Quartzsite: Here’s the 2024 QZ Show Schedule

If you can’t find it at Quartzsite, it hasn’t been thought of yet

Every January something happens that is hard to believe—unless you have seen it.

According to the Arizona Highway Department, as many as 750,000 to 1,000,000 people mostly in RVs converge on this sleepy little desert town located just 20 miles east of the California border on Interstate 10 for the rock, gem, and mineral shows plus numerous flea markets and the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show. This phenomenon started over 40 years ago and is now billed as The Largest Gathering of RVers in the World.

The winter season is go time in Quartzsite. With winter temperatures hovering in the 70s, people flock to Quartzsite from colder climates to relish the warm weather and fascinating shopping. Thousands of vendors gather during these months to showcase items ranging from rocks, gems, and minerals to jewelry, apparel, home decor, and more.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where is Quartzsite?

Quartzsite is located in western Arizona, just 20 miles east of the Colorado River on I-10. It’s been a rockhound’s paradise since the 1960s. These days, it’s also a mecca to well over a million visitors each year, most of whom converge on this small town in a wave of RVs during January and February.

During the winter months, 2,000 vendors of rocks, gems, minerals, fossils, and everything else imaginable create one of the world’s largest open-air flea markets in Quartzsite. Eight major gem and mineral shows in addition to vendors of raw and handcrafted merchandise peddle their wares to snowbirds, collectors, and enthusiasts making Quartzsite the place to be in January and February.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History of Quartzsite

In 1856, settler Charles Tyson built a fort at the present site of Quartzsite to protect his water supply. Fort Tyson soon became a stopover on the Ehrenburg-to-Prescott stagecoach route eventually becoming known as Tyson’s Wells. The stage stopped running when the railway was built through the area in the 1880s and it became a ghost town.

A post office was established at Tyson Wells in the summer of 1893 but was closed in 1895.

In 1896 the post office reopened with the new name of Quartzsite since the postal authorities would not allow a branch to reopen with the same name. A bureaucratic misspelling resulted in an s being added to the mineral that was the town’s namesake.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Weather and climate

Quartzsite has a classic low desert climate with extremely low relative humidity and very high summer temperatures. On average, it receives less than 4 inches of precipitation a year. Stores, shops, restaurants, theaters, and homes are air-conditioned year-round in Quartzsite. June, July, August and September temperatures are in the 100-plus ranges.

Tyson Wells show history

Tyson Wells began with an open lot where an RV Park was developed; the Sell-A-Rama Show started in 1978. Soon Tyson Wells became known as a leading Rock & Gem Show in the United States. Later, additional land was acquired for more parking, and two more shows—Rock & Gem Show and Art & Craft Fair—were added. Tyson Wells has something for everyone with the three shows in January and February, seasonal vendors, self-storage units, and an RV Park.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rock, Mineral, and Gem Show

Quartzsite is a rock collector’s paradise. For everything you need to make artsy rock art and jewelry, look no further. Thousands of rock hounds flock here to get magic rocks of every size and sparkle. Now, don’t be expecting beautifully displayed juried show wares and supplies. It’s nothing more than a huge outdoor desert flea market venue. However, once you get past the sand and dirt, you’re sure to find the perfect gem you may be looking for.

Tyson Wells Flea Market

If you’re looking for something odd or don’t want to pay top dollar in those big box stores, the Tyson Wells Flea Market may just be the place where you can find it. You’ll find tools, kitchen gadgets, flags, blanket throws, clothes bandanas, and all kinds of stupid stuff all on the cheap. There are RV supplies and camping accessories too.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show

For nine days, RVers descend on the giant exhibit tent to see the latest gadgets, get work and upgrades done on their RVs, and learn more about the RV lifestyle with workshops and seminars where attendees can learn about topics from trip planning to safety upgrades, solar and batteries, boondocking, and how to shop for an RV. Attendance at the event is free as is parking.

One can expect to see the who’s who of the RV industry but the stars of the show are the over 400 exhibitors (set up in and around the Big Tent—a 70,000-square-foot fully carpeted structure) selling everything from the latest and greatest RV gadgets to fashion jewelry to local honey. Some big tent vendors also have cellphones and electronic gadgets, glass fingernail files, dip mixes, and other vendors with non-RV junk.

If you’re looking for anything related to RVs, you’ll find it at the show in Quartzsite. It’s something every RVer should have on their bucket list and experience at least once in their lifetime.

Tomb of Hi Jolly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tomb Of Hi Jolly

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Who in the world is Hi Jolly and why is his tomb in Quartzsite, Arizona?” then get ready because you’re about to find out. Hi, Jolly was actually a Syrian immigrant who was hired by the federal government to introduce camels into the parched deserts of the American Southwest.

Though the plan was scrapped, Hadji Ali–also known as Hi Jolly stayed on and lived out the rest of his days in Quartzsite. He died in the early 20th century and in the ’30s a bronze camel was placed at his tomb by townspeople who loved and admired him. The tomb is in town and free, so don’t miss it.

Tyson Wells Sell-a-Rama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2024 QZ Show Schedule

Bookmark this page to find out what’s happening.

January 1–February 28: Desert Gardens Rock, Gem and Mineral Show
Claiming to be “the largest international rock, gem and mineral show in Quartzsite,” there’s no doubt that other venues will dispute the claim. You’ll need to decide for yourself.

Hours: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., seven days a week

Location: Desert Gardens Show Grounds, 1055 Kuehn Street

January 2-February 28: Prospectors Panorama 
Claims to be the longest lasting annual show running from January 2nd through February 28th, every year.

Hours: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. daily

Location: Prospectors Panorama, 35 West Kuehn Street

Tyson Wells Sell-a-Rama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

January 5–14: Tyson Wells Rock & Gem Show
Bills itself as “an unbelievable variety displayed on 2.2 miles of aisle frontage.”

Hours: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., seven days a week

Location: 121 West Kuehn Street

January 17–22: QIA Pow Wow Gem & Mineral Show
This is THE original event that’s credited with launching Quartzsite as a major gathering point. The first show was in 1967 attracting maybe 1,000 buyers to visit with 100 vendors. Expect four times that many vendors now and rub elbows with 10,000 daily show-goers. If you’re into rocks and gems, don’t miss this one.

Hours: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., seven days a week

Location: Quartzsite Improvement Association Building, 235 East Ironwood Street

January 19–28: Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama
Rocks and minerals, arts and crafts, antiques, all this plus foods to amaze you. Do they include Tums vendors? You’ll need to come and find out for yourself.

Hours: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., seven days a week

Location: 121 West Kuehn Street

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

January 20–28: Sports, Vacation & RV Show (The Big Tent)
Arguably the attraction that draws the most attention—and traffic. Acres of tented-over vendors with a specialization in RV stuff. 

Hours: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. (3 p.m. closing day)

Location: 700 South Central Blvd.

February 2–11: Tyson Wells Arts and Crafts Fair
“10 days, 2.2 miles of aisle frontage”

Hours: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., seven days a week

Location: 121 West Kuehn Street

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

February 9–11: Quartzsite Gold Show
There’s gold at that thar show—along with panning contests, metal detecting contests, and some great speakers and special presentations during the show each day.

Hours: Friday–Saturday, 9 a.m.–4 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m.–3 p.m.

Location: Quartzsite Improvement Association Building, 235 East Ironwood Street

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Show attendance tips

It is always a good idea to plan your itinerary ahead of your travel. Think about what you want to buy, and the shows you want to attend, and plan your days.

