A Cool Oasis in the West Texas Desert

Dive into the crystal-clear water of the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool

In July, on a 100-degree day in the desert, 562 miles west of Houston, the San Solomon Springs Pool at Balmorhea State Park in Far West Texas, is a favorite place for many RVers and other travelers searching for respite from the hot Texas sun.

The water is so clear it’s like jumping into a dream. The water temperature hovers around 75 degrees, refreshingly cool in the heat of the summer and comfortably warm in winter. It is, in the opinion of many, the best swimming hole on Earth.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Set against the Davis Mountains where the Chihuahuan Desert transitions into the low, flat Permian Basin, the San Solomon complex of springs gush out 15 million gallons of artesian water every day, feeding a canal system that runs to nearby farms and the town of Balmorhea, 4 miles away.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the mid-1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built walls around the desert marsh to create the pool. Today, more than 200,000 people stop by every year to swim with fish, waterfowl, and amphibians.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The CCC-era structure is the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool. More than 15 million gallons of water flow through the pool each day, gushing from the San Solomon Springs. The 1.3- acre pool is up to 25 feet deep, holds 3.5 million gallons of water with the temperature 72 to 76 degrees year-round.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Several years ago when we stopped by in early spring on our route west to Arizona, we had the park to ourselves. But on summer weekends so many people cram into the park that volunteers improvise parking in open fields.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I always figured Balmorhea was too far away from major population centers, too in the middle of nowhere, to get overrun. I was wrong. In recent years, visitation has surged. For families between Van Horn and Odessa, Balmorhea is the one affordable place within 100 miles to cool off and picnic.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scuba clubs from as far away as Kansas and Arkansas explore the springs on weekends year-round. Fitness buffs motoring coast to coast make detours for a swim.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For almost three months, during the peak summer season, the pool was closed as staff figured out how to fix a collapsed retaining wall below the diving boards.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The closing was sudden and unplanned. During the annual cleaning in early May (2018), Abel Baeza, the manager of the local water district, was directing workers to make repairs in a nearby canal when he heard a noise, then turned around to see the underwater concrete skirting cracking off below the high dive.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 80-year-old pool, like the nearby adobe San Solomon Springs Motor Courts which are closed during a planned restoration, requires constant upkeep. The concrete repairs were an even bigger deal. A dam had to be constructed to hold back water around the damage during the painstaking process.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“There are five endangered species in the pool, and this is the only population left of this species of black catfish,” said Mark Lockwood, the West Texas regional director for Texas state parks.

“We can’t just open up the gates, let the water dry up everywhere, build a wall, and put it back together.”

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In early August, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) announced that pool repairs would begin imminently, with the cash-strapped agency forced to find creative ways to pay the estimated $2 million bill. Apache Corporation, the company doing most of the fracking exploration around Balmorhea, which some locals and environmentalists believe caused the damage, offered a $1 million matching grant through the nonprofit Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation.

The Garrison Brothers Distillery pledged a portion of proceeds from its small-batch, $59-a-bottle Balmorhea whiskey. Even for a park as popular as Balmorhea, getting things done these days requires the governmental equivalent of a GoFundMe campaign.

This project is only one of the three major developments underway at Balmorhea State Park. Renovations to the San Solomon Springs Courts and campgrounds have been ongoing since 2017. Once these projects have completed, visitors to Balmorhea will have an enhanced park experience at West Texas’ most treasured oasis.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF) has established a fund to accept donations towards the structural repairs that are needed to reopen the pool. These donations will help ensure that Texans can continue to enjoy this historic spring-fed swimming pool and unique West Texas destination for generations to come.

The park remains open for day-use only with limited facilities.

The restoration of the San Solomon Springs Motor Courts should be finished by spring. The fallen wall in the pool should be repaired any day now. I’m standing by.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another sunny 70 degree fall or spring day with little wind will do just fine. Odds are, we’ll have the park all to ourselves.

If you wait until next summer, y’all will be waiting in line with the rest of y’all.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

No matter how far we may wander, Texas lingers with us, coloring our perceptions of the world.

