March 2024 RV Manufacturer Recalls: 14 Recalls Involving 8 RV Manufactures

A manufacturer recall can create a safety risk if not repaired

Your recreational vehicle may be involved in a safety recall, creating a safety risk for you or your passengers. Safety defects must be repaired by a certified dealer at no cost to you. However, if left unrepaired, a potential safety defect in your vehicle could lead to injury or even death.

What is a recall?

It’s always important to keep up with the latest recalls, no matter how small the issue may appear to be. Each week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) publishes the latest information on recalls from minor to major defects. NHTSA releases its most recent list of recalls each Monday.

When a manufacturer or the NHTSA determines that a recreational vehicle or item of RV equipment creates an unreasonable risk to safety or fails to meet minimum safety standards, the manufacturer is required to fix that vehicle or equipment at no cost to the consumer.

It should be noted that RV recalls are related to vehicle safety and not product quality. NHTSA has no interest in an air conditioner failing to cool or slide out failing to extend or retract—unless they can be directly attributed to product safety.

Information on previous safety recalls follow:

NHTSA announced 14 recall notices during March 2024. These recalls involved 8 recreational vehicle manufacturers—Jayco (5 recalls), Forest River (3 recalls), Winnebago (2 recalls), Keystone (I recall), Pleasant Valley (1 recall), Grand Design (1 recall), Airstream (1 recall), and Cruiser (1 recall).

River Sands RV Resort, Ehrenburg, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2021-2025 Jayco Solstice LI, Swift, Terrain, Terrain LE, Entegra Coach Ethos LI, Expanse LI, Launch LE motorhomes. The battery relay contactors may become stuck in the closed position.

The remedy is currently under development. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 21, 2024. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is 9903603.

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2024 Jayco Granite Ridge, Solstice, Entegra Coach Condor, Expanse, and Expanse LI motorhomes. An inadequate amount of rear axle lubricant may cause rear axle tail bearing damage and seizure, which can result in wheel lock-up or driveshaft separation.

Dealers will inspect the rear axle and replace the axle bearings or axle assembly as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 12, 2024. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is Ford 24V-102.

Pueblo El Mirage RV Resort, El Mirage, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2023-2025 Entegra Coach Anthem and Cornerstone motorhomes. The steering gear may have foreign material inside the gear that could build pressure within the system, resulting in a loss of power steering assist.

Dealers will remove and replace the steering gear, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 12, 2024. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is Shyft Group 24V-052.

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2023-2024 Jayco Solstice, Solstice LI, Entegra Coach Expanse, and Expanse LI motorhomes built on Ford chassis. The rearview camera, or 360-degree view camera if equipped, may not display a rearview image when the vehicle is placed in reverse.

Ford or Lincoln dealers will replace the rearview camera, and update the software and wiring as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 19, 2024. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is Ford 23V-598.

Sonoran Desert RV Park, Gila Bend, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2023-2024 Entegra Ethos, Expanse, Jayco Solstice, and Swift vehicle. The liquid level remote fill gauge on the propane tank may leak when in the “Open” position.

Dealers will inspect and replace the bleed valve as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 26, 2024. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is 9903604.

Forest River

(Forest River) is recalling certain 2024 IBEX and No Boundaries travel trailers. The recessed space heaters may have been installed too close to the ceiling.

Dealers will reinstall the heaters, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 1, 2024. Owners may contact Forest River Customer Service at 1-574-642-1612. Forest River’s number for this recall is 91-174.

Tucson/Lazydays KOA © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2023-2024 Coachmen Prism PRC24MB motorhomes. The Federal Information label may indicate the incorrect number of seat belts installed, resulting in an incorrect cargo carrying capacity.

Forest River will mail new labels, free of charge. Owner notification letters were mailed March 13, 2024. Owners may contact Forest River Customer Service at 1-574-825-8487. Forest River’s number for this recall is 215-1747.

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2023-2024 Dynamax Isata motorhomes. The nut on the backside of the main 12V disconnect may have been improperly tightened.

Dealers will tighten the nut, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 24, 2024. Owners may contact Forest River Customer Service at 1-574-264-3474. Forest River’s number for this recall is 55-1751.

Winnebago

Winnebago Industries, Inc. (Winnebago) is recalling certain 2023 Sunstar motorhomes. The tire information label incorrectly states the tire size and Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 110, “Tire Selection and Rims.”

\Winnebago will mail owners a corrected certification label, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 26, 2024. Owners may contact Winnebago customer service at 1-641-585-6939 or 1-800-537-1885.

de Anza RV Resort, Amado, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winnebago

Winnebago Industries, Inc. (Winnebago) is recalling certain 2024 Solis motorhome. The lavatory may have an incorrect standard outlet installed when there should be a GFCI protected outlet.

Dealers will replace the outlet with a GFCI protected outlet, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 26, 2024. Owners may contact Winnebago customers service at 1-641-585-6939 or 1-800-537-1885. Winnebago’s number for this recall is 182.

Keystone

Keystone RV Company (Keystone) is recalling certain 2024 Hideout 175BH, 177RD, 178RB, 179RB, 181BH, and 2024 Springdale 1700FQ, 1760 FQ, 1800BH, 1810BH, 1860SS, 2010BH travel trailers. The propane cylinder holder may have an insufficient welds, allowing the propane cylinder to detach.

Dealers will replace the holder, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 7, 2024. Owners may contact Keystone customer service at 1-866-425-4369. Keystone’s number for this recall is 24-451.

Campground USA, Apache Junction, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pleasant Valley

Pleasant Valley Teardrop Trailers LLC (Pleasant Valley) is recalling certain 2023-2024 nuCamp TAB 400, Cirrus 620, and 820 trailers with the Lithium Upgrade. The incorrect battery disconnect switch may have been installed.

Dealers will replace the battery disconnect switch, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to mailed March 1, 2024. Owners may contact Pleasant Valley customer service at 1-330-852-4811- ext. 327.

Grand Design

Grand Design RV, LLC (Grand Design) is recalling certain 2024 Solitude and Momentum Fifth Wheel trailers. The U-bolts may have been improperly tightened, which can cause the axle to move out of position.

Dealers will replace the U-bolts, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed March 27, 2024. Owners may contact Grand Design customer service at 1-574-825-9679. Grand Design’s number for this recall is 910042.

Airstream

Airstream, Inc. (Airstream) is recalling certain 2023 Basecamp 16 & 16X travel trailers. The metric and imperial GAWR values were transposed. As such, these trailers fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 110, “Tire Selection and Rims.”

Airstream will mail corrected labels, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed May 14, 2024. Owners may contact Airstream customer service at 1-877-596-6505 or 1-937-596-6111 ext. 7401 or 7411.

Cruiser

Cruiser RV (Cruiser) is recalling certain 2023-2024 Avenir trailers. The Federal Certification labels are missing the tire size and correct PSI. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 120, “Wheels and Rims-Other Than Passenger Cars.”

Cruiser will mail new certification labels, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed May 15, 2024. Owners may contact Cruiser customer service at 1-574-562-3500.

Please Note: This is the 61st in a series of posts relating to RV Manufacturers Recalls

Worth Pondering…

It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t.

—Martin Van Buren

Great Spots for Birding in Louisiana

Louisiana’s subtropical climate, forests, and position within the corridor of a major North American migratory flyway make the state a haven for a huge variety of birds and RVers who want to see them in their natural habitat

There’s no city in the United States like New Orleans and there’s no culture more distinctive than that of the Cajuns of southern Louisiana. For an RVing bird-watching enthusiast those rewards add to the appeal of a state full of productive national wildlife refuges, pinewoods, barrier islands, and wetlands. Who doesn’t enjoy great food and music after a day of birding?

Many of Louisiana’s best birding sites are within 50 miles or so of the Gulf Coast—and some are on the coast such as famed spring fallout spots Grand Isle and Peveto Woods. Wildlife refuges in the southwestern part of the state including Lacassine and Cameron Prairie provide at least some dry-land access to Louisiana’s truly vast expanse of wetlands. (Some estimates assert that Louisiana’s wetlands comprise 40 percent of those of the entire continental United States.)

Birds that could be considered target species in Louisiana would include Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Mottled Duck, Anhinga, Roseate Spoonbill, Swallow-tailed Kite, Yellow Rail (there’s an annual festival in the town of Jennings dedicated to this elusive species), Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch, and Painted Bunting.

Anhinga © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Louisiana birding hotspots

Grand Isle

On Louisiana’s southern coast lies a barrier island about seven miles long that holds a legendary place in the minds of the state’s birders. The woodlands here comprise one of the best fallout sites for spring migration where northbound birds that have crossed the Gulf of Mexico stop to rest and feed. Add that to the long list of vagrant birds that end up here and to the shorebirds and seabirds found along the coast and you have a species list that tops 300.

The peak for spring migration occurs around mid-April and it’s then that it seems every tree has a birder peering up into its branches. He or she may be looking at a limb loaded with Gray Catbirds Scarlet Tanagers or mixed warblers. The list of possible birds at Grand Isle in spring is essentially the list of all the migrant land birds of eastern North America and a substantial number of sea- and shorebirds.

Hardcore birders also know Grand Isle as a place where seeing a rarity is hardly rare. A Fork-tailed Flycatcher or Black-whiskered Vireo or Varied Thrush might appear anywhere. (While spring is the top time at Grand Isle, many rarities show up during fall migration.) Of course, Grand Isle is also a fine place to see shorebirds along the beaches and mudflats and wading birds in the marshes, and these birds aren’t so seasonal-dependent.