As the vast majority of the Quartzsite shows are outdoors, I cannot stress enough how important it is to wear comfortable shoes, a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen, carry water, and take breaks. Be prepared for cool or warm weather. That’s the desert in the winter. Be prepared to walk a lot of miles in the dusty aisles of the shows.

Also remember to keep detailed notes of what you are looking at or buying—which show, what item, what price, which dealer, what booth number, what day. By the end of the day, it all becomes a blur and if you want to go back and revisit a dealer those notes will be your life-saver.

Finally, have patience. If you are coming in at peak time, traffic on the Interstate exit ramps can be gridlock as there are only stop signs on the overpasses. Lots of patience is also required when waiting about an hour in line for dinner at the few restaurants in town.

To be sure, there are plenty of other Quartzsite shows—if one counts the hundreds of vendors and shops. 

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Want to know more about Quartzsite? 

Let the shows begin!

See you at the Q!

Worth Pondering… 

Nowhere on earth will you find such an assortment of stuff as you will at Quartzsite from mid-December to mid-February. As the saying goes, “If you can’t find it in Quartzsite, you won’t find it anywhere.”

The Best Stops for a Winter Road Trip

Whether you park for ten minutes or ten days, what destinations do you pull off the highway for?

At some point, everyone starts to think about their dream road trip. For some, it’s a jaunt to the Grand Canyon or touring the Mighty Five in a decked-out RV. For others, it’s traveling Historic Route 66 or the Blue Ridge Parkway. No matter the destination, though, everyone needs to make stops on the way. What are some of your favorites?

For my purpose, a stop is anything from a national park to a state park or a roadside attraction to a Texas BBQ joint. Anything that gets you to pull off the highway, turn off your engine, and stretch your legs a bit—whether it’s to hike a mountain trail or tour a living history museum is up to you.

My vote for the perfect road trip stop is multifaceted and an ongoing list as I travel to new places and explore America’s scenic wonders.

Fort Yuma Territorial Prison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Yuma Territorial Prison, Yuma, Arizona

The Fort Yuma Territorial Prison which operated from 1876 to 1909 was hellish in many respects but it also had more modern amenities than many homes in Yuma at the time including electricity, plumbing, a large library, and even a band. Several of the inmates were Mormons who were convicted of polygamy. Today, the site of the hilltop prison is an Arizona state park with some surviving original features such as the cellblock and other features reconstructed. It’s now a historical museum that not only is open for tours but stages special events such as gunfights and ghost hunts.

>> Get more tips for visiting Fort Yuma Territorial Prison

Kennedy Space Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex, Merritt Island, Florida

This privately owned center provides educational exhibits and activities about NASA’s mission at the center as well as tours to other facilities nearby. You’ll see a “rocket garden,” an outdoor exhibit of an extensive assortment of rockets, capsules, and engines that have been used for actual space missions.

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, Desert Hot Springs, California

Nestled in the scenic hills of Desert Hot Springs, a Hopi-inspired pueblo sits against a hillside. Not just any pueblo but one built with natural materials collected throughout the desert. Yerxa’s pueblo is a four-story, 5,000-square-foot structure. It has 160 windows, 65 doors, 30 rooflines, and 35 rooms. When homesteader Yerxa Cabot settled in Desert Hot Springs, he used re-purposed materials and a little ingenuity to build a home so unique it remains a preserved museum to this day.

>> Get more tips for visiting Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

Desert Botanical Garden © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona

The Valley of the Sun is home to many great attractions, and it can be difficult for visitors and locals alike to pick their favorites. It’s easy to get caught up in the legend surrounding attractions like the world-famous Lost Dutchman State Park, but sometimes you want to take a break from history and explore Phoenix’s more modern side. 

Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden is also one of the world’s largest collections of desert plants and flowers. It features more than 50 miles of pathways crisscrossing over a dozen outdoor gardens, including the special Children’s Garden, which has a walled maze, garden swings, and plenty of other activities designed especially for the little ones. 

Visitors can also see art installations, take a guided tour or enjoy live music during their visit to the outdoor attractions.

Seaside © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seaside, Florida

A small resort community in the Florida Panhandle, Seaside is the epitome of cute. Featuring pastel-colored homes and pedestrian-friendly streets, the beach community is tranquil and picturesque. Just how adorable is this place? The fictional town from the Jim Carrey movie The Truman Show was set here. West of the town visit the Grayton Beach State Park for some coastal trails.

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, Gilbert, Arizona

There are several good reasons for paying a visit to this 110-acre park. The astounding variety of cacti, probably varieties than you ever knew existed, is itself worth stopping by for. But there are also many other species of plant and animal life in and around this artificial wetland created with reclaimed water. You can view fish, birds, reptiles, and mammals of many different kinds on a short hiking trail. It’s an especially excellent place for bird watching. The picnic and playground areas are imaginatively and artistically designed and laid out. And perhaps most noteworthy of all, there is an observatory that is open to the public to do some star gazing on Friday and Saturday nights.

>> Get more tips for visiting Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch

Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Texas

Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park is one of the best places in the country for bird-watching. People come just for the birds. Bentsen’s wetland, scrub brush, riparian, and woodland habitats make it a world-class destination to observe birds and wildlife commonly found in the subtropics of northern Mexico.
One of the most spectacular convergences of birds on Earth, more than 530 species have been documented in the Rio Grande Valley (including about 20 species found nowhere else in the U.S.) and 365 species at Bentsen itself. Bentsen’s bird-feeding stations are stocked in the winter months making it one of the best and easiest times to view a wide variety of birds from Green jays to Altamira orioles and Plain chachalacas to Great kiskadees.

>> Get more tips for visiting Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

Hi Jolly Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hi Jolly Monument, Quartzsite, Arizona

Hi Jolly was the Americanized name of Hadji Ali, a Greek/Syrian immigrant who was one of several Middle Eastern men hired by the U.S. Army in 1857 (by Secretary Of War Jefferson Davis) to drive camels laden with cargo across the desert. The experiment was discontinued after a short time but it was still much more successful than people often believe. In any case, Hi Jolly stuck around until he died in 1902. A colorful and beloved character, he became a bit of a legend and was honored with this pyramid-shaped monument constructed in 1903 and embellished later. The monument stands in a cemetery with many monuments to military men. You’ll spot the camel motif cropping up in other places in Quartzsite, an interesting little town that is known as a haven for RV boondockers as well as rock and mineral lovers.

>> Get more tips for visiting Quartzsite

Tabasco Factory © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tabasco Factory, Avery Island Louisiana

While the marshes and bayous of this region make Avery Island worth a visit in its own right, it is the fact that this is the home of the Tabasco pepper sauce that attracts most people. Visitor attractions include a short but informative factory tour where you’ll learn the history of this family owned company and see how this world famous product is created; an excellent country store packed with sauces, souvenirs and gifts; and the Jungle Gardens, 170 acres full of exotic plants and native wildlife including alligators and deer. When you visit the country store, do make sure you try the Tabasco ice cream; it’s more enjoyable than it sounds.

>> Get more tips for visiting Avery Island

Saguaro Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro Lake, Arizona

Located just off State Route 88 east of Phoenix, Saguaro Lake has a marina with rentals for everything from stand-up paddleboards to kayaks and canoes. The lake even has a few desert islands where boaters can stop for a picnic lunch or a quick swim. Visitors also come to Saguaro Lake to camp at nearby facilities or fish along its banks for bass, catfish, and carp. Hikers and campers also enjoy visiting the lake which has over 25 miles of trails that wind around it.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Sands National Park, New Mexico

The largest gypsum dune field in the world is located at White Sands National Park in southern New Mexico. This region of glistening white dunes is in the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert within an “internally drained valley” called the Tularosa Basin. Dunes Drive, an eight-mile scenic drive, leads from the visitor center into the heart of the gypsum dunefield. The 16-mile round-trip drive takes approximately 45 minutes. However, you may want to allow additional time for taking walks in the white sand, photography, or learning about the natural and cultural history.