—Elmer Kelto

Badlands National Park: Place of Otherworldly Beauty

Badlands National Park is one of America’s top destinations for outdoor recreation with camping sites, miles of hiking trails, and striking scenery

Roughly an hour east of Rapid City, Badlands National Park is accessible by Interstate 90 or South Dakota Highway 44, for travelers who prefer two-lane travel.

State Route 44 cuts through Buffalo Gap National Grassland, which covers a huge chunk of South Dakota’s southwestern corner. You’ll see prairie grass whether you’re officially within the National Grassland area or not.

Buffalo Gap National Grassland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At first blush, Badlands National Park doesn’t sound like the best place to go. After all, it’s called Badlands! For centuries humans have viewed South Dakota’s celebrated Badlands with a mix of dread and fascination.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But these 244,000 acres of otherworldly landscape are gorgeous, with deep canyons, towering pinnacles and spires, buttes, and banded red-and-gray rock formations that transform into a veritable rainbow at the magic hour shortly after sunrise or before sunset. Some describe it as otherworldly, lunar-like, some say desert, the Lakota (Sioux) were the first to call it “bad lands,” or “mako sica.”

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park also protects an expanse of mixed-grass prairie—the largest in the U.S.—where bison, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyotes, and whole towns of adorable prairie dogs roam. Black-footed ferrets, the most endangered land mammal in North America and a predator of prairie dogs, were reintroduced to the Badlands late in the 20th Century.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Badlands is really a story of ongoing erosion. Every time it rains, more sediment is washed from the buttes. On average, Badlands buttes erode one-third inch each year. Erosion rates suggest they will erode completely in another 500,000 years, giving them a lifetime of one million years.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An array of extinct animals, from enormous to very small, once roamed this area. Some lived in the subtropical forests; others lived in the grasslands that came in the years afterwards. Skeletons of three-toed horses and saber-toothed cats are among the many fossilized species found here.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is much to see and do at Badlands National Park, but if you have only a short time to spend, begin your visit at the very cool Ben Reifel Visitor Center at the southeastern tip of the Badlands scenic loop, next to Cedar Pass Lodge. While there, pick up a park map, watch the award-winning park video, and tour the exhibits. Visitors can interact with paleontologists that are preparing mammal fossils they’ve found in the park. Ranger-guided programs and hikes are offered.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Next, drive the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway. It would take about one hour to drive the 39-mile loop of South Dakota Highway 240 between the towns of Cactus Flat and Wall without stopping, but almost no one does that.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Breathtaking rock formations and native grasslands filled with numerous species of plants and animals guarantee you’ll want to pause along the route to enjoy the view. There are 16 designated scenic overlooks that make for outstanding photo opportunities.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stretch your legs along one of the many hiking trails and remember to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. Buffalo can most often be found along the Sage Creek Rim Road, a gravel spur off the western end of the Badlands Loop Road. Twisting curves climb through passes in the Badlands wall of rugged rock pinnacles, buttes, and mounds.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience Badlands National Park overnight and enjoy its breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, colorful flowers, bountiful wildlife, and rugged scenery from one of two campgrounds available in the park: Cedar Pass Campground and Sage Creek Campground. Both campgrounds are open year-round, and camping is limited to 14 days.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located near the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, the Cedar Pass Campground has 96 level sites with scenic views of the badlands formations. Cedar Pass Campground offers tent camping and spacious RV sites with electric only service. 

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bison often wander through Sage Creek, a primitive campground, located on the west side of the park’s North Unit, near the Badlands Wilderness Area. Access is located off of the Sage Creek Rim Road, an unpaved road that may temporarily close after winter storms and spring rains. The road provides limited turnarounds for large recreational vehicles. 

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Badlands became a national monument in 1939. Congress declared it a national park in 1978. Nearly 1 million people visit Badlands National Park each year (996,223 in 2016.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.

—Rachel Carson 

The Perfect Campsite: 10 Questions to Ask

The key to enjoying campground bliss lies in knowing the exact type of site you want, and then making the effort to reserve that spot

Most everyone in the campground industry wants you to book your campsite online. And many of you do just that.

