Alamo Lake State Park: Fishing, Camping, Wildflowers & More

38 miles north of Wenden, Arizona off Arizona State Highway 60 one finds a rare oasis in the otherwise arid Sonora Desert

Offering a scenic, cacti-studded landscape with a mountainous backdrop, Alamo Lake is tucked away in the Bill Williams River Valley. In addition to picturesque desert scenery, Alamo Lake State Park has much to offer its visitors recreationally. The area is known for its exceptional bass fishing opportunities, as well as canoeing, kayaking, and camping.

Alamo Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For nature lovers, spring rains bring an abundance of wildflowers and the lake environment attracts a variety of wildlife year round, including bald and golden eagles, waterfowl, foxes, coyotes, mule deer, and wild burros. Stargazers too will be in awe when the sun sets and the desert sky becomes aglow with stars, uninhibited by nearby city lights or smog.

Alamo Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alamo Lake, located on the Bill Williams River where the Big Sandy River and Santa Maria River come together, was created with the completion of Alamo Dam in 1968. The Army Corps of Engineers designed the earthen dam primarily for flood control. During flood events, the lake basin is capable of handling large amounts of water in a relatively short time. The lake has been recorded rising 11 vertical feet in one night! Unusually high flows during the late 1970s and through the 1980s have increased the average size of the lake, helping to create one of Arizona’s best fishing holes.

Alamo Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The lake is enclosed to the south, west, and north by low hills and beyond by mountain wilderness areas, and is a good place for a few days relaxation, or as a base from which to explore the surrounding lands.

Alamo Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Alamo Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Despite its rather remote location, Alamo Lake State Park receives relatively large numbers of visitors in the mild seasons of spring, winter, and fall, mostly because of the good fishing it offers—bass and catfish are especially plentiful. The desert setting and low elevation (1,230 feet) result in uncomfortably hot conditions in summer.

Alamo Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fishing tournaments are common at the lake and anglers have an excellent opportunity to catch bluegill, largemouth bass, channel catfish, and black crappie.

Alamo Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Individual and group camping is available at Alamo Lake State Park. There are 19 full hook-up RV sites with 50 amp electric, water, and sewer located in the Main Campground. Each site has a picnic table and a fire ring. There is no limit to maximum RV length at these sites. Additional sites have 30/50 amp electric and water at each site. 

Alamo Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Campground B has 27 electric sites. The Ramada Area has 12 electric sites. Cholla Campground area has 41 electric sites with 30 amp service. Each site has a picnic table and a fire ring. 

Dry camping is also available in Campgrounds D and E. Also Campground A has 21 sites while Campground B has 15 sites. Site reservations are available.

Alamo Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ideal for snowbirds, Long Term Camping Sites are available from October 1 through March 31 with the minimum length of stay 28 days (4 weeks) and the maximum 48 days (12 weeks).

Alamo Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A great time to visit Alamo Lake State Park is during spring because of the profusion of wildflowers and cactus blooms beside the lake and in the desert along the 33 mile Alamo Lake Road. Starting at the small and rather forlorn town of Wenden on US-60, the route heads north, climbing gradually into the Harcuvar Mountains.

Alamo Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Passing a few mines and side tracks, the road enter the wide Butler Valley. The land along this long straight road is undeveloped with numerous wildflowers and cacti including saguaro and distant mountain scenery.

At the far side of the valley, the road curves around the edge of the Buckskin Mountains and gradually descends towards the lake.

Alamo Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The main route leads to the dam and an overlook just before winding eastwards between distant shores and even more remote hills in the distance. The very end of the road is private but open to foot travel, and from here begins the hike down the Bill Williams River Canyon.

Alamo Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Alone in the open desert,

I have made up songs of wild, poignant rejoicing and transcendent melancholy.

The world has seemed more beautiful to me than ever before.

I have loved the red rocks, the twisted trees, the sand blowing in the wind, the slow, sunny clouds crossing the sky, the shafts of moonlight on my bed at night.

I have seemed to be at one with the world.