>> Get more tips for visiting White Sands National Park

Ajo Mountain Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ajo Mountain Drive, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona

This 21-mile drive, accessible by any vehicles up to 25 feet, is the most popular way to explore Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Pick up the guidebook from the Kris Eggle Visitor Center and allow at least two hours to drive the loop which includes 18 stops of interest. As well as the distinctive cactus from which the park takes its name, you will also see examples of the many other plants that flourish in the Sonoran Desert including saguaro, prickly pear, jojoba, mesquite, cholla, and ocotillo.

>> Get more tips for visiting Organ Pipe National Monument

Shiner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spoetzal Brewery, Shiner, Texas

Speaking of beloved American beverages… Shiner, Texas is home to 2,069 people, Friday’s Fried Chicken, and—most famously—the Spoetzal Brewery where every drop of Shiner beer is brewed. Tours are offered throughout the week where visitors can see how every last drop of their popular brews get made. Tours and samples are free. Founded in 1909, the little brewery today sends more than 6 million cases of delicious Shiner beer to states across the country. Founder, Kosmos Spoetzal, would be pretty proud! To which we say “Prosit!”

>> Get more tips for visiting Shiner

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree National Park, California

If rugged scenery, hiking, and wilderness are what you are looking for, then put Joshua Tree on your list of road trip stops. Located in the southern end of California, this park is known for its distinctive trees and its craggy and rocky landscape filled with desert flora and fauna.

Plenty of daytime activities are available inside the park and the most popular is hiking (with one paved trail that is accessible). There is climbing, birding, biking, horseback riding, and a driving tour you can take. There are 93 miles of paved roads. 

>> Get more tips for visiting Joshua Tree National Park

Rayne frog mural © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rayne, Louisiana

In a small town in the middle of Louisiana’s Cajun prairie is a town called Rayne where frogs have gained iconic stature. Frogs and Rayne have a relatively long history that dates back to the 1880s when a gourmet chef named Donat Pucheu started selling juicy, delectable bullfrogs to New Orleans restaurants. Word of Rayne’s frog delicacies spread like wildfire and soon attracted the Weil Brothers from France who started a lucrative business exporting frogs to restaurants. For years, world-renowned restaurants boasted of offering frog legs from Rayne, Louisiana. Rayne no longer exports frogs but their frog identity is bigger than ever because of a unique array of frog murals.

Worth Pondering…

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown trail before me leading wherever I choose.

—Walt Whitman

10 Amazing Places to RV in January 2023

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

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.

—Amelia Earhart

It’s unknown exactly when Amelia Earhart, the first woman to complete a solo flight across the Atlantic, said this quote but it reflected her personality in full. The remainder of the quote says, “The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life and the procedure. The process is its own reward.” Earhart chased her own dreams and her words inspire us to do the same regardless of the challenges. You can have as much determination as you want but to reach your goals you also have to take the difficult step of acting on that will.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in November and December. Also, check out my recommendations from January 2022 and February 2022.

Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Winter in Palm Springs 

The winter climate in Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley cities is reliably sunny and among the warmest, mildest weather, and most beautiful climates in the U.S. In Palm Springs, you can count on consistently sunny blue skies. Most visitors think it’s warm in the winter in Palm Springs. Locals think it’s cool. And everyone agrees it’s beautiful. There is very rarely (perhaps once every couple of years) a brief (nighttime or early morning) frost or a freeze during the winter months in the Coachella Valley. The morning sun thaws any light freeze very quickly.

World’s Largest Killer Bee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. The Killer Bee of Hidalgo

There’s a line in Act IV of Hamlet where Claudius says to Gertrude, “When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.” Change the word “sorrows” to “bees” and while the result may be an unpopular sentiment among Shakespeare scholars, it will assuredly resonate with people who have faced the threat of a swarm of killer bees. People like the residents of Hidalgo, Texas.

The buzz started in 1990 when the first colony of Africanized killer bees was found to have reached the United States via Brazil—the outcome, literally, of a scientific experiment gone wrong. The bees decided to settle just outside of Hidalgo upon arrival where news of the event provoked widespread panic among many.

Killer bee of Hidalgo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Chamber of Commerce approached then-mayor John Franz about turning an occasion that might have been swept under the proverbial rug into a bold symbol. “We need to put Hidalgo on the map,” Franz told the Houston Chronicle in 1993. And the gears of the merch machine began to spin.

The Killer Bee of Hidalgo or The World’s Largest Killer Bee as it’s promoted was commissioned for $20,000 by the City of Hidalgo. Constructed to scale, the replica of the menacing insect is a black and yellow sculpture made of steel overlain with a fiberglass exoskeleton. The whole creature reaches to about 10 feet tall and 20 feet long, not including its ominous antennae.

Killer bee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Suffice it to say, Hidalgo, the self-proclaimed Killer Bee Capital of the World embraces just about every aspect of its claim to fame with T-shirts, postcards, and other merchandise emblazoned with images of killer bees to be had all over town. All reminders that when killer bees come to Texas—whether they be a single spy or in battalions—the people of Hidalgo are ready.

Palms to Pines Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Palms to Pines Scenic Byway

On this drive, you don’t have to choose between desert and mountains—you get both. Play golf under swaying palms then watches the snow falling on cedars. This byway zigzags from Palm Desert to nearly 6,000 feet cutting through the lands of Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument. Pull over at Coachella Valley Vista Point for a view north and east of Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, and the San Jacinto and San Gorgonio mountains. From there ascend to Paradise Valley where the Pacific Crest Trail passes through. Pause for lunch and boutique shopping in the charming mountain hamlet of Idyllwild or relax under Humber Park’s big conifers before zipping down the switchbacks to Banning.

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Discover South Carolina’s best-kept secret

Edisto Island, a sea island in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, lies only about an hour south of bustling Charleston as the pelican flies. But Edisto, part of a chain of more than 100 tidal and barrier islands along the Atlantic coast between the mouths of the Santee River in South Carolina and St. Johns River in Florida, is a world apart.

This is a rustic world of majestic live oaks that are thickly draped with light-as-air beards of Spanish moss, salt marshes, meandering creeks, and historic plantations.

Edisto Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto Island State Park includes an interpretive center and two campgrounds that offer 112 standard sites with water and electric hookups—ocean-side and near the salt marsh. 49 of the standard campsites offer 20/30/50 amp electrical service. Several sites accommodate RVs up to 40 feet. 

Atchafalaya Basin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Atchafalaya Basin

The largest wetland in the United States covers over 2,200 square miles of Louisiana and is home to hundreds of species of reptiles, mammals, and birds. True wilderness is difficult to find in the United States, but the Atchafalaya Basin may just be one of the last remaining landscapes where visitors are completely entrenched in pure nature. While highways, levees, and other man-made structures exist around the Basin, the inner waterways are a natural maze. If you take a tour of the Basin with the Nature Study Project, you’re in for a day (or more) of tranquility, bird watching, and awe of the biospheres that have formed in and around this watery paradise.