Various nature organizations have purchased land around the island as bird sanctuaries and a state park occupies the eastern end. As is usual with fallout sites, the day after bad weather is usually the best time to be out birding.

Black-bellied whistling ducks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge

Although this expansive refuge suffered damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it still offers excellent birding near New Orleans. In total, more than 270 species have been observed here from waterbirds to migrant songbirds. Much of the refuge is wetland that’s not accessible to the public, but the Ridge Trail allows excellent wildlife viewing.

Parking for the Ridge Trail is on the north side of Highway 90 about four miles east of I-510. From here, a boardwalk leads through wetlands and scrub. The levee here can also be walked for additional viewpoints.

Another access area is located on the south side of Highway 90 just east of the Ridge Trail. More marsh viewing is possible by taking Highway 11 north from Highway 90 and stopping carefully along the roadside.

Some of the notable species seen often at Bayou Sauvage include Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Mottled Duck, Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Roseate Spoonbill, Gull-billed Tern (spring through summer), Black Skimmer (most common in late summer), and Painted Bunting (spring through summer).

Fulvous whistling duck © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park / Barataria Preserve

A wonderful natural area just a short drive south of downtown New Orleans, the Barataria Preserve tract of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park protects around 23,000 acres of woods and wetlands. It’s not known for any particular rarity but for a rewarding day of birding in beautiful surroundings, it can hardly be topped.

Since it’s a unit of the National Park Service, Barataria Preserve has a fine visitor center on Highway 45 where you can get trail maps, a bird list, and advice. Many miles of trails wind through the preserve accessing live-oak woods, bald-cypress swamp, and marsh.

The woodland vistas here are truly sublime with the spreading limbs of live oaks covered in Spanish moss and dwarf palmettos in the understory. Some of the bald cypresses here are hundreds of years old. The Bayou Coquille Trail is a favorite of local birders. Parts of some preserve trails are wheelchair-accessible.

The preserve’s list of more than 200 species includes breeding birds such as Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Mississippi Kite, Red-shouldered Hawk, Prothonotary Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Northern Parula, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Painted Bunting. Spring songbird migration can be good, too, although the birds aren’t as concentrated in this expansive forest as they are in small coastal woodlands.

Yellow-crowned night heron © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge

New Orleans, on the south side of Lake Pontchartrain, gets all the publicity but the north shore is home to several appealing communities as well as worthwhile destinations for birders. One such site is Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge.

A tour here might start with the refuge visitor center in Lacombe, for maps and local advice. From there it’s only about three miles to the boardwalk trail and hiking paths on Boy Scout Road. Other primitive roads are located off Paquet Road to the east.

The main attraction at Big Branch Marsh is a small population of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, an endangered species that depends on old-growth pinewoods. This refuge is one of many around the southeastern United States with a program to restore the species’s population. Red-cockaded Woodpeckers can be hard to locate so it helps to know their raspy call.

The refuge is also home to two other species associated with pinewoods: Brown-headed Nuthatch and Bachman’s Sparrow. Once again, it’s important to know the squeaky call of the nuthatch and the whistled song of the sparrow. Other species nesting around the refuge include Mottled Duck, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Red-headed Woodpecker, Pine Warbler, and Blue Grosbeak.

On Lake Pontchartrain just five miles west of Lacombe, Fontainebleau State Park boasts a bird list of more than 220 species and makes a good birding destination (though it can be crowded on weekends). Waterfowl, wading birds, and Bald Eagle can be seen from shore and Brown-headed Nuthatch is sometimes seen in pines here.

Lake Martin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Martin

Located just east of the city of Lafayette, Lake Martin and the associated Cypress Island Preserve host one of Louisiana’s greatest bird spectacles in breeding season.

Hundreds of wading birds—herons, egrets, night herons, ibises, and Roseate Spoonbills—nest here, easily visible from boardwalks, a road the hugs the eastern shore of the lake and a walking trail around the north end of the lake.

Peak season is about March through May although there’s always something to see at Lake Martin. The Nature Conservancy operates a visitor center on Highway 353 (open seasonally) where first-time visitors can get advice.

With a large protected area of bald-cypress and tupelo swamp as well as bottomland hardwood forest, Lake Martin hosts much more than wading birds. Some of the other species found here include Black-bellied whistling duck, Neotropic Cormorant, Anhinga, Mississippi Kite, Red-shouldered hawks, and Common Gallinule in wetlands. Land birds include Barred Owl, abundant woodpeckers, Prothonotary Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Painted Bunting.

Lake Martin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge

Southwestern Louisiana is home to vast areas of marsh and other wetlands but access to most of the region is difficult without a boat and local knowledge. Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge offers an easy way to enjoy typical wetland birds. With a list of more than 250 species, it’s one of the birding hotspots of southern Louisiana.

The refuge is reached from Highway 14. Once inside the area, the usual strategy is simply to drive the several miles of gravel roads stopping wherever the birds are to scan the open water and vegetation. An elevated viewing platform on the loop drive allows slightly wider coverage.

Possible birds here comprise practically every regional species of waterfowl and wader. A few notable species found year-round are Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Mottled Duck, Neotropic Cormorant, many waders including Roseate Spoonbill, Common Gallinule, Forster’s Tern, and Marsh Wren. Present in nesting season are Least Bittern, Purple Gallinule, and Painted Bunting. In winter, many thousands of geese and ducks are present at Lacasssine.

Although the waters of the refuge are the main focus be sure to stop at patches of willows and other shrubs and vegetation for songbirds in migration and take time to quietly stand and watch marshy areas for shy species such as bitterns and rails.

Pintail Wildlife Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge

Located on Highway 27 just north of the Intracoastal Waterway, Cameron Prairie Wildlife Refuge provides birders with a great way to experience Louisiana wetlands on its 3-mile Pintail Wildlife Drive loop.

Before beginning the route, stop at the visitor center on the highway to see exhibits and pick up a map and bird list. Then drive south two miles to the entrance to the wildlife drive on the east side of the highway. It can be tempting to stop along Highway 27 to enjoy birds in roadside wetlands but there are very few safe places to pull over.

More than 230 species have been observed on the Pintail Wildlife Drive with (as is usual in southern Louisiana) waterfowl and wading birds the most conspicuous. The drive passes more than wetlands. Especially in migration, take time to scan grassy areas and search roadside trees and shrubs. There’s a boardwalk path along the drive allowing a closer inspection of the marsh habitat.

Both species of whistling-duck breed in the area and in winter Ross’s Goose is regular among the masses of Snow Geese. The shallow water means mostly dabbling ducks here with relatively fewer divers. Roseate Spoonbill is one of many common species of long-legged waders. Purple Gallinule nests here and Black-necked Stilt and Marsh Wren are present year-round.

In recent years, Crested Caracara has boomed in numbers in southwestern Louisiana and is seen regularly at Cameron Prairie. Note that this area is one of many places now where both Boat-tailed Grackle and Great-tailed Grackle are found in proximity as the latter continues its range expansion.

Sabine National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sabine National Wildlife Refuge

Not much of the expansive Sabine National Wildlife Refuge is easily accessible to the public but one exception is found on Highway 27 about seven miles north of the coastal community of Holly Beach or about 14 miles south of Hackberry.

The refuge’s Wetland Walkway is simply an elevated path through a marshy area west of the highway, adjacent to a canal. Yet more than 200 species have been observed in this immediate area, testimony both to the richness of wetlands habitats and to the ability of the scattered trees and shrubs here to attract migrant songbirds, especially in spring.

The 1.5-mile path is handicapped-accessible and has an elevated viewing platform. Insects, heat, and humidity make a mid-summer visit inadvisable but the walkway is a delightful stroll in other seasons. The third week of April is the peak time for spotting migrant vireos, warblers, and other songbirds.
This is a good spot to look for Least Bittern in spring, among the many more-conspicuous waders. Roseate Spoonbill is present often.

While you’re in the area, it can be productive (from late summer through spring) to drive southeast to the town of Cameron. Though it’s less than 20 miles, you must cross the Calcasieu River on a ferry, which adds to the time. In town, turn south on Davis Road and drive about 2.5 miles to the end of the road. When the tide is right, very large numbers of waders, shorebirds, gulls, and terns can be present here.

Sabine National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Peveto Woods Sanctuary

Like Grand Isle 200 miles to the east, Peveto Woods Sanctuary is a famed fallout site during spring migration where northbound birds that have crossed the Gulf of Mexico stop to rest and feed. This 40-acre woodland of live oak and hackberry trees on the Gulf Coast was saved from development and has long been a favorite birding location with more than 300 species recorded.

The spring rush begins about mid-March increasing to a peak in late April with some songbird migration continuing through May. The ideal time to visit is just after a front has moved through with north winds that tire trans-Gulf migrants and cause them to flock to the first coastal woods they see. At times a tree can be a temporary home to a half-dozen Cerulean Warblers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, or Orchard Orioles.

Some birders wander through the sanctuary’s trails looking for flocks of birds in the trees. Others prefer to pick a spot and let the birds come to them. Often there’s a small pond in the center of the sanctuary with a water drip and nearby seating and spending time here is a favorite birding technique for some visitors.
Although dawn can be a good time for birding, the timing of waves of cross-Gulf migrants varies with conditions so it’s not unusual for a section of woods to come alive with recent arrivals in midday or mid-afternoon.

Fall doesn’t have the thrills of spring at Peveto but many rarities have shown up at that season such as Vermilion Flycatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Townsend’s Warbler.