But RVing with Rex has one thing to say about this trend: Don’t do it. Seriously. Just don’t do it. Pick up the phone. Yes, and talk to a real person.

Back-in site at Jack’s Landing RV Park, Grants Pass, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

All campgrounds are not created equal, and you should never blindly book an RV park without doing the research—not knowing if it has the space, amenities, the views, and the location that you prefer.

You might have to work a little harder and actually talk to someone on the phone (GASP!), but when you are sitting with a view of the creek, you’ll know it was worth it.

Pull-through site at Toutle River RV Resort near Mt. St. Helens, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Many research junkies just put in their travel dates and leave the actual campsite selection to an impersonal computer algorithm.

But, not us. We have stayed at hundreds of RV parks and campgrounds around the country and can say one thing for certain: even the best 5-star campgrounds and RV parks have some mediocre (or just plain bad) sites. Even more importantly, there is no one-size-fits-all ideal. The best campsite for a family with small children might be senior’s worst nightmare.

Back-in site at Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The key to enjoying campground bliss lies in knowing the exact type of site you want, and then making the effort to reserve that spot. Here are ten questions to ask before booking your next great RV adventure.

Pull-in site at Holiday Hills RV Park, Penticton, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Can I talk to someone who knows the campground layout?

Talk to a member of the staff who knows the campground well. These days, many want to take the easy way out and book online, but that won’t guarantee you a slice of camping heaven. Open up the campground map on your laptop, and settle in for a chat.

This site offers 50/30/20-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

What hookups do I want?

Campgrounds usually offer a range of hookup options. Some sites will have full hookups, with 30 or 50-amp electric service; other sites will offer just water and electric. If the campground is rustic, there may be no hookups available at all.

Pull-through site at Ambassador RV Resort, Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Do I want a pull through or back in?

People with larger rigs or limited experience often prefer pull through campsites since they are easier to navigate. However, these sites can also be less private, less aesthetically pleasing, and more costly. A back in site might be trickier to get into, but it could also offer you the scenery and space you prefer.

Clubhouse at Lakeside RV Resort, Port Lavaca, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Do I want to be close to the action, or far away?

Many RV parks have hubs of activity where playgrounds, pools, and shuffleboard courts are located. Study the campground map to determine your preferred location

Pull-through full-service sites near the water at Gulf State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Do I want to be close to the bathhouses or far away?

If you plan to use the facilities in your RV, then there’s no reason to be located near the bathhouses where you might find increased traffic and noise.

Back-in sites at River Run RV Resort, Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Can I hear road noise from this site?

RVers who travel in motorhomes and run the air conditioning at night may not care that their campsite is backed up to a highway. But pop up campers and hybrid travel trailers won’t block out that road noise at night. Light sleepers should make this issue a priority when choosing a campsite. Also, be on the lookout for any railroad tracks that run by the campground.

Traffic is not an issue at The Lakes at Chowchilla (California) due to the layout of the park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Will a lot of campground traffic pass this site?

Traffic flow through a campground will affect your camping experience. If you are near the entrance, consider that every single vehicle entering and exiting will likely pass by your site. Garbage disposal bins are another source of high traffic.

It’s all sun at Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Do I want shade or sun?

Are you looking for lots of trees where you can hang a hammock and nap under rustling leaves? Or do you dream of sitting in the sun with a glass of iced tea and a good book?

Waterfront site at Lake Pleasant, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Do I want a waterfront site?

There is a reason why so many campgrounds are located on lakes, rivers, and streams. Sitting at your campsite and listening to the sound of rushing water may just be the most relaxing experience. But these sites are usually the most popular and fill up quickly. If you want to prime waterfront site, you need to book far in advance.

Waltons Lakefront RV Resort, Osoyoos, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Do I want a buddy site?

If you are traveling with family or friends, then look for a buddy site. These campsites are set up so that your RVs can be parked awning to awning, with camper doors facing each other. This creates a wonderful shared space in the middle where you can comfortably gather with friends.