Sonoran Desert National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Wandering in Sonoran Desert National Monument

Containing almost a half-million acres of diverse and sprawling tall cactus desert, Sonoran Desert National Monument is a special place hiding in plain sight about 60 miles southwest of Phoenix. What it lacks is a centerpiece attraction. There are no signature sights, no defining experience. There’s no official entry point, just a lot of barely marked dirt roads. Maybe that’s why I like the monument. It challenges visitors to make their own fun.

The monument contains three distinct mountain ranges, the Maricopa, Sand Tank, and Table Top mountains as well as the Booth and White Hills, all separated by wide valleys. The monument also contains three designated wilderness areas, archaeological, and historic sites and remnants of several important historic trails.

Sonoran Desert National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just park and set off cross country—you’ll have a great day making your own discoveries far from civilization, mingling with the saguaros, and chatting with lizards.

Sonoran Desert National Monument is in central Arizona. Easiest access comes via some dirt roads bearing north off State Route 238 that winds between Maricopa and Gila Bend and from Vekol Road (Exit 144) turning south off Interstate 8. Bring water, plenty of gas, and real maps. Don’t expect your cellphone to work.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. 70 Miles of Protected Coastline

Padre Island National Seashore protects the longest stretch of an undeveloped barrier island in the world with 70 miles of protected coastline including a coastal prairie, a dynamic dune system, and wind-tidal flats teeming with life. It’s a sanctuary and nesting grounds for the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and a haven for 380 species of birds which, impressively, represents roughly half of the all documented bird species in North America.  

From the beach to the bay, Padre Island National Seashore offers countless opportunities to discover and enjoy the amazing recreation and resources of the park. Take a dip in the Gulf of Mexico or build a sandcastle. Swim in the recreation area at Bird Island Basin or in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Manatee in Crystal River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Swim With Manatees in Crystal River

Every winter, ocean temperatures plummet, rendering the water too cold for manatees. To escape the cold these large mammals migrate up into Crystal River, a natural spring-fed oasis continuously emitting water at 72°F.  Finding the temperature just right manatees huddle around the source of the spring by the hundreds. It’s the perfect opportunity to experience one of the coolest things to do in Florida: snorkeling with manatees!

Yuma Territorial Prison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park

Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park in Yuma, Arizona is a wealth of history, interesting people, and stories from the past 400 years. Sitting on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River, three miles west of the confluence of the Colorado and the historic Gila River, stand the ruins of Arizona’s famous Territorial Prison and a short distance west are the remaining buildings that served as a part of the Yuma Quartermaster’s Depot. $25,000 was budgeted for the project in 1875 and some of the prisoners were pressed into service to build their cells. A total of 3,069 prisoners including 29 women lived within the walls during the prison’s 33 years of operation.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. A quirky desert town

Quartzsite is a small town that welcomes up to two million visitors each winter. Located just 17 miles from the California border at the intersection of I-10 and U.S. Highway 95, Quartzsite has been a rock hound’s paradise since the 1960s. Thousands of acres of dispersed BLM (Bureau of Land Management) camping draws upwards of a million RVing visitors a year. Snowbirds enjoy the warm winters while camping in over 70 RV parks and 11,000 acres of BLM Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA) plus five 14-day free dispersed camping areas.

With over a thousand vendors arriving each winter, Quartzsite is also known for its RV and ATV friendly atmosphere. Off Road Vehicle (OHV) trails lead in all directions from town with beautiful desert scenery along the way.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With the influx of RV snowbirds, there’s plenty to do all winter long. Seasonal restaurants, multiple swap meets and shows, gem and mineral shows, live music, OHV trails, art/quilt/arts and craft shows, bingo, rock hounding, gold hunting, gem and mineral classes, dancing, RV show, and more!

Worth Pondering…

Always maintain a kind of summer, even in the middle of winter.

—Henry David Thoreau

Quartzsite: Here’s the 2023 QZ Show Schedule

If you can’t find it at Quartzsite, it hasn’t been thought of yet

The winter season is go time in Quartzsite. With winter temperatures hovering in the 70s, people flock to Quartzsite from colder climates to relish in the warm weather and fascinating shopping. Thousands of vendors gather during these months to showcase items ranging from rocks, gems, and minerals to jewelry, apparel, home decor, and more.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where is Quartzsite?

Quartzsite is located in western Arizona, just 20 miles east of the Colorado River on I-10. It’s been a rockhound’s paradise since the 1960s. These days, it’s also a mecca to well over a million visitors each year most of who converge on this small town in a wave of RVs during the months of January and February.

During the winter months, 2,000 vendors of rocks, gems, minerals, fossils, and everything else imaginable create one of the world’s largest open air flea markets in Quartzsite. The Pow Wow Rock and Mineral Show began the rockhound winter migration to town in 1965; now eight major gem and mineral shows in addition to vendors of raw and handcrafted merchandise peddle their wares to snowbirds, collectors, and enthusiasts making Quartzsite the place to be in January and February.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History of Quartzsite

A settler named Charles Tyson built a fort on this site in 1856 for protection against Native Americans. Because of a good water supply it soon became a stagecoach stop on the Ehrenburg-to-Prescott route. As the stage lines vanished, Fort Tyson, or Tyson’s Wells (as it became known) was abandoned. A small mining boom in 1897 revitalized the area and the settlement revived as Quartzsite.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite was established in 1867 and incorporated in 1989. A rock hunter’s paradise surrounds Quartzsite with agates, limonite cubes, gold, and quartz being just a few. Named Quartzite because quartz was occasionally found in the area, the name evolved to Quartzsite through an error in spelling.

From 1863 to the 1880s there were many places worked by individual prospectors around the valley during the Colorado River Gold Rush from the 1860s to the 1950s. Large-scale operations did not succeed but at one time 39 mines were operating in the area served by two landing stations on the Colorado River. Today, there are still mines operating and there are unique places in and around town with stories to tell.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tyson Wells Show History

Tyson Wells began with an open lot where an RV Park was developed; the Sell-A-Rama Show started in 1978. Soon Tyson Wells became known as a leading Rock & Gem Show in the United States. Later, additional land was acquired for more parking, and two more shows—Rock & Gem Show and Art & Craft Fair—were added. Tyson Wells has something for everyone with the three shows in January and February, seasonal vendors, self-storage units, and an RV Park.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rock, Mineral and Gem Show

Quartzsite is a rock collector’s paradise. Everything you need to make artsy rock art and jewelry, look no further. Thousands of rock hounds flock here to get magic rocks of every size and sparkle. Now, don’t be expecting beautifully displayed juried-show wares and supplies. It’s really nothing more than a huge outdoor desert flea market venue. However, once you get past the sand and dirt, you’re sure to find the perfect gem you may be looking for.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tyson Wells Flea Market

If you’re looking for something odd or don’t want to pay top dollar in those big box stores, the Tyson Wells Flea Market may just be the place where you can find it. You’ll find tools, kitchen gadgets, flags, blanket throws, clothes bandanas, and all kinds of stupid stuff all on the cheap. There are RV supplies and camping accessories too.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show

For nine days, RVers descend on the giant exhibit tent to see the latest gadgets, get work and upgrades done on their RVs, and learn more about the RV lifestyle with workshops and seminars where attendees can learn about topics from trip planning to safety upgrades, solar and batteries, boondocking, and how to shop for an RV. Attendance at the event is free as is parking.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One can expect to see the “who’s who” of the RV industry but the stars of the show are the over 400 exhibitors (set up in and around the Big Tent—a 70,000-square-foot fully carpeted structure) selling everything from the latest and greatest RV gadgets to fashion jewelry to local honey. Some big tent vendors also have cellphone and electronic gadgets, glass fingernail files, dip mixes, and other vendors with non-RV junk.