—Everett Ruess

Best Places for RV Travel this February

Looking to make plans for RV travel in February?

February, a time when much of the country is covered in snow drifts, is a time when many start feeling the desire to head somewhere warmer for a bit of an escape from the drab. Summer is still a long way out and the holidays are far enough behind us that we are ready for adventure.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Traveling in mid-winter and before the spring break rush can often mean cheaper prices but not always as this is high season for RV parks and resorts in warmer destinations due to absolutely stunning weather.

San Antonio Missions National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Like the preceding month, February is also from the Romans and it denotes that this month is when the Roman purification festival of Februa is held. Februa is on the 15th of the month, and it is all about cleansing. Maybe this is why it is the shortest month, because undertaking a cleanse of any type is hard to keep up with.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

February might be the month of romance but there’s not much to love about the ongoing trudge of a Northern winter unless you’re a snowbird hanging out in a Sunbelt resort.

Plaza of Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carnival season brings feasts and festivities with parties popping everywhere from the Florida panhandle to Galveston.

Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scroll through our list of great February destinations to plan your next adventure and escape the daily grind of winter.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out our monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in January. Also check out our recommendations from February 2019.

New Orleans

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

‘I don’t want realism. I want magic,’ cooed Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, an enduring love letter to this romantic city. Mardi Gras certainly delivers on that. The iconic two-week carnival sees daily parades and masquerade balls transform New Orleans into a riotous party town. Don a mask, discard your inhibitions, and wander the city. After the festivities, crawl out of bed for a meal of gumbo over cheese grits and stroll through the cobblestone alleyways of the French Quarter to a soundtrack of Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ve heard of Palm Springs and Palm Desert but Anza-Borrego is the desert destination for anyone who really wants to put high clearance and a sense of adventure to good use. The park encompasses more than 600,000 acres with 500 miles of paved and jeep roads traversing canyons, badlands, and mud caves and leading to pitch-perfect palm oases.

Las Vegas

Lake Mead National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Las Vegas is a resort city set in the Mojave Desert in Nevada. The city is renowned for its raucous nightlife and 24-hour entertainment, and it is especially famous for its casinos, which never close. You’ll find a number of impressive themed hotels situated along a 4-mile stretch known as The Strip. The hotels have scale replicas of some of the world’s most famous attractions such as the Eiffel Tower and the Pyramids of Giza. You’ll also find impressive shows on offer every night, rounding out Vegas’ offerings as a city quite unlike anywhere else in the United States. February is the shoulder season with fewer crowds than other times of year and when you tire of all the glitz, Lake Mead National Recreation Area and the Grand Canyon are a short drive away.

Orlando

Disney World, Orlando © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Orlando is a central Florida city with an especially dense concentration of theme parks. There are more than a dozen parks in the city with some of the most famous being the multiple parks at Disney World as well as Universal Orlando. Due to the theme parks, the area is very popular with family travelers. The weather in Orlando in February is perfect, but the top tourist attractions can be quite busy during this time of year. Visit the theme parks early and book your RV resort well in advance if you plan to visit during this beautiful time of year.

Phoenix

Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Phoenix is the sprawling metropolitan capital city of Arizona. It is best known as a destination for golfing and high-end spa retreats. Other popular attractions include the Desert Botanical Garden, South Mountain Park, Phoenix Zoo, and Tempe Town Lake. February is a great time to visit because the weather is mild, the temperatures are tolerable, and there are activities in abundance. However, it is quite a popular season among snowbirds so expect crowds and higher prices on RV resorts especially toward the end of February when Spring Training starts.

San Antonio

San Antonio River Walk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Antonio is a large city in south-central Texas that has an interesting cultural and historical heritage. An 18th century Spanish mission, The Alamo has been converted into a museum that details the struggle for Texas’ independence from Mexico. Wandering the pedestrian walkway along the San Antonio River in downtown is a popular pastime for visitors and locals alike as it is lined with many interesting shops and tasty cafes. Summer in San Antonio brings temperatures that are unbearable for many, so February is a popular month to visit. It also is the time of the annual San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, which brings many to town.

