious someone is occupying this space.  From what I understand, it's pretty safe to leave things out.  Nothing I have out is that expensive - if I were to loose it all it would be easily replaced.  Last year I was surrounded by friendly Rvers and this year I'm alone, so we'll see if my things are all still here at the end of the season.  I expect they will be.

Per the BLM LTVA rules, you are allowed to leave your site for five days maximum.  If you need to be gone longer than that, you need to get permission from an authorized BLM officer.  When I go to San Diego for Christmas I may be gone for 6 or 7 days; if so, I'll have to get permission, otherwise I'll only be gone 5 days.  If I was camping with a group like last year, I wouldn't worry about it, but being on my own this season, it's something I need to think about so I don't lose my campsite.

"If someone "creates" a site like that, do they get upset if someone else takes it the next year?" Campsites here are first come, first served.  If someone creates a great campsite and they want to use it again the next year, they'd better get here early, or chances are itll be taken when they get here.  I'd suspect, though, that some of the people who spend a lot of time creating a special space are doing it partly because they enjoy it.  They will probably make another great site this year, but in a different location.

As a side note - a little gossip here - one caveat to that is:  when I was at the Imperial Dam LTVA, down at the Quail Hill Campground - the one that had the wild burros - I was told the same RVers had been boondocking there for years and years and they "expected" their sites to be available when they arrived.  I got there late in the season this spring and most of the people were gone, but if I go back this year, there were a couple of sites I liked, including the one I chose, that had "belonged" to people who had either died or didn't travel anymore.  I was told by my neighbor that it would be okay to take either of those. I didn't argue with him, but...

That's not the way it's supposed to be. All the areas are first come, first served, but you just might have a silent fight on your hands if you show up early and take a nice site that is designated as "taken." Or maybe not so silent.  I think that would be a real pain, and I don't know how I would resolve it. There was a turf war at Quail Hill last fall and the Ranger was involved, but when I got there in May, the original holder of the site was still complaining about the ursurper, who was still there, too.  I'm sure it cast a pall on the entire campground, and is the only reason I might not return there this year.  :(

"How do you know how big you can make your site?"    The rules state you must have at least 15 feet between RVs.  This is for safety reasons, and most people want a lot more space than that.  Since I wasn't here during the "Big Tent" event, I don't now how close they all were during that time.  I was told in advance to put out my rock boundaries to keep people from getting too close in January while the Big Tent was going on.

"Are there any rules?"  Yes there are rules - they give you the rules when you purchase your permit, and there are "supplemental rules" on line.  There's nothing that isn't for a good purpose, though.  I had no problem at all with the rules.  They are basically to protect the desert and other campers.

"Can you put up any kind of a fence or enclosure? Your site looks wonderful. I would hate to have someone move in a few feet away."  You can put up fences, some people have tented areas; but they can't be "permanent." Some have gated areas for their dogs that easily put up and taken down.
And yes, I would hate it, too, if someone moved in a few feet away.  In fact, I'd ask them to move, because they have to be at least 15 feet away.  And...  I have my rock boundaries out, so I doubt anyone would get that cozy.

"How do you know if you are in a site or a roadway and how do you keep from getting blocked in by other rigs?"   The roadways through the desert are obvious - in fact they are numbered by small signs stuck into the ground that are 2 or 3 feet high and probably 3 or 4 feet wide.  They aren't very obvious, but once you notice them, they are easier to pick out.
Some roads are better than others, and you can also drive on areas that aren't obvious roads to get to a place you want for your campsite.  During the rain last year, the dip in the road to one of the camping areas was full of water, so we all drove behind the dumpster toward our area, then got on the first available road on the way.  That area behind the dumpsters became a little road, too.

You can't really get blocked in by other rigs, unless you were backed up to a wash or a tree and someone parked directly in front of you.  That wouldn't happen unless they were tryingto block you in.  That would be pretty scary and I'd be calling 911 and honking my horn for sure.  Don't worry about being blocked in - you'll see when you get here that it just can't happen.  :)

I think that answers all the questions.  If you have more, feel free to ask.  Trust me, boondocking here, especially with adequate solar panels, is much easier than I thought it would be, even last year when I wasn't doing everything right.  You won't know if you like Quartzsite boondocking until you get here and try it, but there are so many people who come here every season, and I'm sure it's not just because it's inexpensive.  It's also because it's a wonderful way to spend the winter.