If you’re looking for anything related to RVs, you’ll find it at the show in Quartzsite. It’s something every RVer should have on their bucket list and experience at least once in their lifetime.

Tomb of Hi Jolly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tomb Of Hi Jolly

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Who in the world is Hi Jolly and why is his tomb in Quartzsite, Arizona?” then get ready, because you’re about to find out. Hi Jolly was actually a Syrian immigrant who was hired by the federal government to introduce camels into the parched deserts of the American Southwest.

Though the plan was scrapped, Hadji Ali–also known as Hi Jolly stayed on and lived out the rest of his days in Quartzsite. He died in the early 20th century and in the ’30s a bronze camel was placed at his tomb by townspeople who loved and admired him. The tomb is in town and free, so don’t miss it.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2023 QZ Show Schedule

January 1–February 28: Desert Gardens Rock, Gem and Mineral Show
Claiming to be “the largest international rock, gem and mineral show in Quartzsite,” there’s no doubt that other venues will dispute the claim. You’ll need to decide for yourself.
Hours: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., seven days a week
Location: Desert Gardens Show Grounds, 1055 Kuehn Street

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

January 6–15: Tyson Wells Rock & Gem Show
Bills itself as “An unbelievable variety displayed on 2.2 miles of aisle frontage.”
Hours: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., seven days a week
Location: 121 W. Kuehn Street

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

January 18–22: QIA Pow Wow Gem & Mineral Show
This is THE original event that’s credited with launching Quartzsite as a major gathering point. The first show was in 1967 attracting maybe 1,000 buyers to visit with 100 vendors. Expect four times that many vendors now and rub elbows with 10,000 daily show-goers. If you’re into rocks and gems, don’t miss this one.
Hours: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., seven days a week
Location: 235 E. Ironwood Avenue

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

January 20–29: Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama
Rocks and minerals, arts and crafts, antiques, all this plus foods to amaze you. Do they include Tums vendors? You’ll need to come and find out for yourself.
Hours: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., seven days a week
Location: 121 W. Kuehn Street

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

January 21–29: Sports, Vacation & RV Show (The Big Tent)
Arguably the attraction that draws the most attention—and traffic. Acres of tented-over vendors with a specialization in RV stuff. 
Hours: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. (3 p.m. closing day)
Location: 700 S. Central Blvd.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

February 3–12: Tyson Wells Arts and Crafts Fair
“10 days, 2.2 miles of aisle frontage”
Hours: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., seven days a week
Location: 121 W. Kuehn Street

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

February 10–12: Quartzsite Gold Show
There’s gold at that thar show—along with panning contests, metal detecting contests, and some great speakers and special presentations during the show each day.
Hours: Friday–Saturday, 9 a.m.–4 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m.–3 p.m.
Location: 235 E. Ironwood St.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Show attendance tips

It is always a good idea to plan your itinerary ahead of your travel. Think about what you want to buy, the shows you want to attend, and plan your days.

As the vast majority of the Quartzsite shows are outdoors, I cannot stress enough how important it is to wear comfortable shoes, a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen, carry water, and take breaks. Be prepared for cool or warm weather. That’s the desert in the winter. Be prepared to walk a lot of miles in the dusty aisles of the shows.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also remember to keep detailed notes of what you are looking at or buying—which show, what item, what price, which dealer, what booth number, what day. By the end of the day it all becomes a blur and if you want to go back and revisit a dealer those notes will be your life-saver.

Finally, have patience. If you are coming in at peak time, traffic on the Interstate exit ramps can be a gridlock as there are only stop signs on the overpasses. Lots of patience is also required when waiting about an hour in line for dinner at the few restaurants in town.

To be sure, there are plenty of other Quartzsite shows—if one counts the hundreds of vendors and shops. 

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Want to know more about Quartzsite? 

Let the shows begin!

See you at the Q!

Worth Pondering… 

Nowhere on earth will you find such an assortment of “stuff” as you will at Quartzsite from mid-December to mid-February. As the saying goes, “If you can’t find it in Quartzsite, you won’t find it anywhere.”

Three Southwest Towns You Need To Visit This Winter

Instead of driving on snowy and dangerous icy roads this winter, take your RV south for the season.

These towns in Arizona and New Mexico have some amazing attractions as well as RV nearby RV parks and campgrounds.

Quartsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite, Arizona

Travel through this dusty outpost between April and November and you might wonder why this wide spot along Interstate 10 is such a popular snowbird destination for RVers. But visit in January and you’ll quickly see why: it morphs into a non-stop social event for RVing snowbirds.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dozens of inexpensive Quartzsite RV parks have room for seasonal guests and short-term visitors alike. Tens of thousands of snowbirds boondock at one of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) designed visitor areas that surround Quartzsite. A long-term permit allows snowbirds to stay at a BLM-designated Long Term Visitor Area for $180 between September 15 and April 15 (a total of 7 months), or for any length of time between those two dates.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The LTVA short-visit permit ($40) allows the use of BLM-designated LTVAs for any 14-consecutive-day period from September 15th to April 15th The only caveat? You’ll go without hookups. The only “amenities” are beautiful desert sunsets with wide-open views of the surrounding area.

Related Article: Most Beautiful Towns in the Southwest

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite RV Show is the largest gathering of RVs and RVers on Earth. 2022 dates are January 22-30. Endless flea market shopping opportunities and RV club social events galore give you plenty to do.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carlsbad, New Mexico

Not to be confused with the California city of the same name, Carlsbad in southeastern New Mexico is a peaceful city along the Pecos River. This town is the gateway to Carlsbad Caverns National Park with more than 100 underground caves.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park consists of a network of cave passages filled with stalagmites, stalactites, and other formations. The largest chamber, “The Big Room” is 8.2 acres and the largest accessible cave chamber in North America.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most people like to explore at their own pace on the Self-Guided Tours, but if you prefer having a guide with more information, consider taking one of their ranger-led tours. You can enter the caves by hiking down the steep 1.25-mile Natural Entrance Trail, or by simply taking an elevator down into the caves.

Related Article: The Ultimate Guide to Camping in the Southwest

The national park doesn’t allow overnight camping, but there are lots of RV parks and campgrounds in the area.

Las Cruces and the Organ Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Las Cruces is less than an hour from the Texas border in southeastern New Mexico. The town sits in the shadow of the Organ Mountains and is a short drive from the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

Las Cruces Farmers and Craft Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Organ Mountains are a steep, angular mountain range with rocky spires that jut majestically above the Chihuahuan Desert floor to an elevation of 9,000 feet. This picturesque area of rocky peaks, narrow canyons, and open woodlands ranges from Chihuahuan Desert habitat to ponderosa pine in the highest elevations.  Located adjacent to and on the east side of Las Cruces, this area provides opportunities for photography, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, camping, and wildlife viewing.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dripping Springs Natural Area is also close to Las Cruces with easy hiking trails among huge rock spires. White Sands National Monument is less than an hour away with huge sand dunes that you can hike or sled down.

Related Article: Five National Parks to Visit on the Ultimate Southwestern Desert Road Trip

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Step back in time and visit Old Mesilla, one of the oldest and most unique settlements of southern New Mexico. Pancho Villa and Billy the Kid walked the streets. The famous trial of Billy the Kid was held here. Today Mesilla is a part of living history. Great care has been given to preserving the original adobe buildings and the beautiful plaza. People from all over the world stop to experience the history, art, architecture, quaint shopping, and unique dining that Mesilla has to offer.