Santa Fe

Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe is the capital city of New Mexico and has a deep Native American heritage as it was inhabited by native peoples for several thousand years before settlers came. It is located in the scenic Sangre de Cristo foothills and is known for its unique Pueblo-style architecture. The city is a haven for artists, and everywhere you turn there is some sort of creative venture happening. Popular attractions include the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the San Miguel Mission, and the Museum of International Folk Art. February is a good time to come if you hope to ski in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, attend ARTfeast, or just make the most of cooler temperatures and low precipitation.

Worth Pondering…

My parents live in the part of the United States that is Canada. It is so far north that Minnesota lies in the same direction as Miami. They have four distinct seasons: Winter, More Winter, Still More Winter, and That One Day of Summer.

—W. Bruce Cameron

A Lifetime Is Not Enough To Do It All: 6 Arizona Destinations for Winter Fun

To start your planning we’ve picked some of the top destinations for fun this winter in Arizona

Many snowbirds wintering in the Grand Canyon State flock to Tucson, Yuma, or the Phoenix metro area. Regardless of where you roost this season, Arizona has plenty of options for winter fun outside these metro areas.

While the bounty of outdoor recreation opportunities might be too much for a lifetime, it will assure you that your days in the Arizona sun will have plenty of action.

For starters:

Superstition Wilderness

Hiking Peralta Trail into the Superstitions © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Superstitions, looming east of Apache Junction, are the largest of the mountain ranges ringing Phoenix. Stretching 24 miles east and west and 9 to 12 miles north and south, the wilderness is crossed by trails ranging from flat and easy to steep and strenuous. The 160,200-acre wilderness area, part of Tonto National Forest, contains one of the state’s most popular trails—the Peralta—yet the vast interior of the Superstitions boasts some of the state’s most rugged, seldom-seen territory.

Apache Trail

Along Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Apache Trail through the Superstition Mountains was built to supply construction workers building Roosevelt Dam in the early 1900s. Saguaro-covered hills and deep canyons stretch for miles, broken by red-rock cliffs and hoodoos.

Along Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The area is a favorite of sightseers, boaters, hikers, and anglers. The Apache Trail, aka State Route 88, is not for the squeamish or those afraid of heights. It’s full of twists and turns, rising and falling with the hills and valleys. Part of the road is paved; the graded dirt stretch is suitable for most cars but not recommended for large RVs.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Hohokam people built these structures when they were near the height of their power some 700 years ago. They created villages that extended from the site of modern-day Phoenix to southern Arizona. They laid down 1,000 miles of irrigation canals in the Salt River Valley, a network that eventually supported enough fields to feed about 40,000 people. The monument preserves 60 prehistoric sites, including a four-story earthen structure. Interpretive walking tours and exhibits are available.

Estrella Mountain Regional Park

Estrella Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here’s something that no other park in the Maricopa County system has: 65 acres of grassy picnic space. In addition to picnicking, the park has close to 20,000 acres of desert topography for hikers, bicyclists, joggers, and horseback riders. Duffers can try the links at Tres Rios Golf Course, and fishermen can catch and release along the Gila River, which runs through the park.

Tubac

Tubac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Established in 1752 as a Spanish fort, Tubac is an exquisite, brightly painted town with more than 100 galleries, shops, and restaurants lining its meandering streets. A quaint haven for artists, Tubac was the first permanent European settlement in what later became Arizona.

Tubac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A half day can easily disappear wandering amongst this wealth of painting, sculpture, ceramics, and photography, as well as unique regional fashion, leather, crafts, antiques, and jewelry.

Tubac Presidio State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in Tubac’s Old Town, Tubac Presidio State Historic Park offers a fascinating look at the history of the Santa Cruz Valley.

Madera Canyon

Madera Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the northwest face of the Santa Rita Mountains, one of southeast Arizona’s forested Sky Islands, the cool refuge of Madera Canyon is just 25 miles south of Tucson and 12 miles east of Green Valley. This is part of the Coronado National Forest.