Roseate spoonbills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge

In north-central Louisiana, Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge is an excellent all-around birding destination with more than 210 species on its list. Although a major focus of the refuge is water management to attract wintering waterfowl it’s also managed to provide habitat for migrant shorebirds in late summe, and its habitats include extensive bottomland hardwood forest.

The most common way to explore Catahoula is to drive its 9-mile Duck Lake Wildlife route which encircles an impoundment where waterfowl hunting is not allowed. It’s easy to stop along this road and bird open water or woodland. The route also provides access to an observation tower and hiking trails. It’s a good idea to stop at the refuge headquarters just off Highway 84 to get a map and ask about trail conditions. Brochures are available if the office is closed. Keep in mind that hunting for deer and other species is allowed on the refuge seasonally.

Catahoula is a fine place to enjoy songbird migration in spring and its nesting species include Barred Owl, Red-headed Woodpecker, Prothonotary Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Painted Bunting. August may be the peak time for shorebird-watching with 15 or more species present. In late summer, too, look for Wood Stork and Roseate Spoonbill among the many herons, egrets, and ibises.

Winter is the time for waterfowl at Catahoula, when common species include Greater White-fronted Goose, Snow Goose, Gadwall, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, and Ring-necked Duck. Wood Ducks is common year-round.

Birding trail

Wetland Birding Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

America’s Wetland Birding Trail, Louisiana  

Louisiana’s Gulf Coast region forms a generous jambalaya of all the ways that water and land can meet: lakes and rivers, cypress swamps, gum and tupelo bayous, flooded rice fields, freshwater marshes, salt marshes, mudflats, and sandy beaches. When locals say this birding trail crosses America’s wetland it’s no idle boast. But don’t take my word for it; find out for yourself by visiting any of the 115 sites along the trail’s 12 loops.

On the outer coast, brown pelicans have recovered from their population crash of decades past, and passing flocks can be seen constantly. Shallow lakes and swamps support a wealth of waders including snowy egrets, little blue herons, and tricolored herons. Elusive marsh birds are easier to see here than practically anywhere else, and you may get your best looks ever at buffy little least bitterns, rusty-red king rails, and other skulkers.

Easier to spot are the flocks of ducks and geese that arrive for the winter including major populations of greater white-fronted geese and snow geese. If you can tear yourself away from the water, the trail also offers concentrations of warblers, vireos, thrushes, and other migrating songbirds during spring and fall. 

Whether you are interested in spotting rare species or simply immersing yourself in the tranquil world of birds, Louisiana has something to offer for every birdwatching enthusiast.

Birding along the Gulf © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

FAQs:

Q: When is the best time to go birdwatching in Louisiana?

A: The best time for birdwatching in Louisiana is during the spring and fall migration seasons when a wide variety of bird species pass through the state. However, Louisiana’s mild climate makes birdwatching possible year-round, with different species present in each season.

Q: Do I need any special equipment for birdwatching in Louisiana?

A: While not necessary, a pair of binoculars and a field guide can greatly enhance your birdwatching experience. These tools allow you to observe birds from a distance and identify different species based on their physical characteristics and behaviors.

Q: Are there any birdwatching tours or guides available in Louisiana?

A: Yes, several birdwatching tours and guides operate in Louisiana, offering expert knowledge and guidance to enhance your birdwatching experience. These tours can take you to the best birding spots and help you identify various species.

Worth Pondering…

There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before.

—Robert Lynd, The Blue Lion and Other Essays

The Best RV Camping April 2024

Explore the guide to find some of the best in April camping across America

Where should you park yourself and your RV this month? With so many options, you may be overwhelmed with the number of locales calling your name.

Maybe you’re an experienced RV enthusiast, or maybe you’ve never been in one—regardless, these RV parks are worth your attention. After finding the perfect campground, you can look into RV prices, and the different types of RVs, and learn how to plan a road trip. Who knows, maybe you’ll love it so much you’ll convert to full-time RV living.

I didn’t just choose these RV parks by throwing a dart at a map. As an RVer with more than 25 years of experience traveling the highways and byways of America and Western Canada—learning about camping and exploring some of the best hiking trails along the way—I can say with confidence that I know what makes a great RV campground. From stunning views and accommodating amenities to friendly staff and clean facilities, the little things add up when you’re RV camping. And these campgrounds are truly the cream of the crop.

Here are 10 of the top RV parks and campgrounds to explore in April: one of these parks might be just what you’re looking for. So, sit back, relax, and get ready for your next adventure at one of these incredible RV parks!

RVing with Rex selected this list of parks from those personally visited.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly RV park recommendations for the best places to camp in March. Also, check out my recommendations from April 2023 and May 2023.

Barnyard RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina

Barnyard RV Park offers 129-level and grassy sites with paved interior roads. All sites include water, sewer, electric (30 and 50 amp), and cable TV. Most sites are pull-through and can accommodate large units including a tow car. Amenities include bath and laundry facilities, Wi-Fi available at site, and a dog park. Barnyard RV Park is located 8 miles from downtown Columbia. From Interstate 20, take Exit 111 west on US-1 to the park. On weekends, experience Southern hospitality at the huge Barnyard Flea Market. The RV Park is located behind the Flea Market.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina State Park, Oro Valley, Arizona

Catalina State Park sits at the base of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains. The park is a haven for desert plants and wildlife and nearly 5,000 saguaros. The 5,500 acres of foothills, canyons, and streams invite camping, picnicking, and bird watching—more than 150 species of birds call the park home. The park provides miles of equestrian, birding, hiking, and biking trails that wind through the park and into the Coronado National Forest at elevations near 3,000 feet.

The camping area offers 120 electric and water sites with a picnic table and BBQ grill. Amenities include modern flush restrooms with hot showers and RV dump stations. There is no limit on the length of RVs at this park

Whispering Oaks RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimar, Texas

Whispering Oaks RV Park sits on 6 beautiful acres with large live oak trees. Located on I-10 midway between San Antonio and Houston (Exit 219), the park offers 51 large, level, full hook-up sites including 42 pull-through spaces. All sites have 30/50-amp service, fire rings, and picnic tables, and can accommodate any size rig including 45-footers with toads. Interior roads are asphalt and sites are gravel with grass between sites. High-speed Wi-Fi is available throughout the park.

Poche’s RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Poche’s RV Park, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Poche’s RV Park is a Cajun campground located approximately 5 miles north of Breaux Bridge.  Poche’s sits on 93 beautiful acres and has 85 full concrete slab RV sites with full hookups which include electricity (30 and 50 amp at each site), water, sewer, and Wi-Fi. Most sites back up to a pond to where you can walk out of your RV and start fishing within a few feet.

Poche’s also has five different size cabins for rent to accommodate any size family. Located throughout the property are five different fishing ponds which total roughly 51 acres of water. Within the ponds you can catch largemouth bass, bream, white perch, and several different types of catfish. You can also rent a paddle boat or single and tandem kayak to explore the ponds or bring your own.

The clubhouse is a 5,000 square feet recreation building with a complete wrap-around porch over the water on Pond 3. 

Las Vegas RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Las Vegas RV Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas RV Resort is a 378-site RV park restricted to guests 18 years of age or older with a great location a short distance from the action of ‘The Strip’. The resort offers full hook-ups with back-in and pull-through sites available. Amenities include free Wi-Fi throughout the resort, pool and spa, fitness center, laundry facilities, pet area, picnic tables at every site, and 24-hour patrol.

Seven Feathers Casino RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seven Feathers Casino RV Resort, Canyonville, Oregon

Seven Feathers RV Resort resort is situated on 23 acres of well-maintained lawns and landscaping. All sites have level, concrete pads, and patios. Whether you choose to relax on your patio, enjoy the heated pool and hot tub, work out in the fitness room, shop in the Gift Boutique, meet friends in the Gathering Room, or take part in the nightlife of the Seven Feathers Casino—you can expect an enjoyable stay.

The RV Park offers 182 full hookup sites with 30/50 amp electric including 102 pull-through sites and 78 back-in sites, six log cabins, and three yurts.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Laura S. Walker State Park, Waycross, Georgia

Located near the northern edge of the Okefenokee Swamp, this park is home to fascinating creatures and plants. Walking along the lake’s edge and nature trail, visitors may spot the shy gopher tortoise, saw palmettos, warblers, owls, and great blue herons. The park’s lake offers opportunities for fishing, swimming, and boating. Kayaks and bicycles are available for rent. The Lakes 18-hole golf course features a clubhouse, golf pro, and junior/senior rates.

The park’s namesake was a Georgia writer, teacher, civic leader, and naturalist who loved trees and worked for their preservation.

64 RV and tent camping sites are available, 44 with electric service. A dump station is available. The park is located 9 miles southeast of Waycross on SR-177. From 1-75 take Exit 62, follow US 82 east through Waycross.

Tom Sawyer RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas

The endless river traffic of the Mississippi is the main attraction at Tom Sawyer RV Park and most of the sites are 100 feet or more. The atmosphere is relaxed, laid back, and peaceful. The interior roads and sites are mostly gravel. Tom Sawyer’s is located so close to the Mississippi River, sometimes the park is in it!

The Mississippi River can cause the park to close periodically anytime from December into early June but most often April or May. The Corps of Engineers and National Weather Service provide river stage forecasts which gives the park 10 to 14 days advance notice as to when the Mississippi River will force the park to temporarily shut down.