Las Cruces Mainstreet Downtown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll also want to stop and browse the town’s huge year-round Farmers and Crafts Market. Their famous downtown market includes over 300 local farmers, artists, bakers, and vendors selling fresh produce and handmade artisan goods.

Related Article: Stay Warm This Winter in these Unique Towns in the American Southwest

You’ll find numerous RV parks and campgrounds are in the area including a nearby state park and a BLM campground.

Worth Pondering…

May the joy of today, bring forth happiness for tomorrow—and may the cold northern air stay up north!

The RV Phenomenon That Is Quartzsite

A place in the desert not to be missed

Every January something happens that is hard to believe unless you have seen it!

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They come in motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth wheels, truck campers, converted buses and vans, and even in tents. There are rugged individualists, small groups banded together (circling the wagons, in a modern way), and large groups, all parked in the desert to feel the Quartzsite vibe. Some have been coming for years, returning to a favorite site which they have marked with rock-lined drives (although “saving” unoccupied sites are not allowed under BLM rules). Long-term visitors often expand their domains to include screened “porches” and massive solar panel arrays.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite has become a mecca to visitors and exhibitors for rocks, gems, mineral specimens, and fossils during the town’s famous two-month-long gem and mineral shows and flea markets meet every January and February. From its humble beginnings, the now-massive Quartzsite show has grown to epic proportions with vendors offering everything under the Quartzsite sun.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Being close to town means being close to Interstate 10—the basic amenities that Quartzsite provides and giant flea markets which are the center of attention. Going by names such as Rice Ranch, Tyson Wells, The Main Event, and Desert Gardens, the open-air marketplaces host a variety of “shows.”

Related Article: Woodstock in the Desert

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These are actually a series of events that run through the winter, specializing in hobbies and crafts, gems and minerals, jewelry, classic cars, and RVs. Most are riddled with an indescribable variation of new and old products far beyond their title, plus all the snack foods of a county fair. A lot of annual visitors simply say, “We’re going to the show,” and their RV friends know they mean Quartzsite.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town itself features all the basic services of a southwestern desert highway stop: gas stations, barbecue restaurants, and seedy little grocery stores (several of which are run from tent-sided buildings during the season). Owing to the heavy RV emphasis there are also several places to get propane, RV supplies, and used or cheap tools.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be warned, though. Don’t come in the summer when nothing much happens. The gypsy-like encampment will have long disappeared. Vendors start packing up in mid-February and are long gone before the snowbirds migrate north and the intense desert heat becomes unbearable.

Related Article: The Real Story of Nomadland (aka Quartzsite, Arizona)

But come winter, everything changes as the small desert community bustles with activity. RVs by the tens of thousands camp helter-skelter on the BLM land.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Originally built by Charles Tyson, Quartzsite began in 1856 as Fort Tyson, then became a stagecoach stopover called Tyson Wells and this name still echoes in the annual Tyson Wells Rock and Gem show. A mini mining boom led to its renaming as Quartzsite.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What started as a small-town mineral show in the late ’60s in western Arizona has developed into a phenomenon that peaks in January by bringing more than 1 million people to the town of Quartzsite, where a huge RV show greets them.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 2022 Quartzsite Sports, Vacation, and RV Show (called “The Big Tent”) will run from January 22-30. In 39 years, the event has evolved into the largest consumer RV show in the US. The show is heaven on earth for RVers. It’s a ton of fun with hundreds of exhibits, live shows, bargain products, and fellow RV enthusiasts. The fact that the desert is gorgeous and the temperature is in the low-to-mid 70s in mid-January doesn’t hurt either!

Related Article: RV Shows: One-Stop RV Shopping

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The show is heaven on earth for RVers. It’s a ton of fun with hundreds of exhibits, live shows, bargain products, and fellow RV enthusiasts. The fact that the desert is gorgeous and the temperature is in the low-to-mid 70s in mid-January doesn’t hurt either!

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite is a popular destination for snowbirds on its own but many come for a week or two during the RV Show. When the gates open on the first day, people are lined up for a quarter-mile at each of the two main entrances to get in. It fills the tent and creates gridlock.

Related Article: RV Travel Bucket List: 20 Places to Visit Before You Die

If you’re an RVer, Quartzsite in January is on your bucket list.

Quartzsite is a phenomenon, a gathering place.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Let the shows begin!

See you at the Q!

Worth Pondering… 

Nowhere on earth will you find such an assortment of “stuff” as you will at Quartzsite from mid-December to mid-February. As the saying goes, “If you can’t find it in Quartzsite, you won’t find it anywhere.”

Woodstock in the Desert

Every January and February, the small desert town of Quartzsite is transformed by the addition of a gargantuan tent city and an influx of people in thousands of recreation vehicles

Anyone who travels a lot by RV eventually hears about Quartzsite, Arizona. Reputedly the biggest RV phenomenon in North America—may be in the entire world—started with a small-town rock and mineral show in the late ’60s and grew into a massive snowbird pilgrimage.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To those who have only heard of Quartzsite as an RV phenomenon, it may appear as mysterious as the Bermuda Triangle. The dusty little Arizona outpost is north of Yuma, two hours west of Phoenix, 20 miles west of the Colorado River, and not really near anything. Rumors about Quartzsite border on legend. Various sources claim anywhere from one to four million visitors every winter which is often exaggerated to a million RVs parked in the desert.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While there certainly aren’t a million RVs at any given time, there’s no question hundreds of thousands come to park in one of the 30-odd RV parks and enormous open Bureau of Land Management (BLM) camping areas that surround the town of Quartzsite.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It has been variously called a Senior Citizen Pow-Wow, Burning Man for Boomers, Woodstock in the Desert, The World’s Largest Flea Market, and The RV Boondocking Capital of the World.

Related Article: Snowbirding in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert

The term boondocking, also known to RV enthusiasts as dispersed camping, dry camping, or coyote camping, is used to describe camping in the midst of nature without the use of commercial campgrounds and hookups.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you approach Quartzsite from any point on the compass, you begin seeing them approximately 20 miles away from town: clumps, groups, and temporary communities of RVs circled around common campfire rings like wagon trains of old. The Quartzsite Valley appears as you top the hills, revealing a panorama of RVs of all sizes and shapes scattered throughout a 15-mile-diameter circle around town.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best view of Quartzsite’s metamorphosis is from the crest of small hills a few miles west of town along Interstate 10. Many solo units also are scattered among the sagebrush. In the early morning and late afternoon, you will see tall, straight fingers of campfire smoke pointing upward from these campsites.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hundreds of thousands of RV owners, enthusiasts, and dreamers descend on the flat, rocky desert fields surrounding the town. Folks come from all over the U.S. and Canada to behold the wonder that happens in Quartzsite every January and February. They come for the warm sunny weather, and great deals—what more can you ask for?

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At its core, Quartzsite is a boondocker’s paradise. In the BLM-administered La Posa Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA), you can pay just $180 for a seven-month season of camping from September 15 to April 15.

Related Article: The Real Story of Nomadland (aka Quartzsite, Arizona)

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are no assigned spaces, no hookups, and hardly any roads. For your money, you get access to potable water, sparsely scattered pit toilets, a dump station, and trash bins. Pick a site from the 11,400 acres of open land and you’re home.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The desert landscape is transformed into make-shift RV parks, little cities within a city. The streets have no name, but the purpose is the same—to boondock in the desert, rendezvous with old and new friends, visit the rock and gem shows and flea market vendors, participate in the Sell-A-Rama, wander the RV show under the Big Tent, and soak in the wonder of it all.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 2022 Quartzsite Sports, Vacation and RV Show (called “The Big Tent”) will run January 22-30. In 39 years, the event has evolved into the largest consumer RV show in the US. The show is heaven on earth for RVers. It’s a ton of fun with hundreds of exhibits, live shows, bargain products, and fellow RV enthusiasts. The fact that the desert is gorgeous and the temperature is in the low-to-mid 70s in mid-January doesn’t hurt either!