Madera Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Madera Canyon, with active springs and a seasonal creek, is a lush oasis supporting an amazing diversity of life zones of the Santa Rita Mountains and Madera Canyon. Beneath the shade of the trees, Madera Creek tumbles over bedrock and boulder. Water and stream-borne sediment gradually grind rocks to gravel, gravel to pebbles, and pebbles to sand.

Worth Pondering…

A saguaro can fall for a snowman but where would they set up house?

—Jodi Picoult

The Real Sunbelt Lives Here

Here is where you’ll find sunshine this winter

Can’t stand the gloom of the Pacific Northwest? Winters in the Northeast? Bone-chilling temperatures and blizzards of the Midwest? Then pack the RV and head to Arizona, California, Nevada, or Texas.

According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the following U.S. cities get sunshine more than 84 percent of the time (or more than 300 days a year, if you do the math based on those percentages)—far more than most places in the U.S.

The sunny Southwest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before we get started with the list, let’s give out the four honorable mentions to round out a top 10—Fresno, California and Reno, Nevada with 79 percent annual sunshine and Flagstaff, Arizona and Sacramento, California with 76 percent.

The sunny Southwest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although omitted from the NOAA analysis, Las Cruces, New Mexico (45 miles northwest of El Paso) boasts similar percent of sunshiny days with the West Texas city.

Now, grab your sunscreen and take a look at the six U.S. cities that get the sunniest days.

El Paso, Texas (84% Sunshine)

Franklin Mountains State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’d be pretty cool to live on Sunshine Court in El Paso. It’s a short, aptly-named street in the eastern part of the city. The El Paso area is home to Franklin Mountains State Park, Chamizal National Memorial, Hueco Tanks State Park, and numerous other scenic and historic places that are best observed on sunny days, of which there are plenty.

Las Cruces, New Mexico (84% Sunshine)

Mesilla Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Las Cruces (pop 75,000) is the largest city in southwestern New Mexico and has been a popular resting stop along traditional trade routes for centuries. Las Cruces is located in the Mesilla Valley close to the Rio Grande River and is framed dramatically by the Organ Mountains to its east, allowing for a variety of recreational adventures within a short drive of town.

Tucson, Arizona (85% Sunshine)

Tucson Mountain Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With Saguaro National Park just outside of city limits to the east and west, Tucson is another great spot to soak up the sun in nature. It was also a great place to film Westerns, including Tombstone, the hit starring Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp.

Phoenix, Arizona (85% Sunshine)

Bush Highway near Phoenix © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another Arizona city with lots to do, Phoenix is the state’s capital and the home of the aptly-named NBA team the Phoenix Suns. A giraffe at the Phoenix Zoo is even named Sunshine. Snowbirds can take advantage of all that sunshine by enjoying a visit to the Desert Botanical Garden, driving the Apache Trail, or hiking Usery Mountain.

Las Vegas, Nevada (85% Sunshine)

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Viva Las Sunshine. If you head to Vegas, you’re not taking too much of a gamble on the weather. Odds are, it’s plenty of sun (and plenty of overwhelming heat in the summertime). So be sure to get out of the casinos and enjoy it. The region offers Red Rock National Conservation Area, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Valley of the Fire State Park, and so many more opportunities to get off of the Strip.

Redding, California (88% Sunshine)

Sundial Bridge, Redding © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I was surprised this NorCal city edged out Vegas, Phoenix, and Tucson on the list, but alas, it did—clocking a whopping 321 or so days of sunshine each year. The Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay is a Redding icon and acts as a massive sundial—perfect for this sunny city.

Yuma, Arizona (90% Sunshine)

Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With nearly 330 days of sunshine a year (4,300 sunny hours), Yuma actually holds the world record for most recorded annual sunshine, according to Current Results. Reporters at the aptly-named Yuma Sun will tell you that rain is an actual news story there. Not just downpours, but any rain.

Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All that sun comes at a price in the summertime though, because guess what? Yuma is also the hottest city in the nation. But you sure can’t beat that sunshine in the winter. Ask any snowbird who winters here!