Long pull-through site at On-Ur-Way RV Park, Onoway, Iowa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

There is no such thing as the perfect campsite. Some RVers want rustic and private spots, while others seek out immaculate landscaping and access to amenities. The trick to finding your perfect site is knowing exactly what you want and doing some research to make it happen.

Lakeside sites at Poche’s RV Park, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

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

—John Ruskin

Serenading the Sonoran Desert: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

With its multiple stems, the organ pipe cactus resembles an old-fashioned pipe organ

The remote Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a gem tucked away in southern Arizona’s vast Sonoran Desert. Thanks to its unique crossroads locale, the monument is home to a wide range of specialized plants and animals, including its namesake.

This stretch of desert marks the northern range of the organ pipe cactus, a rare species in the U.S. With its multiple stems, the cactus resembles an old-fashioned pipe organ—you can almost hear them serenading the desert.

Organ pipes and saguaros often grow side by side © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

There are 28 different species of cacti in the monument, ranging from the giant saguaro to the miniature pincushion. These cacti are all highly adapted to survive in the dry and unpredictable desert. They use spines for protection and shade, thick skin, and pulp to preserve water, unique pathways of photosynthesis at night, and hidden under their skin are delicate to sturdy wooden frames holding them together.

Organ pipe and saguaro cacti © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The monument’s namesake, the organ pipe cactus can live to over 150 years in age, have up to 100 arms, reach 25 feet in height, and will only produce their first flower near the age of 35.

The organ pipe cactus bloom in May and June, opening its 3-inch white, creamy flowers at night. Flowers will close up again by mid-morning, and very rarely remain open into the afternoon. This leaves very little time for daytime pollinators to feast on the sweet flower nectar. Lesser long nosed bats do most of the night pollination, and over the centuries, have developed a unique relationship with these cactus.

The organ pipe cactus thrive in this southern Arizona park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The fruit of the organ pipe ripens just before the summer rains and splits open to reveal a bright red seed-studded pulp. These seeds, with the aid of nurse plants or rocks, have the potential to grow from small seedlings into hundred-armed giant.

The beauty that is Organ Pipe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Organ pipe cactus thrive in the Sonoran summer. High temperatures and the monsoon rains of July and August trigger the greatest cactus growth. Within the monument boundaries, an average organ pipe cactus stem grows about 2.5 inches a year.

The beauty of the Sonoran Desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Highway 85 cuts through the monument from north to south. From the Kris Eggle Visitor Center you can take two drives. Both are unpaved but well maintained.

Along the Ajo Mountain loop drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Toward the east is the Ajo Mountain loop drive, the most popular scenic drive in the monument. It is a beautiful 21-mile, one-way desert tour usually passable by normal passenger cars. RVs over 24 feet are prohibited, due to the twisting and dipping nature of the road. The loop offers amazing views of barrel, saguaro, and organ pipe cactus. And in the spring, the desert floor can be filled with such wildflowers as brittle bush, Mexican poppies, globe mellow, owl clover, and lupine. If you keep a keen eye out, you also might also see desert bighorn sheep, deer, coyotes, and javelina. A self-guided-tour pamphlet, which can be purchased in the Kris Eggle Visitor Center for $1.00, describes 22 stops along the way and greatly enhances the experience. For example, the third stop is at a large saguaro, where visitors can learn many things about the stately cactus. Its flowers bloom in May and June, its fruit maturing a month later. Many animals dine on the fruit’s red pulp and its tiny black seeds. The Tohono O’odham people grind its seeds into a buttery substance that is considered a delicacy.

The skeletal ribs of a once thriving organ pipe cactus © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Saguaros stay generous past their fruit-bearing prime: Their decaying, hole-dotted trunks provide shelter for birds, and their “skeletal ribs” once constituted building materials for American Indians.

The beauty of the organ pipe and its name-sake national monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Interpretive programs are offered January through March. Take the opportunity to spend three hours with a ranger driving on the Ajo Mountain drive. Since space on this van tour is limited to 10 per day, interested visitors should sign up early at the Kris Eggle Visitor Center.