RV Park at Rolling Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV Park at Rolling Hills Casino and Resort, Corning, California

The RV Park at Rolling Hills Casino is an easy-on, easy-off (I-5; Exit 628) 96-space RV park with long pull-through sites (up to 75 feet in length) with 30/50 amp-electric service, water, and sewer conveniently located. All spaces are pull-through. Wi-Fi access is available over most of the park. The RV Park is within an easy walk of the Casino and golf course. Laundry facilities are available nearby at the Traveler’s Clubhouse. The site is safe and secure with 24-hour patrol.

Eagle View RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Eagle View RV Resort at Fort McDowell, Fort McDowell, Arizona

Eagle View RV Resort is far enough away from the hustle of Phoenix and Scottsdale but still close to numerous attractions. The resort has 150 full hookup sites with beautiful views of Four Peaks, part of the Mazatzal mountain range.

Amenities include a swimming pool, dog run, fitness center, complimentary pastries, and coffee in the mornings, and a clubhouse with an HDTV, pool table, computer room, and library. If you feel like trying your hand at blackjack or poker, Fort McDowell Casino is less than a mile up the road. The park is also a short drive from the city of Fountain Hills which is home to golf courses and one of the largest fountains in the world.

Worth Pondering…

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.

—John Ruskin

10 Amazing Places to RV in April 2024

If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are my picks for the best places to RV in April

April, dressed in all his trim, hath put a spirit of youth in everything.

—William Shakespeare

From time immemorial, spring’s awakening has signaled to humanity the promise of new beginnings. In William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 98, a love poem published in 1609, the prolific poet and playwright personifies the glorious month of April as the herald of youth, vitality, and hope. For the Bard, the coming of spring—the twittering birds, ambrosial flowers, and long-awaited sunny skies—brought with it all the delights of a fresh start.

We have made it to the fourth month of the year, the one we kick off by fooling acquaintances with sport. A warning to my readers: Watch out for tricksters in the RV travel realm.

April is a time of change. With the vernal equinox in the recent rearview mirror in the Northern Hemisphere, nature is slowly stirring from its months-long slumber preparing to soon be in full bloom. April also has outsized importance compared to other months: The ancient Romans tied the month to the goddess Venus because of its beautiful and life-affirming effects and for thousands of years the month was seen as the true beginning of the year.

Today, April is full of moments of mischief, reverence, and a budding excitement for the warmer times ahead. These six facts explore the history of the month and why it’s sometimes considered one of the best times of the year.

When it comes to the names of months, April is a bit of an outlier. Other months are either intimately tied to Roman history and culture—whether named after Roman gods (January, March, June, etc.), rituals (February), or leaders (July and August)—or are related to Latin numbers (September to December). April, however, is simply derived from the Latin aperire which means “to open.” This is likely a reference to the beginning of spring when flowers open as the weather warms.

Although April’s name isn’t etymologically tied to Roman culture, April (or Aprilis, as the Romans called it) was a month dedicated to the goddess Venus known as Aphrodite in the ancient Greek pantheon. On the first day of April, Romans celebrated a festival known as Veneralia in honor of the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. This has led some scholars to wonder if the month’s name was actually Aphrilis about the goddess.

One of the most important holidays in April (and occasionally March) is the celebration of Easter which marks the death and resurrection of Jesus. Much like Christmas, this holiday has pagan origins and its name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon term for the month, Ēosturmōnaþ. That name literally meant Ēostre’s month, a reference to the West Germanic spring goddess of the same name.

The only known historical text mentioning Ēostre comes from the Venerable Bede, a Christian monk who lived in the eighth century and who mentions the goddess (and the festivals dedicated in her name) in his work The Reckoning of Time. Because so little evidence of Ēostre exists some wonder if the goddess was a complete invention of Bede’s and whether she was real or not. Ēostre remains the namesake of April’s holiest days for Christians.

One of the oddest annual traditions on the modern calendar falls on the first day of April otherwise known as April Fools’ Day. Once a day reserved for harmless pranks pulled on friends and family, April Fools’ Day now reaches into the furthest depths of the internet with multimillion-dollar brands and corporations getting in on the fun.

Although the tradition is certainly an oddity, it’s strange still that no one is exactly sure where April Fools’ Day comes from. Some historians think when France moved to the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century, those who still celebrated the New Year in April (having not gotten the memo, wilfully or otherwise, about the calendar change) were labeled April fools.

Others have tied the tradition to an ancient Roman festival called Hilaria which took place in late March, along with many more theories. A more modern version of April Fools’ Day took root in 18th-century Britain before evolving into the mischief holiday we know today.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in February and March. Also, check out my recommendations from April 2023 and May 2023.

Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Visit Yuma

As the weather warms up and the paloverde explodes into bloom, there’s no better time to visit Yuma, Arizona for a unique outdoor adventure. Soak up every minute in Yuma the way you’ve always wanted to—without regrets. Kick off an adventurous stay at full throttle with high-speed boating. Find solace in the sunset from a pontoon, a paddleboard, or one of Yuma’s three national wildlife refuges. Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or just starting, add Yuma to your bucket list.

Yuma is home to a variety of unique attractions that you won’t find anywhere else. Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park is a must-see destination for history buffs while Colorado River State Historic Park provides a glimpse into the military history of the area. The Yuma Art Center features rotating art exhibits and cultural events and you can find beautiful, colorful murals scattered all around town.

Visit one of the date farms and enjoy a date milkshake in the shade of a Medjool date palm tree then explore some of the more offbeat destinations such as Lauren Pratt’s Little Chapel, the McPhaul Suspension Bridge (also known as the Bridge to Nowhere), the Center of the World, or the Museum of History in Granite.

Here are some helpful resources:

Guadalupe River in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. The Texas Hill Country

This year, all eyes are turned to the Texas Hill Country since it falls smack-dab in the path of totality for the 2024 solar eclipse on April 8. As the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, the day will turn to night. North America saw a total eclipse in 2017 but the last time the land now known as Texas experienced one was back in 1397.

Visibility will depend on two things: location (the Hill Country will get close to four and a half minutes of totality out of a possible seven and a half) and weather (Central Texas’s annual average of 300 sunny days bodes well).

Plan your next trip in the Texas Hill Country with these resources:

Temecula Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Forget Napa, Temecula is the underrated wine region to visit in 2024

For as great as they are, Napa and Sonoma wine regions are missing a rustic, casual wine-tasting trip with some great juice in its own right—Temecula wine country is the underrated wine region to visit this year.

There have only been commercial wineries in the Temecula Valley since the mid-’60s but in the intervening 55 years the industry has grown immensely and there are now almost 50 active wineries. It’s an officially recognized AVA with hot afternoons and cooler nights thanks to the breeze off of the Pacific Ocean which gives the area the right growing conditions for lots of different grapes, particularly Mediterranean varieties.

With all those wineries to explore (and lots of other things to do in Temecula), it makes a fantastic day trip from most anywhere in Southern California.

Here are a few great articles to help you do just that:

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Appalachia’s spectacular mountain road 

Discover the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains as you wind your way along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This 469-mile-long route passes through charming towns, dense forests, and stunning mountain vistas. With ample opportunities for hiking, picnicking, camping, and wildlife spotting, it’s the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. The parkway’s famous Linn Cove Viaduct is a must-see engineering marvel. Rest up at cozy lodges like Peaks of Otter Lodge or Pisgah Inn for a true mountain getaway experience. 

Check this out to learn more: Blue Ridge Parkway: America’s Favorite Drive

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Springtime in the Smokies

This stunning national park is a great spot to visit any time of the year—which is probably why it’s the most popular one in America.

But come springtime, the Smokies are extra special: all covered over in a flood of newly-bloomed wildflowers from rhododendrons to black-eyed Susans and lots of others in between. In fact, over 1,500 types of flowering plants call the park their home, which naturalists celebrate by hosting the annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage at the end of April and beginning of May (74th annual; May 1-4, 2024). Just make sure you reserve your campsite early! As with all national parks, sites have a tendency to fill up fast when the weather’s lovely.

Here are some helpful resources:

6. Festival International de Louisiane

For the Festival International de Louisiane (April 24-28, 2024), downtown Lafayette is turned into an international music hub, complete with live performances, street musicians, arts and crafts boutiques and more. Multiple countries are represented at this fest, making Festival International one of Louisiana’s premier multicultural events. All of the events, including cultural workshops, are free.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Triassic World

Who knew petrified wood could be so beautiful? While you might think the Grand Canyon is the only stunning place in Arizona, this spot will prove you wrong. Petrified Forest National Park is a unique preserve where you can enjoy several breathtaking views. The park is full of colorful badlands and is a great place to go backpacking or simply enjoy a day hike.

Anything rock is found here. You can see trees dating more than 200 million years—turned to stone. And flora and fauna fossils as well as petroglyphs! Start at the Painted Desert Visitor Center and learn about all the stops and sights that are RV-friendly around the park. You can easily spot petrified wood near some of the parking areas and lots of wildlife.

Here are some articles to help:

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. The amazing Badlands

There are not too many hills and curves in this part of South Dakota and its big-rig friendly too, so the Badlands can make nice spring RV trips. Spring makes for a cool drive through the paint-colored hills. You can see bighorn sheep, buffalo, and prairie dogs that haven’t been scared off by crowds. There are several designated areas where you can pull over and enjoy the rock formations, or take a hike.

The park is very RV-friendly. You can park along the roadways and most of the roads are paved. If you have time, check out Mount Rushmore and the famous Black Hills. Finding open RV parks this time of year is a little challenging. Basic hookups are at the nearby 24 Express RV Campground. Or, if you book now, the national park’s Cedar Pass Campground is open on April 19.