Worth Pondering…

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.

—Henry Miller

7 National Parks You Should Have on Your Radar This Winter

The best national parks to visit this winter

There are 62 national parks across America. That’s not counting the hundreds of national monuments, historical sites, battlefields, memorials, trails, and more. When you count all of them together, the number of protected sites that fall under the US National Park Service is well over 400.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So it should not surprise anyone when I say that there are scores of incredible sites worth exploring in America—from sea to shining sea.

Whether you’re looking to explore waterfalls or rivers, volcanoes or deserts, canyons or mountaintops, there’s a national park to discover this winter.

Saguaro National Park in Arizona

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located just outside of Tucson, Saguaro National Park is divided into two units separated by 30 miles: Rincon Mountain District (East Unit) and Tucson Mountain District (West Unit).

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The busiest time of the year is from November to March. During the winter months, temperatures are cooler and range from the high 50s to the high-70s. Starting in late February and March, the park begins to get a variety of cactus and wildflower blooms. In late April, the iconic Saguaro begins to bloom. Come June, the fruits are beginning to ripen.

There are many activities to partake in at Saguaro, no matter the season.

Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Grand Canyon‘s residents are a hardy bunch—visit in winter and you’ll spot Abert’s squirrels on nut-foraging expeditions, bald eagles soaring above snow-dusted ridges, and mule deer making their way through the ponderosa pines.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many animals develop additional finery during these colder months. One example is Abert’s squirrels, which grow extra tufts of fur on their ears to keep out the cold. Furry-eared rodents aside, there are lots of other reasons to visit in winter, including hikes along the park’s beautiful low-elevation trails (which have less snow and ice) such as the South Rim’s Hermit Trail.

Big Bend National Park in Texas

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big Bend National Park is named after a stretch of 118 miles of Rio Grande River, part of which forms a large bend in the river. Big Bend offers a variety of activities for the outdoor enthusiasts including backpacking, river trips, horseback riding, biking, and camping. The park is home to more than 1,200 species of plants, more than 450 species of birds, 75 species of mammals, and 56 species of reptiles.

Joshua Tree National Park in California

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree is a diverse area of sand dunes, dry lakes, flat valleys, extraordinarily rugged mountains, granitic monoliths, and oases. The park is home to two deserts: the Colorado which offers low desert formations and plant life, such as ocotillo and teddy bear cholla cactus; and the Mojave. This higher, cooler, wetter region is the natural habitat of the Joshua tree.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The different elevation throughout the park cause flowers to bloom at different times, with the low elevation flowers blooming earlier than higher elevation flowers.

Zion National Park in Utah

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion is a park that you have to see to believe. It is a true desert oasis and an American icon. The surrounding area looks desolate, dry, and barren, but when you drive into Zion Canyon, a massive formation, miles wide, with sheer rock walls that rise thousands of feet, await you. There is something so incredible about seeing the oranges and yellows of sandstone mixed with the greens of the Virgin River and the vegetation that grows so easily there.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. There are 28 different species of cacti in the park, ranging from the giant saguaro to the miniature pincushion.

Congaree National Park in South Carolina

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congaree National Park is an International Biosphere Reserve. Visitors can explore the natural wonderland by canoe, kayak, or on hiking trails and the Boardwalk Loop Trail.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park is also one of the most diverse in the country—with dense forests giving way to massive expanses of swamplands. The forests are some of the biggest and oldest old-growth in America and offer great opportunities for recreation of all kinds.

Worth Pondering…

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

—Rachel Carson

The Beating Heart of Yuma

Discovering the beating heart of Yuma

I did not like Yuma in the least.

We first showed up here in the late 1990s and found nothing to hold our interest. We had a hard time finding our way to the banks of the Colorado River—even though it was the river that put Yuma on the map.

Colorado River in Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here was a desert town blessed with a river and you couldn’t even find the river, just a dumpsite. I revisited Yuma a few years later and nothing changed. The town felt rundown and having a trashy core seemed to impact everything.