Along the Puerto Blanco drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Puerto Blanco drive west of the visitor center provides access to the Pinkley Peak Picnic Area, Red Tanks trail head, Senita Basin, and Quitobaquito Springs. The drive offers stops along the way that provide wonderful views and information on the ecology and culture of the Sonoran Desert. The entire 37 miles of the drive was completely reopened in 2014. Be advised that many travel books and websites do not reflect this change. High clearance vehicles are recommended beyond Pinkley Peak.

Twin Peaks Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Twin Peaks Campground offers 208 sites that are generally level, widely spaced, and landscaped by natural desert growth. The campsites will easily accommodate big rigs and are available on a first-come first-served basis.

Alamo Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

As well, Alamo Campground has four well-spaced, primitive spots.

Our experience in this extraordinary desert—is exotic, inviting, and utterly unforgettable.

Worth Pondering…
Take your time.
Slow down.

7 of the Most Scenic Places for Snowbirds to Camp

Scenic locations for snowbirds to camp this winter in prime Sunbelt states

One of the best things about the RV snowbird life style is that there are so many scenic places to roost. Not only can you park your RV in picturesque locations, you can also enjoy numerous hiking trails, fishing, and other activities while wintering in the US Sunbelt.

Take a look at some of the amazing campsites, and don’t forget to bring your sense of adventure—and your camera.

Usery Mountain Regional Park, Arizona

Neighboring the Goldfield Mountains and Tonto National Forest, Usery Mountain Regional Park spans 3,648 acres of metro Phoenix’s east Valley, and offers 73 individual camping sites. All are developed sites with water and electrical hook-ups, plus a dump station, picnic table, and barbecue fire ring, and can accommodate up to a 45-foot RV. Restrooms offer flush toilets and showers, and group camping is also available.

Anza-Borrego State Park, California

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California. Five hundred miles of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas, and many miles of hiking trails provide visitors with an unparalleled opportunity to experience the wonders of the Sonoran Desert.

Borrego Palm Canyon Campground is a great place for camping. Don’t let the vast 122 available campsites fool you, this campground books up fast. The campground amenities include drinkable water, restrooms and hot, coin-operated showers. Some sites offer full hook-ups.

Gulf State Park, Alabama

Gulf State Park’s two miles of beaches greet you with plenty of white sun-kissed sand, surging surf, seagulls, and sea shells, but there is more than sand and surf to sink your toes into. 

Located 1.5 miles from the white sand beaches, Gulf State Park Campground offers 496 improved full-hookup campsites with paved pads and with 11 primitive sites. 

Organ Pipe National Park, Arizona

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument preserves the northern-most natural habitat of the Organ Pipe Cactus, as well as amazing examples of desert plants, animals, geology, and human history. Enjoy the trails and scenic drives, the star-lit nights, and the sun-filled days.

Twin Peaks Campgroundhas 174 sites for RVs. Some sites can accommodate rigs up to 45 feet in length. Restrooms have running water and a few have solar showers. Hookups for electricity, water, or sewer are not available. A dump station is located past the last row of campsites.

Galveston Island State Park, Texas

Come to the island to stroll the beach or splash in the waves. Or come to the island to go fishing or look for coastal birds. No matter what brings you here, you’ll find a refuge at Galveston Island State Park. Just an hour from Houston, but an island apart!

With both beach and bay sides, Galveston Island State Park offers activities for every coast lover. Things to do at Galveston Island State Park include camping (56 sites with 50/30 amp electricity and water), swimming, fishing, bird watching, hiking, mountain biking, and relaxing.

Buccaneer State Park, Mississippi

Located on the beach in Waveland (adjacent to Bay St. Louis), Buccaneer is in a natural setting of large moss-draped oaks, marshlands and the Gulf of Mexico.

Numerous changes within the campground have taken place since the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. Today, the park has 206 premium campsites with full amenities including sewer. In addition to the premium sites, Buccaneer has an additional 70 campsites that are set on a grassy field overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. These sites were redesigned after the storm for easier parking and convenience for the visitor. These Gulf view sites only offer water and electricity. A central dumping station and restrooms are located nearby.