Here are some helpful resources:

Jekyll Island Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Jekyll Island

Part of the Golden Isles, Jekyll Island provides a plethora of biking trails, beach access, wooded exploration, and a fun water park. Quiet and spacious, this island is big on downtime and memory-making. For even more island time, spend a day at the neighboring St. Simons Island. This chain of islands provides one of the most unique spring destinations.

Jekyll Island Campground provides everything you need for a great vacation.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Bryce Canyon National Park moving to spring schedule

The possibility of a snowstorm after April 1 can’t be ruled out at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah but the park just the same will be transitioning to its spring season schedule on April 5.

No reservations are required to enter Bryce Canyon but planning ahead will help park visitors to enjoy a predictable visit even on the busiest days. 

Starting April 5, the Bryce Canyon Shuttle will be available to help ease traffic congestion at popular viewpoints and trailheads. Unlimited use of the shuttle is included with your park admission. Shuttle service will run until October 20 and begin every day at 8 a.m. In spring and fall, the last bus will depart the park at 6:15 p.m. Final bus times will extend to 8:10 p.m. from May 10 to September 22.  

Visitors riding the shuttle are encouraged to take advantage of free parking at the shuttle station in Bryce Canyon City. As in years past, vehicles 23 feet and longer are restricted from parking at Bryce Amphitheater viewpoints during shuttle operating hours. 

North Campground remains open all winter for first-come, first-served camping and will transition to reservation-based camping from May 18 through October 7. Reservations are available on a 6-month rolling basis. 

Sunset Campground is closed each winter and will open for first-come, first-served camping April 15 through May 17. Reservation-based camping on a 14-day rolling basis is available May 18 through October 14. Sunset Campground returns to first-come, first-served camping on October 15 before closing for the winter season on November 1. 

By the way, I have a series of posts on Bryce Canyon:

Worth Pondering…

Spring is the time of the year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade.

—Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Get Ready for Spring Camping! 12 Must-Do Tasks

Camping season is revving up and so are RVers! Here’s what you need to do to get ready for spring camping.

It’s time to dust off the RV sitting in storage (literally and figuratively) and get it ready for spring camping. There is a LOT of camping fun just around the corner but we need to put in some work to prepare.

Here’s my list of must-do tasks to run through every spring. Of course, you’ll need to tweak this list based on your RV, camping style, and whether you store your RV in the off-season.

But overall, this list will get you going (again, literally and figuratively) for spring.

Replace your water filter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Replace your water filter

As you probably know, I recommend using a water filter on your freshwater system and spring is the perfect time to change it. If you camp regularly I recommend changing it at the top of every season.

That way, you have clean, good-tasting water from the start of the season. Some filters may last longer especially if you don’t camp that often.

2. Replace your water hose

Many RVers replace their drinking water hoses every year. Bacteria can accumulate in the old hose over time or while sitting in storage.

You may be able to use it longer if you buy a quality hose, keep it clean, and carefully store it. However, it’s always good to start with a fresh one every spring. Otherwise, it’s just too hard to know what’s growing inside.

3. Lube the wheel bearings

If you have a travel trailer or fifth wheel, add lubing the wheel bearings to your must-do list. It needs to be done at least once a year as well as being inspected.

You can take it to your local tire shop to get them inspected and greased up. Or, you can do it yourself if you know what to look for. Gooping it up isn’t rocket science but you’ll need to know what to look for to make sure the bearings are in good shape before you hit the road.

4. Inspect and seal your roof

You don’t want to start your spring season with a leak during your first camping trip.

If you’re not comfortable getting up on the roof, hire an RV tech service or employ the help of a handy family member or friend. Look for cracks, bubbling, or discoloration. Then use RV caulk and sealants and repair accordingly.

5. Evaluate your internet service provider

Remote programs change constantly. Make sure that whatever Internet system you have does not lock you into excessive rates. Make sure that the amount of data you’re paying for is what you’re actually using and that it’s at the best possible price.

One phone call to your Internet provider to discuss your rates will often result in savings and/or better speeds.

Check your awnings © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Check your awning

Before you head out, check your awning to make sure it extends and retracts properly. Awnings are one of the most common things to break in an RV. So, make sure it’s in working order.

While it’s extended, check for mold or mildew on the material. This often builds up when RVs are in storage during the wetter seasons. If need be, give it a good clean with tips from my RV awning cleaner guide.

While it’s extended, check for mold or mildew on the material. This often builds up when RVs are in storage during the wetter seasons. If need be, give it a good clean with tips from my RV awning cleaner guide.

7. Check all lights on your RV

Check all of the lighting on your RV, especially exterior lights, turn signals, and brake lights. Having to stop at an auto shop mid-trip wastes a lot of time when it’s an easy fix to do at home.

If you don’t have a spotter to help you check the lights, back up to a wall or garage door at night. Then, you should be able to test the lights by looking for the reflection.

If none or most of the lights aren’t working on your travel trailer or fifth wheel, check the electrical harnesses that connect the trailer to your tow vehicle. Make sure there’s no corrosion or build up on the metal pins or prongs on the connectors. Sometimes all you need to do is rub or clean them off and plug them back in.

8. Return everything you removed in the fall

If you removed anything in the fall because of freezing or attracting animals, you’ll need to replace all those now. 

Some items that might have been removed are your running batteries, smaller appliance batteries, and liquids (cleaners, repellents, etc).

And before you put these items back in, you’ll want to check your batteries: clean them if that seems necessary and check their charge.

Tip: If you’re removing things because you don’t want them to freeze, don’t just leave them in the garage where they might freeze.

9. Check your detectors/batteries/extinguishers

Spring is a good time to ensure your smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector, and fire extinguisher are all in working order. It is recommended that batteries in detectors are replaced annually and this would be a good time to do that.

You’ll also want to make sure your flashlights, headlamps, and lanterns are still working and being stored in their proper place.

Check water and plumbing systems © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Attend to the water and plumbing

You’ll need to flush water through the lines—especially if you winterized with anti-freeze in the fall.  Even if you didn’t winterize it’s a good idea to flush and clean the lines and make sure the plumbing is still working and there aren’t any leaks anywhere.

11. Check the electrical

It’s always a good idea to check the electrical and make sure all your appliances are still working (fridge, stove, microwave, etc). You might also want to move the slides in and out and check for water damage there and to ensure they’re working smoothly.

This is also the perfect time to hook up your unit. Make sure the lights are in working order, that your trailer brakes are good, and check the condition of your tires.

Fixing an electrical short is much more pleasant when the kids aren’t already packed in the truck ready to hit the road!

12. Inventory your first aid kit and tool box

Do a quick inventory of your first aid box and take a peek into your tool kit to make sure everything that should be there actually is. If something’s missing or past the due date, replace or replenish.

It’s time for spring cleaning © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What about spring cleaning?

Spring is always a great time to give your RV a thorough cleaning. There’s something about spring showers and fresh flowers that inspire us to refresh our living spaces.

When the weather starts turning warmer and thoughts turn to planning epic RV road trips, there are numerous RV maintenance tasks to complete including RV spring cleaning. Here are some articles to help you get started.

RV Spring Cleaning Tips for Every Season

Spring is a great time to give your RV a thorough cleaning. There’s something about spring showers and fresh flowers that inspire us to refresh our living spaces.

But, really, any time is a good time to declutter and spruce up your RV. No matter the season, these RV spring cleaning tips will help you clean, declutter, and organize. So, whether it’s spring or winter, summer or fall, here are the tools, tips, and tricks you’ll need for RV spring cleaning.

Go to the full article…

Get Your Rig Ready for Spring Camping

It’s spring and with the traveling season right around the corner now is the perfect time to clear out the cobwebs and tidy up your RV.

Spring is right around the corner and your RV is calling. The beginning of camping season is the perfect time to assess the condition of each distinct part of your motorhome or trailer. So go ahead, break your RV out of storage.

Go to the full article…

Cleaning Your RV Interior

Just like your home, your recreational vehicle requires a thorough cleaning on a regular basis. It’s a fact of life that nothing stays clean for long—and that includes your RV. A newly mopped floor is just waiting for a spill. That’s especially true with a young family.

The need for cleaning never disappears. Fortunately, most cleaning isn’t difficult. Occasionally, though, you run into something that refuses to come clean, or you are convinced that there must be a better way.

When cleaning an RV interior start from the top and work your way down. Begin a thorough cleaning by dusting the ceiling, wiping light fixtures, and cleaning ceiling vents.

Go to the full article…

Clean your RV exterior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cleaning Your RV Exterior

Following are a few RV cleaning tips to use the next time you clean and maintain your RV.

Since there are myriad RV cleaning products on the market, choosing the one that’s right for you can be a challenge.

Opt for a high-quality cleaner that will help make the finish on your RV last longer. Look for a multi-purpose RV cleaner as well to save some money.

Go to the full article…

A helpful checklist

Of course, there is a LOT of little things you need to do to get ready for spring camping from packing to food prepping. The above covers a lot of the big tasks but here is a helpful checklist:

Worth Pondering…

Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.

—Phyllis Diller

The Best National Parks to Visit by Season

Best season to visit each national park

When planning a trip to the national parks one of the most important things to consider is the time of year that you are planning your visit. Most national parks have an optimal time to visit based on factors such as weather, crowd levels, and road closures.

In this article, I cover the best time to visit each national park based on these factors. First are the links to my posts about the best parks to visit, month-by-month. This is followed by two lists that illustrate the best months to visit each national park based on weather and crowd levels.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When to visit the National Parks by month

Below is a series of 12 articles, one for each month of the year. Each national park is listed at least once and many are listed multiple times.