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you are really on a budget, you can park for free a few miles from town in non-LTVA areas administered by BLM. The only catch here is that the amenities are miles away, and technically you are supposed to stay only 14 days. No doubt many hardy souls hang around longer, commuting back and forth to town for what they need and hoping the BLM staff don’t notice.

Related Article: What Makes Arizona Such a Hotspot for Snowbirds?

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No doubt also that many could afford to pay for a full-service campground for the entire season if they wanted to, but they seem to get a thrill from staying somewhere for virtually nothing. As one desert boondocker snorted when another visitor said he was going to buy a short-term permit to stay at South La Posa LTVA for two weeks (a whopping $2.85 per day): “Sure, if you want to waste money!”

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No matter which option you choose, once you’ve chosen your own little spot in the desert, surrounded by creosote bushes and an occasional saguaro cactus, you are the king of your domain, free from real estate taxes, utility bills, campground fees, fuel prices, neighborhood associations, and snow.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is something to be savored in the feeling of having very little civilization around you. It is an exercise in self-sufficiency and perhaps stubborn nature to stay the entire season, but thousands do it and thrive on the experience.

Related Article: The Ultimate Arizona Road Trip: 16 Places to See & Things to Do

Woodstock in the Desert is an experience not to be missed—and we think you’ll like it too!

See you at the Q!

Worth Pondering…

Quartzsite = $400,000 diesel pusher motorhomes towing $40,000 SUVs looking for free camping.

The Real Story of Nomadland (aka Quartzsite, Arizona)

RV snowbirds have turned this Arizona town into a yearly destination

Based on a 2017 book by Jessica Bruder, Nomadland follows the journey of Fern, a 61-year-old woman who turns to van life after she loses everything in the wake of the 2008 recession. While Fern is a fictional character played by actress Frances McDormand, the places she visits and many of the people she meets exist in real life. Quartzsite, Arizona, is one of the main filming locations for the Golden Globe best picture and a real-life nomads’ stomping ground.

Boondocking at Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Director Chloe Zhao called Quartzsite “one of the wildest towns” she’s ever been to in a recent interview with Conde Nast Traveler. It’s “the place that nomads gather once a year—you really want to see what it’s like. It’s special,” Zhao said.

Boondocking in Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Now, if you go every winter, you have the largest gem and mineral show in the country and also one of the largest RV shows. You could be walking into a store that has an ocean of gemstones. Those stores are just everywhere in Quartzsite,” she added.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Quartzsite, Arizona, is a town and a meeting place,” traveler Thomas Farley wrote in Rock & Gem magazine in 2017. “In winter it is a gathering of the clan for recreational vehicle snowbirds, flea market enthusiasts, ham radio operators, off-road motorists, geo-cachers, and rockhounds.” 

Related: Matching Your Snowbirds Destinations with Your Lifestyle

From the purported largest RV gathering in the world to gem and mineral shows to a man known as the naked bookseller, here is the real-life story of Quartzsite.

Quartzsite Flea Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite is a small town in the Sonoran Desert 130 miles west of Phoenix on Interstate 10 with a permanent population of roughly 3,700 people. Quartzsite has a classic low desert climate with extremely low relative humidity and very high summer temperatures. On average, it receives less than 4 inches of precipitation a year. Stores, shops, restaurants, theaters, and homes are air-conditioned year-round in Quartzsite. June, July, August, and September temperatures are in the 100 plus ranges.

Quartzsite Flea Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each winter, Quartzsite attracts more than a million visitors. It’s particularly popular with RV snowbirds that flock to its trade shows, numerous RV parks, and boondocking areas on federal lands surrounding the town. The term boondocking, also known to RV enthusiasts as dispersed camping, dry camping, or coyote camping, is used to describe camping in the midst of nature without the use of commercial campgrounds and hookups.

Boondocking in Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many RV groupings resemble old wagon train circles, others are in rectangular camps, and still, other vehicles are parked solo. Numerous flags flutter high above the little settlements and handwritten signs point the direction to RV cadres, some with quirky names. Of course, regular RV parks are in town, too, as are several Bureau of Land Management (BLM) locations. But it appears that most people prefer to find an open space somewhere and just settle in.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1856, settler Charles Tyson built a fort at the present site of Quartzsite to protect his water supply from attacks by Native Americans. Fort Tyson soon became a stopover on the Ehrenburg-to-Prescott stagecoach route eventually becoming known as Tyson’s Wells. After the stage stopped running, it became a ghost town.

Related: The Snowbirds Have Landed

Quartzsite Flea Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A small mining boom revitalized the town and it became known as Quartzsite in 1897. It remained a mining town until 1965 when the Pow Wow Rock, Gem & Mineral Show initiated the rockhound winter migration to Quartzsite each year. Quartzsite has become a mecca to visitors and exhibitors for rocks, gems, mineral specimens, and fossils during the town’s famous two-month-long gem show and swap meet every January and February. From its humble beginnings, the now-massive Quartzsite show has grown to RV-epic proportions with vendors offering everything under the Quartzsite sun.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What brings so many RVers to Quartzsite? A combination of warm winter weather and good marketing!

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During those months, Quartzsite hosts a variety of sales shows. They attract RVers who are searching for a destination, have some (or lots) of change rattling in their pockets, or simply enjoy looking at stuff. What started as a small-town mineral show in the late ’60s has developed into a phenomenon that peaks in January by bringing more than 1 million people to the town of Quartzsite where a huge RV show greets them.

Related: RV Shows: One-Stop RV Shopping

The Big Tent © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 2022 Quartzsite Sports, Vacation, and RV Show (called “The Big Tent”) will run from January 22-30. In 39 years, the event has evolved into the largest consumer RV show in the US. The show is heaven on earth for RVers. It’s a ton of fun with hundreds of exhibits, live shows, bargain products, and fellow RV enthusiasts. The fact that the desert is gorgeous and the temperature is in the low-to-mid 70s in mid-January doesn’t hurt either!

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite is a popular destination for snowbirds on its own but many come for a week or two during the RV Show. When the gates open on the first day, people are lined up for a quarter-mile at each of the two main entrances to get in. It fills the tent and creates gridlock.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re an RVer, Quartzsite in January is on your bucket list.

Related: Snowbirding in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert

Quartzsite is a phenomenon, a gathering place.

Let the shows begin!

See you at the Q!

Worth Pondering… 

Nowhere on earth will you find such an assortment of “stuff” as you will at Quartzsite from mid-December to mid-February. As the saying goes, “If you can’t find it in Quartzsite, you won’t find it anywhere.”