Catalina State Park, 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 invites camping, picnicking, and bird watching—more than 150 species of birds call the park home. The park is located within minutes of the Tucson metropolitan area. 

This scenic desert offers 120 electric and water sites. Each campsite has a picnic table and BBQ grill. Roads and parking slips are paved. Campgrounds have modern flush restrooms with hot showers, and RV dump stations are available in the park. There is no limit on the length of RVs.

Worth Pondering…

Stuff your eyes with wonder…live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.

—Ray Bradbury

6 Scenic Lakes for Camping in the Southwest

Enjoy waterfront camping at these six scenic lakes in the arid Southwest

Since the Southwest is known for its iconic desert landscape, you may be surprised by the many scenic lakes where you can enjoy waterfront camping.

These lakes are an oasis for activities like swimming, fishing, and kayaking, and have camping facilities that can accommodate RVs.

1. Lake Pleasant, Arizona

The cool blue Lake Pleasant is located in a regional park about an hour north of Phoenix. The recreation area is open year-round and has campsites, hiking trails, boat ramps, and a Discovery Center where you can learn more about the area’s plants and wildlife.

The developed sites are complete with water and electricity, a covered ramada, picnic table, barbecue grill, fire ring, and access to a dump station. If you don’t mind dry camping, the semi-developed sites have similar features except for utilities.

2. Patagonia Lake State Park, Arizona

Patagonia Lake is well known for its great fishing, hiking, and bird watching. This southern Arizona state park also has a beach, boat ramp, and a picnic area with tables and grills. If you don’t have your own watercraft, canoe, pontoon boat, row boat, and paddle boat rentals are available.

The campground has over 100 sites with electric hookups, picnic tables, and fire rings. Waterfront cabins can also be rented on the southeast end of the lake. The park can get crowded, but it’s usually more peaceful during the off-season and middle of the week.

3. Parker Canyon Lake, Arizona

Parker Canyon Lake is off the beaten path and not as easily accessible but it is usually much less crowded than Patagonia Lake. The US Forest Service campground is open all year; in the summer boat and paddleboard rentals are available.

Lakeview Campground overlooks the lake with 65 campsites (maximum length 36 feet) on top of a hill. There are no hookups, but there is potable water, a general store, and restrooms.

4. Lake Mead and Lake Mohave, Nevada/Arizona

Lakes Mead and Mohave are both on the Colorado River and worth a visit in the RV. The two reservoirs are located within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, a short day trip from Las Vegas.

There are several campgrounds and RV parks along the shores of the two lakes. The National Park Service sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. These include Las Vegas Bay Campground, Callville Bay, Boulder Beach Campground, and Echo Bay. Lake Mead RV Village offers pull-through and full hook-up sites.

5. Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico

The largest state park in New Mexico surrounds the state’s biggest reservoir. Elephant Butte Lake has beach access, a fishing pier, marinas, and boat rentals. The park has 15 miles of hiking and biking trails as well as several picnic areas where you can enjoy lunch overlooking the lake.

There are about 170 RV sites in Lions Beach, Desert Cove and South Monticello campgrounds. Primitive beach camping, group sites, and boat-in camping are also available.

6. Alamo Lake, Arizona

Nestled in the Bill Williams River Valley away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Alamo Lake State Park offers outdoor fun, premier bass fishing, rest and relaxation. The crystal clear lake is surrounded by mountainous terrain speckled with brush, wildflowers, and cacti making for a visually pleasing experience. Stargazers are sure to enjoy the amazing views of the night sky, with the nearest city lights 40 miles away.

Campground A offers 17 basic sites with both back-in and pull-through sites. Campground B has expanded to 27 mixed-amenity sites. Campground C offers 40 water and electric sites 15 full-hookup sites. Dry camping is located in Campgrounds D and E and each site has a picnic table and fire ring.

Worth Pondering…

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.

It is earth’s eye, looking into which, the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.

—Henry David Thoreau