These guides take many factors into consideration: weather, crowd levels, special events, fall colors, the best time to go hiking, road closures, and my personal experiences in the parks. Since I haven’t been to all of the national parks I include only the parks we have visited on at least one occasion.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best National Parks to visit by month:

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Complete list of the National Parks

This guide covers the best time to visit each national park based on weather, crowd levels, and my personal experiences in the parks. First are the links to my posts about the best parks to visit, month by month. I list each of the national parks we have visited in alphabetical order and indicate the best months to visit each of these parks.

This is followed by a list that illustrates the best time to visit each national park based on weather and crowd levels.

There are two different ways to use these tables.

If you have a particular month or season that you are planning your trip, you can look at that column (for example: May) and the parks that are listed for that month make great options for your trip.

If you have a park that you would like to visit (for example, Bryce Canyon National Park), scroll down to Bryce Canyon and the months listed are the best times to visit this park.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best parks to visit by month

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When to visit national parks by month

  • Arches National Park (Utah): January, March, November, December
  • Badlands National Park (South Dakota): April, October
  • Big Bend National Park (Texas): March, April, November
  • Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah): March, April, November
  • Canyonlands National Park (Utah): March, April, November, December
  • Capitol Reef National Park (Utah): March, April, November, December
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico): February, July, August, September
  • Congaree National Park (South Carolina): March, May, November
  • Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona): January, April, June, November, December
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina & Tennessee): May, September, October
  • Joshua Tree National Park (California): January, February, November
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park (California): June, July, August
  • Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado): May, September
  • New River Gorge National Park (West Virginia): June, October
  • Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona): February, April, November
  • Pinnacles National Park (California): March, April, November
  • Saguaro National Park (Arizona): January, February, May
  • Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks (California): June, July, August
  • Shenandoah National Park (Virginia): May, September, October
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota): June, July, September, October
  • White Sands National Park (New Mexico): February, March, November
  • Zion National Park (Utah): January, October, November, December

Worth Pondering…

Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.

—John Lubbock

The Best State Parks in the South (2024)

From Gulf State Park in Alabama to Babcock State Park in West Virginia, hikers, campers, and outdoor adventurers will want to add these 14 state parks in the South to their outdoor adventure list

If the great outdoors is calling your name, set out for an adventure in one of the South’s best state parks. These state parks are some of my favorite destinations for getting outside and exploring nature. They span the region and represent an exciting array of landscapes.

Find your way to these outdoor destinations and you’ll be met with mountains, gorges, beaches, rivers, swinging bridges, marshes, hiking trails, campgrounds, and plenty of fresh air. Some are more remote and offer a real escape from the bustle of everyday life while others are just a stone’s throw from cities and small towns, making them easy weekend getaways.

Whether you’re looking for picturesque hiking routes, dramatic waterfalls, secluded camping sites, or sandy spots to settle in and see the sunset, there’s a park here that’s destined for your bucket list. Explore the great Southern outdoors this year and make new memories in the South’s best state parks.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina

Hunting Island is a secluded semitropical barrier island near Beaufort and one of the state’s most popular state parks. Lots of land and maritime wildlife love the park, too, and inhabit its five miles of pristine beaches, thousands of acres of marsh and maritime forest, and a slew of saltwater lagoons. Trek up 130 feet to the famous Hunting Island Lighthouse for breathtaking panoramic views.

Here are some articles to help:

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Florida

Established in 1963 as the United States’ first undersea park, this unique state park offers a firsthand glimpse of Florida’s Coral Reef, a 350-mile coral reef system that runs from the Dry Tortugas to St. Lucie on the Atlantic coast. For 70 nautical miles around Key Largo, marine life and habitats can be seen in several ways: snorkeling and scuba diving lessons and tours, glass-bottom boat tours, and canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding trails.

On land, boardwalks and paths meander through mangroves and tropical hardwood forests, and the visitor center holds six saltwater aquariums for more up-close views.

Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meaher State Park, Alabama

This 1,327-acre park is situated in the wetlands of north Mobile Bay and is a day-use, picnicking, and scenic park with modern camping hook-ups for overnight visitors. Meaher’s boat ramp and fishing pier will appeal to every fisherman and a self-guided walk on the boardwalk will give visitors an up-close view of the beautiful Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

Meaher’s campground has 61 RV campsites with 20-, 30-, and 50-amp electrical connections as well as water and sewer hook-ups. There are 10 improved tent sites with water and 20-amp electrical connections. The park also has four cozy bay-side cabins (one is handicap accessible) overlooking Ducker Bay. The campground features a modern bathhouse with laundry facilities.

If you need ideas, check out: Where the Rivers Meet the Sea: Mobile-Tensaw River Delta and Meaher State Park

Hanging Rock State Park, North Carolina

You can see Hanging Rock’s namesake long before you reach the entrance to the park: Rising miles out of the Sauratown Mountain Range is the frequently photographed quartzite outcropping that most travelers hike to at least once. Of course, the park is much more than that. Encompassing roughly 9,000 mountainous acres and home to 20 miles of trails—including the 2.7-mile Hanging Rock loop—it’s a hiker’s paradise. Several small waterfalls, a small lake (with a swimming beach), and mountain biking trails are also big draws.

Babcock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Babcock State Park, West Virginia

Babcock State Park is a must-see vacation destination—especially in the fall. Autumn colors line the historic Glade Creek Grist Mill, and lush, forest-lined hiking trails are at their peak. Visitors to the park can stay in a cozy mountain cabin or explore the charming small towns nearby.” 

Here’s a helpful resource: The Wild, Wonderful Waters of New River Gorge! Round out your trip with a visit to Babcock State Park & Glade Creek Grist Mill!

Chicot State Park, Louisiana

An ecological wonderland, Chicot—Louisiana’s largest state park—is a 6,400-acre mix of swampland, waterways, and hill country. Within the park is Lake Chicot, which has an eight-mile canoe trail and a 600-acre arboretum where indigenous species (sycamores and beech, magnolia, and crane fly orchids) are carefully preserved.

One of Chicot’s many highlights: is the 20-mile backpacking trail that circles Lake Chicot. (There are six first-come, first-serve backcountry sites along the trail.) Walking the lakeside trails in fall, when the cypress trees that seem to sprout from the lake change color, is especially magical.

Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina

This state park on the South Carolina coast includes both beach and inland wetland terrain, which makes it a destination for wildlife watching. Several nature trails allow access to the landscape and its inhabitants: Be on the lookout for seafaring birds such as egrets, herons, and ospreys plus other animals like alligators and sea turtles, which live in and around the area.

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf State Park, Alabama

With the Gulf of Mexico on its Southern border, 3.5 miles of white sand beaches, three lakes within the park, and nine ecosystems on its 28-mile paved trail system, Gulf State Park is popular with anglers, beach bums, and naturalists alike. Visitors can fish, swim, and paddle on Lake Shelby, see native flora and fauna at the Nature Center on Middle Lake and flit around the Butterfly Garden east of Little Lake.

At nearly 2,500 feet long, the Fishing and Education Pier is the largest in the Gulf as well as Alabama’s only public gulf pier. Normally open for fishing or strolling, the pier is currently undergoing repairs and is expected to reopen in summer 2024.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vogel State Park, Georgia

Vogel, one of Georgia’s oldest state parks, sits at the base of Blood Mountain inside Chattahoochee National Forest. The park is particularly popular during the autumn months when the Blue Ridge Mountains put on a colorful display of fall foliage. RV campers can choose from 90 campsites with electric hookups.

If you need ideas, check out: Vogel State Park on My Mind

Goose Island State Park, Texas

Brown pelicans, whooping cranes, camping, fishing, and the waters of Aransas, Copano, and St. Charles bays draw visitors here. Fish from the shore, boat, or the 1,620-foot long fishing pier. The CCC built Goose Island, Texas’ first coastal state park. It sits on the southern tip of the Lamar Peninsula. Dramatic wind-sculpted trees dominate the park.

Be sure to visit the Big Tree which has been standing sentinel on the coast for centuries. In 1969, it was named the State Champion Coastal Live Oak.

Choose from 44 campsites by the bay or 57 sites nestled under oak trees all with water and electricity. Every camping loop has restrooms with showers. The park also has 25 walk-in tent sites without electricity, and a group camp for youth groups.

Check this out to learn more: Life by the Bay: Goose Island State Park

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia

Entering the enchanting Okefenokee Swamp—one of Georgia’s seven natural wonders—Stephen C. Foster State Park presents an incredible display of diverse wildlife, unique scenic views, and rousing outdoor adventure. Canoeing or kayaking through the swamp is the park’s main attraction. It’s an otherworldly experience gliding through the reflections of Spanish moss dangling from the trees above. Turtles, deer, wood storks, herons, and black bears are a few of the creatures you may see here but the most frequent sighting is the American Alligator.

The park offers 66 RV and tent campsites with electricity as well as nine two-bedroom cottages that can hold 6 to 8 people. In addition 10 Eco Lodge bedrooms are available for rent. The RV sites range in size from 15 and 25-foot back-ins to 50-foot pull-through sites.

Here are some helpful resources:

Myakka River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Myakka River State Park, Florida

Myakka River State Park offers a variety of experiences: Day-trippers come for the airboat ride, tram ride, canopy walkway, and stop at the water-front café. Adventurers head for the 39 miles of hiking trails, excellent paved and unpaved biking trails, or scenic rivers and lakes for kayaking.