Fair or not, I was done with Yuma.

Yuma East Wetlands © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Or so I thought. Eventually I thought I’d give Yuma another try.

OMG! What a difference. The transformation amazed me. Where there had been piles of garbage, there was a park. Where there had been a tangle of overgrowth, there were lighted pathways, picnic tables, sandy beaches, and groves of cottonwood trees.

Gateway Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The river existed. And it flowed right through the heart of town. And I realized what had been missing. The Colorado River is more than a waterway. It is the beating heart of Yuma!

West Wetlands Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, Yuma has about 150 acres of public parkland along the river, connected by miles of paved biking and walking paths, plus hundreds of acres of easily accessible wildlife habitat just steps from downtown. Two historic state parks—Colorado River and Yuma Territorial Prison—anchor the historic North End while public and private investment has helped to spark downtown development.

Yuma Territorial Prison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Native American tribes to Spanish explorers to gold-seekers, travelers found their way to Yuma for hundreds of years because this was the safest place to cross the mighty Colorado before dams tamed it.

Yuma East Wetlands © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But as Yuma exploded in the mid-20th century, it turned its back to the river. With 90 percent of the water diverted further upstream and its banks overgrown with invasive vegetation, the Colorado River was a shadow of its former self as was Yuma’s historic downtown. The closing of the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway Bridge in 1988 could have been the death knell for both.

Yuma Historic Downtown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But a dedicated group of Yumans was determined to reconnect the community to its literal lifeline. Despite fits and starts they had a vision for this desert town to “rediscover the river” —and through it, Yuma’s historic roots.

Pivot Point Plaza © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The catalyst for change was the creation of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, an independent nonprofit corporation authorized as a federal heritage area by Congress in 2000. The result has been an investment of nearly $100 million in Yuma’s riverfront over the last 18 years. That includes about $40 million from the feds, state, city, and foundations plus $30 million in private investment for construction of the Hilton Garden Inn and Pivot Point Conference Center.

Yuma Gateway Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Historic significance aside, all that investment and hard work has also yielded numerous ways to discover the Colorado River and the Yuma Crossing. Here are a few suggestions to add to your Yuma bucket list:

  • Pedal away – Explore paved trails along the river and East Main Canal
  • Take a dip – Make a splash at three beaches (one at Gateway, two at West Wetlands)
  • Go fish – Drop a line at the West Wetlands pond, along the river, or in the back channel through the East Wetlands
  • Linger and learn – Get a capsule lesson in local history at Pivot Point Plaza
  • Bird’s eye view – Wildlife watching opportunities abound along the river
  • Tip your hat – Leaders of Yuma’s riverfront revival are recognized at Founders’ Plaza at Yuma Quartermaster Depot
  • Get the big picture – Enjoy a panoramic view atop the guard tower at the Territorial Prison
Yuma Gateway Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It seems like we never run out of things to see and do in Yuma. So let me state for the record. I was wrong. Yuma is truly a remarkable and interesting town for snowbirds to explore. And I’m glad to be back in Yuma.

Yuma Gateway Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.

—Anita Desai

Best Places for RV Travel this January

RV travel allows you to take the comforts of home on the road

The period after the holidays can be a bit of a letdown. The presents have all been opened, the Champagne corked, and the weather probably makes you want to just crawl back in bed and pull the covers over your head. After all you’ve spent—your wallet is probably quite a bit lighter too.

Native palm grove in Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But the good news is that January is a great time to travel and if you’re looking for someplace warm with ample sun there are some great destinations to consider especially for the RVing snowbird escaping the ravages of a Northern winter.

Fulton Mansion in Rockport-Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But first, we say the names of months all of the time, but frankly, some of them are a little weird. There are a lot of month names that have similar endings, like -ary and -ber, and then there are the wild card month names that don’t have anything in common.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Let’s not even get into how strange it is that some months have 30 days, some have 31, and then there’s February standing out from the crowd on the calendar with 28 or 29 days. Believe it or not, there is a rhyme and a reason to why the months are named what they are, and like many words that we use today, it all goes back to the Greeks and the Romans.