This is a link to the site that explains all the Arizona/California BLM Long Term Visitor Area Permit rules and regulations. http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/recreation/camping.html

Information specific to Quartzsite:  http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/recreation/camping/LTVA/laposa.html

And a big Welcome to our two new followers:

Evelyn, who did have a blog named Travels of Evelyn and Steve, but when I clicked on the link, I got the message that the blog had been removed.  However, this is what Evelyn has in the "about me" section:  "We have been traveling full time in our little RV since Nov 2009. April 2011 we shipped the RV to Europe and plan to see as much as possible over the next year."  Evelyn, did you see a lot of Europe?  Let me know if you have a current blog, and I'll update this post and put in the link.  UPDATE:  Evelyn's new blog, which has all the posts from Travels of Evelyn and Steve, isWanderlets.  Check it out!

Welcome also to w6pea, who isn't showing a blog or any other information.  w6pea, if you have a blog, please let me know and I'll give it a mention, too.

Thanks to you both for following along with me and Katie - welcome aboard!  :)

Setting sun reflected on the opposite mountains. Sometimes this Eastern view is prettier than the actual sunset.

Last night around 6:30 Katie and I took our last quick walk before she went to bed, and it was gorgeous outside.  The full moon was rising, it was cooling down, calm and quiet.

Last night's full moon over The Palms.

From Me and My Dog, have a great Tuesday, everyone!  :)


  1. Thanks for posting so much info about Quartzsite. You answered questions I hadn't even thought of yet!! :) Who know maybe next year we'll both be there!!

  2. great job explaining all the 'ins and outs'!!..can't wait till it's our turn!

  3. I second Sue! Can't wait till it's my turn! :)

  4. Very nice. We like the LTVA for the reasons you mentioned. Being close to the dump and water is a big plus. Come time for the Big Tent in January also means less congestion at this place than others. It's also much easier to get there without all the traffic from across the bridge.

    We had thought we would boondock for a few times this week. However, it's still a little hot without air conditioning so probably will wait until the weather cools. However, we certainly like the wide open spaces.

  5. Thanks for the great info. Can't wait to experience it in person.

    BTW, I made chicken last night in the microhearth. Just pre-heated the pan, then placed boneless chicken breast liberally seasoned with lemon pepper, and cooked for 4minutes per side. Very tasty! This weekend I made zuchinni sliced about 1" thick, seasoned with just salt and pepper - came out perfect. Tasted even better than charcoal-grillng it.

  6. I've read a lot about Quartzsite, but your post is the first one that took away the confusion and made it easy to understand.

  7. First of LL, that is an adorable picture of Sweet Katie. Thank you for doing such a good job answering all the questions. You sure have done a lot since you went full-time and you have gained a lot of knowledge. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Good post, Barbara. As an RVer you have to go to Q at least once. It's a unique experience, especially in January!

  9. Barbara, Great recap on boondocking for sure !

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  11. Very informative post. I'm still undecided about going to Q but this info has been very helpful.

  12. Hi, my husband and I are beginning our fulltime journey in December (yikes! that's next month!) and we're going to head out to Quartzite first thing :)

    I've read about "Q" in a lot of blogs, and each person's take is different. I can't wait for us to get there ourselves!

    I love your site, it's beautiful.


  13. Thank you for the informative post on Quartzsite. I've read a lot about it on other blogs (and yours), but you explained some of the details I wasn't sure about. Don't know when I will be there, but it's definitely on my list once I hit the road!

  14. Great job. Nice to see it written by someone who has experienced it but isn't overcome by all their knowledge.

  15. Your blog is the start of a new community. Winter camping is popular in such a nice place. I've never been there, but have camped my whole life and look forward to a possible winter there before I move to another adventure. I'd like to start a conversation about the safety of living in an LTVA community for 7 months. Does anyone know the history of criminal intrusions into the LTVA community. I suspect me and my border collie could handle most situations, but I thought it might be a good idea to talk. I lived for 20 years in a small town in Colorado where there were no marshals necessary. What do people think?

    1. Hi Rick. am also interested in the crime for that site. i have read many forums, and watch many youtube video's and only mention of law was about the corrupt police chief, and town leaders. may have read about a couple of traffic tickets. if anything bad, i feel it would jump out online or youtube fast... just my thoughts...

  16. am new to the rv world and excited about quartzsite and other area similar...1. at the dump sites with 8 water facets , can i fill up my 100 gal fresh water from this site(or is it just for small containers). 2. after i dump my black tank can i flush it with fresh water? what about generators? be nice and use only during the daytime say 10am to 5pm.... ATV's like ranger 570,,,what rules? last question. how far off 95 do these LTVA site go into desert... thanks in . advance. casey, texas...

  17. sorry, i came up with a couple of new questions ....1. my rv (5th wheel) has an outdoor shower station, is this something i can use or is this a no no.?

  18. sorry, i came up with a couple of new questions ....1. my rv (5th wheel) has an outdoor shower station, is this something i can use or is this a no no.?

  19. Do you know if there are honey wagons to get your RV dumped in place?


Thank you for your comments - we LOVE them!