Given you need ample time to see and do it all, you can camp in one of 80 camping sites or book one of five rustic log cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s.

That’s why I wrote Myakka River State Park: Place of Abundance Offering Varied Experiences

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina

Located on Edisto Island, Edisto Beach State Park is one of four oceanfront parks in South Carolina. Edisto Island lies about an hour south of bustling Charleston as the pelican flies.

 Its 1.25-mile public beach is ideal for swimmers and beachcombers—and also a nesting site for loggerhead turtles.

The state park is situated neatly between a salt marsh and the beach making it possible to hear the waves lapping at the shore regardless of whether you’re staying in an RV, tent, or cabin. Located in the town of Edisto Beach, it’s just a short walk or bike ride from the grocery store, gas station, restaurants, and shops.

Check this out to learn more: Edisto Beach State Park: Unspoiled Paradise

Highland Hammock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Highlands Hammock State Park, Florida

Supporting a beautiful yet delicate ecosystem, central Florida’s Highlands Hammock possesses a unique collection of plant and animal life. The park features 15 distinct natural communities in its more than 9,000 acres with a diversity of habitats. 

Eight of the nine trails are located on the loop drive and visitors can easily extend their walks as several connect via a bridge or catwalk. Trails run through the hydric hammock, cypress swamp, hardwood swamp, and pine Flatwoods

The family campground offers water and electric hookups, a dump station, access to restrooms with shower facilities, laundry, and dishwashing areas. Campsites have picnic tables and fire rings. Sites vary from being open and sunny to partially or fully shaded and range in length from 20 to 50 feet.

Worth Pondering…

However one reaches the parks, the main thing is to slow down and absorb the natural wonders at leisure.

—Michael Frome

What Does Big Rig Friendly Really Mean?

Big rig friendly refers to RV parks that have sites that can accommodate RVs in the 40-45 foot range that are towing for a 55-65 foot overall length and have a way for you to get through the campground to one of those sites

Ever since we purchased our first Class A motorhome, this phrase has become much more important to our everyday travel experience. But what exactly does big rig friendly mean when it comes to RVs? How big is a big rig considered and how truthful are these claims?

Today, let’s delve into the essential aspects of this concept and explore how it impacts RV travel, campsite choices, and the overall enjoyment of life on the open road.

Vista del Sol, a big-rig friendly RV resort at Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is considered a big rig? 

You’ll often hear the term big rig in reference to semi-trucks or other large commercial vehicles. However, you may see this designation on RV park and campground websites too. 

In the RV world, a big rig is a nickname for any RV over 40 feet. It’s not just a designation for motorized RVs either. A fifth wheel over 40 feet is just as much a big rig as a Class A motorhome. The largest travel trailers can also be over 40 feet long.

By the way, I have a post on What Is A Big Rig RV?

The Springs at Borrego, a big-rig friendly RV resort at Borrego Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What does big rig friendly really mean?

RV parks will use the words big-rig friendly as part of their promotion to get RVers to stay at their location. However, this term can mean different things to different campgrounds as there is no standardized qualification.

What big rig friendly ideally means for big-rig owners:

  • No low-hanging branches or signs
  • Widely spaced trees away from roads and campsites
  • No tight turns
  • Wider roads
  • Plenty of big campsites that fit RVs 40 feet+
  • Plenty of pull-through campsites
  • 50 amp electricity hookup available at most/all campsites

Unfortunately, if you don’t do thorough research, you might have to scrape a few branches and squeeze by a few trees to reach your big rig campsite or get stuck pulling down a dirt road to a campground that has its paved aisles. You need to be able to maneuver a big rig into and around a campground and park comfortably.

That’s why you want to read 25 Questions to Ask When Booking a Campsite.

Pro tip: Before you hit the road in a big rig, make sure you know your RV’s height!

Fuel station awnings vary in height. Do your research ahead of time to make sure your rig will fit.

River Sands, a big-rig friendly RV resort in Ehrenburg, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Does big rig friendly always mean a pull through campsite? 

Definitely not! Pull-through campsites can actually be shorter in length. Ask an RVer who’s towing or driving a big rig if they would rather have a pull-through site that’s 35 feet long or a 50-foot back-in site. 

Many will want the longer site regardless of whether or not you can pull through. So if you see pull-through sites available on a campground website, make sure to do your research to find out exactly how much space it has. Make sure you add in the length of your towing vehicle or towed car behind a motorhome.

But generally speaking, pull-through sites are more big rig friendly than back-ins especially if it means you don’t have to detach your toad or tow vehicle.

You don’t want the nose or tail end of your RV sticking out of your site. When you drive a big rig, the longer the site, the better!

Settlers Point, a big-rig friendly RV resort in Washington, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Should you trust a big rig friendly designation? 

The best thing to do if you have a long RV is to do your research. Don’t rely on the big rig-friendly label on a website. But if it’s an RV park call and ask about the length of the campsite. Don’t forget to also ask about the overheight clearance so you don’t damage your roof. 

Keep in mind other places such as gas stations and rest areas also claim the big rig-friendly title so when you decide to pull over for a stop, make sure you’ve done your research to find out if it can accommodate your RV. 

Use Google Earth to scope out the area. Call the attendant to ask about space. You don’t want to get stuck in a parking lot because you can’t turn around. If it’s a first-come, first-served campground, you can still browse the area to see what the sites and roads look like.

It’s also a good idea to find the best route to the entrance. This is when a phone call to the campground office comes in handy. Ask about construction, tunnels, bridges, closed roads, or anything else that makes maneuvering a big rig difficult. 

If possible, ask other people and read reviews. You can’t always trust some sites so check out reputable ones like Campendium or AllStays instead of Yelp.

Pro tip: RV-specific trip-planing services can help you navigate safely in a big rig.

RVers tend to be honest about their campground experiences, so reading reviews beforehand is always a good idea.

Texas Lakeside, a big-rig friendly RV resort in Port Lavaca, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How do you find big rig friendly RV parks? 

Apps like RV Trip Wizard, Campendium, or AllStays are great resources for finding RV parks and most usually have information about maximum size and reviews from others. You’re also more likely to find big sites at parks with RV resorts in the name as they generally cater to this RV demographic.

Don’t give up hope of visiting those places if you have a larger RV. And again, talk to other campers. Find out where they’ve stayed that met the space needs of big rigs.

Ambassador, a big-rig friendly RV resort in Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are national parks big rig friendly

Most national parks can’t accommodate big rigs—not only because the campsites sometimes aren’t big enough but because the roads leading to them are not fit for larger vehicles. Many National Park campgrounds were built during the New Deal era by the Civilian Corps. Back then, RVs were nowhere near the size they are today! Also, trees have grown and national parks typically don’t like clearing protected park areas for more development.

However, the recreation.gov website can help you quickly search for campsite size at almost any National Park site. For starters, Badlands National Park is one of the most big rig-friendly parks. Big Bend and Death Valley National Parks also have plenty of space.

Because national parks are generally not big-rig friendly, you might need a backup plan such as a toad vehicle to visit them.

Wind Creek Casino, a big-rig friendly RV resort in Atwood, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A big rig might require extra planning but they’re worth it

Finding a campsite in a national or state park can take time and cause a lot of frustration. Sometimes you have to wait for the perfect time or a cancellation to grab that one spot for a 45-foot Class A motorhome. 

If you don’t want to travel to the national parks, you’ll have many more options. Research to make sure everywhere you go—RV parks, rest stops, parking lots, fuel stops—really are big rig-friendly. Don’t just trust a sign or website caption. 

Pro tip: Whether you travel full-time or part-time, RVing requires planning. To stay at a national park, you’ll need to plan about six months in advance.

Worth Pondering…

No matter where we go in our motorhome, that sense of independence is satisfying. We have our own facilities, from comfortable bed to a fridge full of our favorite foods. We set the thermostat the way we like it and go to bed and get up in our usual routine.

National Tamale Day: What is a Tamale?

Sweet or savory, National Tamale Day on March 23rd celebrates a traditional Mexican dish made from corn dough and filled with a variety of meats, vegetables, or fruit

March 23rd is National Tamale Day; if I had to pick, tamales might be my favorite Mexican food. And what an ancient food it is! Tamales originated in Mesoamerica as early as 8000 to 5000 BC.

The history of tamales follows, but first: What exactly is a tamale? It’s a firm dough filling of masa which is nixtamalized corn. The ground masa is mixed with water and other ingredients and can be mixed in or used as toppings. The masa is then wrapped in corn husks (or banana leaves) and steamed. The tamale gets its name from the word tamalli, a Náhuatl (Aztec language) word meaning wrapped.

Nixtamalization is a process that prepares the maize/corn in which the grain is soaked and boiled in an alkaline solution usually limewater (calcium hydroxide) and hulled. The nixtamalized corn becomes softer and more flavorful and when ground, the masa or dough has binding properties that make for great corn tortillas or tamales. Nixtamalization provides several nutritional benefits including increased bioavailability of vitamin B3 niacin which reduces the risk of pellagra disease.

Language lesson: Tamales is plural. One is a tamal in Spanish although Americans call it tamale.

Tamale Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tamale fillings

Beans, cheeses, fish and seafood, meat and poultry, vegetables, chiles, herbs, and spices—just about anything that suits the tastes of the cook and her family. Pork tamales with red chile sauce are one of the most popular but beef, black beans, and chicken are also menu favorites.