2020 Quartzsite Show Dates

Nowhere on earth will you find such an assortment of “stuff” as you will at Quartzsite from mid-December to mid-February

Quartzsite is located in western Arizona, 17 miles east of the Colorado River at the intersection of Interstate 10 and Highway 95. Quartzsite has been a rock hound’s paradise since the 1960s. Thousands of acres of dispersed BLM (Bureau of Land Management) camping draws upwards to two million visitors a year.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1856, settler Charles Tyson built a fort at the present site of Quartzsite for protection against Indian raids and to protect his water supply. Fort Tyson soon became a stopover on the Ehrenburg-to-Prescott stagecoach route. It had become known as Tyson’s Wells by the time the stage stopped running and the town was abandoned.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite was established in 1867 and incorporated in 1989. A rock hunter’s paradise surrounds Quartzsite with agates, limonite cubes, gold, and quartz being just a few. Named Quartzite because quartz was occasionally found in the area, the name evolved to Quartzsite through an error in spelling.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, Quartzsite is also attracts over a million and a half visitors each winter who converge on this sleepy desert town of 1900 people in a wave of RVs during the months of January and February when over 2,000 vendors of rocks, gems, minerals, fossils, and everything else imaginable create one of the world’s largest open air flea markets.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Major gem and mineral shows as well as vendors of raw and handcrafted merchandise peddle their wares to snowbirds, collectors, and enthusiasts, making Quartzsite the place to be the first two months of each year.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In town, the Hi Jolly Monument honors the Arab camel driver, Hadji Ali, who took part in an unsuccessful 1850s U.S. War Department attempt to use camels as beasts of burden in the desert. To the south rise the Kofa Mountains. Historic and scenic areas include the Spanish Wall, Crystal Hill, Tyson Tanks, and Tyson Wells Museum. South in the Kofa Mountains is Palm Canyon, a tight gorge and home of Arizona’s only native palms, reached by a steep but rewarding climb. Farther south is Castle Dome Peak.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tyson Wells Show History

Tyson Wells began with an open lot where an RV Park was developed; the Sell-A-Rama Show started in 1978. Soon Tyson Wells became known as a leading Rock & Gem Show in the United States. Later, additional land was acquired for more parking, and two more shows—Rock & Gem Show and Art & Craft Fair—were added. Tyson Wells has something for everyone with the three shows in January and February, seasonal vendors, self-storage units, and an RV Park.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Quartzsite Shows

Tyson Wells Rock & Gem Show

The Tyson Wells Rock & Gem Show attracts rock, gem, and mineral vendors from around the world and runs for 10 days in early January. Dates for the Tyson Wells Rock & Gem Show are January 3-12, 2020.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama

The Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama show occurs in late January and also runs for 10 days. The Sell-A-Rama has over 850 vendor spaces which equals roughly 2.2 miles of aisle frontage. You can find just about anything at this 25-acre show. Dates for the 42nd Annual Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama are January 17–26, 2020.

Tyson Wells Art & Craft Fair

The indoor Tyson Wells Art & Craft Fair takes place early February each year. One can find arts, crafts, hobbies supplies, jewelry, and lapidary supplies. Dates for the Tyson Wells Arts & Crafts Fair are January 31-February 9, 2020

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2020 Quartzsite Show Dates

You won’t want to miss the 2020 Quartzsite Shows!

January 1-February 28, 2020: Desert Gardens Gem & Mineral Show

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

January 3-January 12, 2020: Tyson Wells Rock & Gem Show

January 1-February 29, 2020: Prospectors’ Panorama

January 10-January 11, 2020: Quartzsite Art Guild Art Show

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

January 17-January 19, 2020: Blythe Bluegrass Festival

January 17-January 26, 2020: Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama

January 18-January 26, 2020: Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

January 15-January 19, 2020: QIA Pow Wow Gem & Mineral Show

January 31-February 9, 2020: Tyson Wells Arts & Craft Fair

February 7-February 9, 2020: QIA Gold, Treasure & Craft Show

February 7-February 8, 2020: Quartzsite Quilt Show

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Quartzsite = $400,000 diesel pusher motorhomes towing $40,000 SUVs looking for free camping.

Plan To Attend the 2020 Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show

Every January something happens that is hard to believe, unless you have seen it!

More than a million and half million visitors, mostly in recreational vehicles, converge on the sleepy little desert town of Quartzsite, located just 20 miles east of the California state line on Interstate 10, for the rock, gem, and mineral shows, plus numerous flea markets and the annual Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show. Wherever you look, you see RVs of every type, size, and vintage. It’s the Woodstock of the Snowbird set!

The 37th Sports, Vacation & RV show in Quartzsite, Arizona is scheduled for January 18-26, 2020.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Attendance for the 2019 show was estimated at well over 100,000 with over 350 exhibits inside and around the show’s 70,000-square-foot and fully carpeted “Big Tent.”

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Co-promoter Kenny King noted in a news release, “If you’re looking for anything related to RVs, camping, and travel, you can usually find it at the Sports, Vacation & RV show in Quartzsite.” King added that here will be hundreds of new and used RVs on display and for sale and over a dozen service bays will be offering immediate installation, repairs, and warranty service.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 2019, there were numerous tourism related exhibits from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Europe as well as representatives from dozens of the nation’s finest RV resorts and campgrounds. In addition many “workamper” recruiters from businesses, resorts, and private campgrounds were in attendance. King related, “The number and diversity of exhibits that you’ll find at the Quartzsite RV Show will not be found at any other show of this type in the United States.”

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This phenomenon started over 35 years ago and is now billed as “The Largest Gathering Of RVers in the World”. The inaugural Quartzsite RV Show opened January 28, 1984 at the corner of Highway 95 (now Central) and Business 10 (now Main Street) in Quartzsite. With just 60 exhibitors and a small tent, the “new show in town” was still very popular since the majority of the people in Quartzsite were RVers.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1987 the show, now re-named the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show, moved up the street to the Quartzsite Trailer Park which was situated directly across from the major attraction in town, the Quartzsite Pow Wow (the first Pow Wow was held in 1967).

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This new home for the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show lasted 10 years until the show grew to a point that the current 3.5-acre show site could barely hold the number of exhibitors that were now vying for exhibit space at this popular annual event.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1997 the “BIG TENT”, as the show had become known, moved across the Interstate to its present home, a new 20-acre facility, ½-mile south of I-10 on Highway 95 (now 700 South Central).

With the new Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show grounds, the popular event was able to provide over 15 acres of public FREE parking.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For 2020, several major players in the RV Industry have come aboard as sponsors for the event. Co-promoter Kimmy King noted that Progressive RV Insurance, who stepped up as the “Naming Sponsor” several years ago, would continue to have a major presence at the 2020 event. Cummins Diesel, which has participated as an exhibitor at the show since 2015, is a new “Platinum Sponsor” and will be introducing a new line of portable generators during the 2020 show.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition, longtime exhibitor Dometic has added a Service Bay in the service and repair area of the show grounds and Dish Network is one the newest “Gold Sponsors” in support of its major trade show retailer CM Wireless. King also reported that FMCA had recently stepped up as one of the “Silver Sponsors” along with returning sponsors Redlands Truck & RV Service, Plasticover and the show’s exclusive RV dealer RV Country.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During our last visit to the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show, we reminisced about how Quartzsite has changed over the last 16 years since our first visit and what future years might bring.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When we first attended the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show in ’99, the RV Pavilion was packed with big-ticket items like RV satellites, tow hitches, and companies offering to install a solar array on your vehicle.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Looking ahead to future years, the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show will continue to grow and attract a more general crowd. Thanks to items like cheaper flat screen TVs, smart phones, and affordable solar arrays with charge controllers to power all your gizmos, it is easy to have all the comforts of home while you’re camping.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As Quartzsite continues to grow and evolve, it will still be a wonderful place for RVers of all types to gather and relax with near perfect temperatures during the day and clear starlit skies at night. Quartzsite is an experience not to be missed—and we think you’ll like it too!

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering… 

Nowhere on earth will you find such an assortment of “stuff” as you will at Quartzsite from mid-December to mid-February. As the saying goes, “If you can’t find it in Quartzsite, you won’t find it anywhere.”