Different types of sauces are typically served with tamales—enchilada sauce, green and red chile sauces, mole, or whatever the cook wants to pair with the particular filling. Other toppings are those used for much Mexican and Tex/Mex cuisine: cotija/queso fresco, guacamole, marinated onions, pickled jalapeños, pico de gallo and other salsas, sour cream, and queso.

There are also tamales dulces, sweet tamales. These are made with masa tinted pink with vegetable coloring. The most common recipe simply adds sugar and raisins to the masa. But sweet tamales can be made with berries and other fruits, chocolate, and many fillings accented with anise seed, cinnamon, or other sweet spices.

Filling types can vary from family to family and from region to region. Both the filling and the cooking liquid of tamales may be seasoned.

Tamale Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The history of tamales

Tamales were the first dish made from corn in Mesoamerica. Evidence of tamales dates back to the ancient civilizations of what is now Mexico as early as 8000 BC.

Although the exact beginnings are not known for certain, many historians believe that tamales were first made by the Aztecs. In the millennia preceding cookware, tamales were cooked over hot ashes in a buried fire.

Tamales are thus thought to predate the tortilla, which requires a griddle.

Later, when Spanish conquistadors brought pots and pans, steaming the husk-wrapped tamale packets became a more reliable option for cooking.

The Spanish also introduced more ingredients adding chicken, pork, and lard to the list of possible fillings. In the pre-Columbian era, Aztecs filled their tamales with whatever foods were available: beans, fish, flamingo, frog, fruits, gopher, honey, rabbit, salamander, turkey, turkey eggs, and squash. Sometimes the masa was eaten plain with no added filling.

The Aztec and Maya civilizations as well as the Olmec and Toltec before them valued tamales as easily portable food. They ate them at the home hearth, of course, but also packed them for hunting trips, for traveling, and for their armies.

Tamale Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tamales were also considered sacred, the food of the gods. Tamales played a large part in rituals and festivals. For thousands of years, the Mayans worshiped the maize god, Hun Hunahpu. According to the Maya creation story, mankind was created from maize dough. Aztec, Maya, Olmeca, and Tolteca civilizations all considered themselves to be people of the corn.

Maize was the most important food source in Mesoamerica and still is a large part of the Central American diet in the form of tamales and tortillas. And corn still plays an important religious and spiritual role in the lives of the Maya people.

Tamales may have first crossed the border into the U.S. with American soldiers returning from the battlefield. One historian believes that Mexican migrants brought tamales to Mississippi when they came to pick cotton in the early 1900s. Another historian writes that tamales hitched a ride with US soldiers returning from the Mexican-American War in 1848. By the 1870s, there were many street carts with tamales on the streets of Los Angeles.

The easily portable food was also brought to the U.S. by migrant workers beginning around the 1890s who came to the Southwest for agriculture, mining, and other work. The tasty food spread across the southern states. In the latter half of the 20th century, Mexican cuisine moved to the northern part of the U.S. and now there are tamales for everyone, every day!

Tamale Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tamales today

With the movement towards more plant-based foods, vegetarian and vegan tamales are on the rise. The menu at CDC Cocina (formerly Casa de Tomales) in Fresno, California features:

The Classics

  • Chicken Tomatillo with green sauce served with roasted corn salsa on the side
  • Creamy Chicken Poblano with potatoes and casero cheese (a queso fresco, a soft, moist, crumbly, fresh cheese) stuffed in jalapeño masa and topped with creamy tomatillo sauce
  • New Mexico Pork with red sauce and grilled pineapple salsa.
Tamale Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vegetarian

  • Blueberry and Cream Cheese filled with fresh blueberries, stuffed in blueberry masa, and topped with whipped cream
  • Jalapeño and Cheese topped with tomatillo sauce, stuffed in a red chile masa
  • Savory Sweet Corn topped with green tomatillo sauce, casero† cheese, fresh avocado, and cream
  • Sweet Corn topped with chipotle honey

Vegan

  • Farmers Market, a mix of carrots, kale, cauliflower, and zucchini, topped with tomatillo sauce Portobello, Asparagus, and Broccoli sautéed with guajillo chiles, filled in red chile masa, and served with corn salsa
  • Spinach and Artichoke with potatoes in a creamy vegan sauce, in a red chile masa, served with roasted corn

In the fall, the popular Pumpkin Pie tamale made with pumpkin puree blended with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger makes its appearance. It uses sweet masa with a shaved carrot for added texture and is topped with gluten-free graham crackers.

This should inspire you to create your own tamales whether on National Tamale Day or any other day of the year.

Tamale Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to observe National Tamale Day

  • Discover a delicious new recipe on National Tamale Day
  • Take a cooking class to learn how to make authentic tamales
  • Share your favorite tamale recipe with others.
  • Teach others how to make authentic tamales
  • Visit your favorite street vendor or restaurant for savory and dessert tamales
  • Attend a tamale festival or celebration

Worth Pondering…

Do you want to make a tamale with peanut butter and jelly? Go Ahead! Somebody will eat it.

—Bobby Flay

Top 5 National Park Sites To Visit in New Mexico this Spring (2024)

New Mexico’s newest national park tops the list with more than half a million visitors last year

Some of New Mexico’s highest mountains and deepest caves are preserved for residents and visitors to the state alike via the National Park Service (NPS).

The Service has two national parks in New Mexico along with nine national monuments, two national historic parks, and one national preserve.

Millions of people flock to these sites every year as New Mexico’s mostly mild winter gives way to a hotter spring and often sweltering summer.

Here are the Top 5 popular National Park Service destinations based on visitation data from 2023.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Sands National Park – 729,096 visitors

White Sands was a national monument since 1933 before being designated a national park in 2019.

It’s situated just west of Alamogordo and northeast of Las Cruces in south-central New Mexico alongside White Sands Missile Range.

The park is known for its namesake, the white gypsum sand dunes that sprawl across it’s about 145,000 acres.

Visitors can hike, camp, or even sled along the iconic dunes.

Here are some helpful resources:

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carlsbad Caverns National Park – 394,121 visitors

About 700 feet beneath southeast New Mexico is the Carlsbad Caverns known for enormous underground rock formations and thousands of stalactites and stalagmites that wowed visitors since they were discovered in 1898.

Carlsbad Caverns became a national monument in 1923 and a national park in 1930.  

The park is amid the Chihuahuan Desert and Guadalupe Mountains in the southeast corner of New Mexico just outside Carlsbad to its east.

Most visitors opt to travel underground via a hike down the cavern’s natural entrance or a ride down the park’s massive elevator shaft to view the iconic formations but there are also hiking trails and other recreation opportunities on the surface.

Here are some articles to help:

Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Petroglyph National Monument – 314,528 visitors

Ancient drawings and indigenous symbols survive today in New Mexico from 400 to 700 years ago at Petroglyph National Monument.

The monument is just outside Albuquerque amid the city’s West Mesa, a volcanic escarpment seen by all those who visit New Mexico’s largest urban area.

Hiking trails can take visitors alongside petroglyphs for a glimpse into the past and the lives of Native Americans and Spanish settlers who carved the symbols into the volcanic rocks.

That’s why I wrote this article: Adventure in Albuquerque: Petroglyph National Monument.

Bandelier National Monument – 199,501 visitors

Ancient pueblos once dwelled in the 33,000 acres protected at Bandelier National Monument north of Santa Fe and just outside Santa Fe National Forest.

The monument is sacred to the state’s indigenous community and presents an opportunity for visitors to become acquainted with New Mexico’s past and enjoy breathtaking mountain views.

Bandelier can get snow throughout winter and early spring until May but visitors can journey to the monument all year for short hiking trails amid the remains of ancient dwellings.

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

El Malpais National Monument – 167,107 visitors

Volcanic terrains are a rare sight throughout the U.S. but can be enjoyed at El Malpais National Monument which is situated between the Acoma Pueblo and Ramah Navajo Indian Reservation about 80 miles west of Albuquerque.

Geologic features like lava flows, cinder cones, lava tube cave, and sandstone bluffs are all available to enjoy at the monument.

Visitors can find short to challenging hikes, scenic overlooks, and journey underground to explore the area’s cave systems.

The name was given by early Spanish explorers who encountered the lava flows and  it translates to the badlands or bad country.

If you need ideas, check out:

Five other National Park sites to visit in New Mexico

Capulin Volcano National Monument – 88,514 visitors

  • Region: Northeast New Mexico
  • Closest city: Raton
  • Activities: Hiking, auto tours

Valles Caldera National Preserve – 76,090 visitors

  • Region: Northern New Mexico
  • Closest city: Los Alamos
  • Activities: Hiking, fishing, mountain biking, hunting, camping
El Morro National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

El Morro National Monument – 54,836 visitors

  • Region: Northwest New Mexico
  • Closest city: Grants
  • Activities: Hiking, camping

Pecos National Historic Park – 50,709 visitors

  • Region: Northern New Mexico
  • Closest city: Pecos
  • Activities: Museum, hiking, guided tours, fishing in the Pecos River
Aztec Ruins National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Aztec Ruins National Monument – 47,554 visitors

  • Region: Northwest New Mexico
  • Closest city: Aztec
  • Activities: Hiking, historic trails, Heritage Garden

What missed the list?

  • Chaco Culture National Historic Park – 40,198 visitors
  • Salinas Pueblos Missions National Monument – 39,556 visitors
  • Gila Cliff Dwellings – 33,973 visitors
  • Fort Union National Monument – 9,570 visitors

More New Mexico travel stories

Worth Pondering…

If you ever go to New Mexico, it will itch you for the rest of your life.

—Georgia O’Keeffe