Green Jay in the Rio Grande Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

January is Roman in origin, and it begins the calendar year because the Roman god Janus is the god of beginnings and endings. This makes perfect sense for a month that people see as an ending of the previous year and the troubles it may have brought, plus the beginning as people look forward to a fresh start to a whole new year. Visually, Janus is a perfect representation of the past and the future, because he has two faces. One looks backwards into the past and what was while the other looks forward into the future and what it has to bring.

Also check out our recommendations from January 2019.

Palm Springs

Coachella Valley near Desert Hot Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palm Springs is a Southern California city set in the Sonoran Desert. The city is best known for its hot spring, posh hotels, spa resorts, and golf courses. Those interested in architecture will also find many interesting examples of mid-century modern homes here.

El Paseo shopping area in Palm Desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The shopping district has plenty of shops to keep you browsing for hours with vintage items and interior design shops being especially noteworthy here. The valley surrounding Palm Springs offers a wealth of outdoors activities such as hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. January is a great time to visit the desert with perfect temperatures for enjoying outdoor activities.

Rockport-Fulton

Rockport-Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The quaint fishing village of Rockport has been a favorite coastal hideaway and snowbird roost for years. Rockport’s recovery since Hurricane Harvey two years ago counts among the great feel-good stories in Texas history. Rebounding in stunning ways, this little art colony beloved by visitors since the 1950s for its fishing, bucolic bay setting, and frequent festivals feels fresh again.

Rockport=Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Envision the life of an affluent Victorian family while exploring Fulton Mansion, built in 1877 with comforts not easily found: gas lights, central heat, and running water. At Goose Island State Park you’ll find the wintering grounds for whooping cranes and other migratory birds. It’s also home to the 2,000-year-old Big Tree, one of Texas’ largest live oak.

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even though they’re the literal emblem of the American desert, saguaro cacti are only found in small parts of the country, and this 71,000-acre stretch of desert serves as their sanctuary. Saguaro National Park is divided into two sections: The Tucson Mountain District and Rincon Mountain District. Between the two districts, there are more than 165 miles of hiking trails, a large petroglyph site, a cactus garden, and epic desert sunsets.

Naples

Audubon Corkscrew Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Naples is a city located along the southwestern Florida coast on the Gulf of Mexico. The city is known best for its high-end shops and world-class golfing. Naples Pier has become an icon of the city and is a popular spot for fishing and dolphin watching. On both sides of the pier you’ll find beautiful beaches with white sand and calm waves. At nearby Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary outdoor enthusiasts will find a gentle, pristine wilderness that dates back more than 500 years.

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch

Gilbert Riparian Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This 110-acre oasis in Gilbert is a great place to watch wildlife (especially birds), catch and release fish, learn a few things and just kick back. The lake and seven ponds are for groundwater recharge and recreation. Horses are allowed on some trails, bikes are allowed on trails and sidewalks and leashed dogs can accompany walkers in all pedestrian areas.

Rio Grande Valley

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

The Rio Grande Valley, on the southernmost tip of Texas, is a semi-tropical paradise that borders Mexico and includes the Gulf Coast shores. Palm trees and orchards of citrus trees line the roads. Luscious, locally grown citrus fruit and vegetables are readily available.

Green Heron at Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The area’s year-round pleasant weather brings flocks of Winter Texans escaping the Northern cold. It also brings flocks of birds. The Valley is a flyway between North and South America creating some of the best birding and butterflying opportunities in the country. To keep these populations healthy and coming, National Wildlife Refuges and state parks have been established throughout the region.

Worth Pondering…

We will open the book. Its pages are blank.
We are going to put words on them ourselves.
The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.

—Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Matching Your Snowbirds Destinations with Your Lifestyle

We’ve made the snowbird trek to southern California and Arizona numerous times

Standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona, is not only a “fine sight to see”, it’s a stepping stone to adventure. And yes, we did stand on the corner in Winslow, referencing the lyrics from Eagles’ Take It Easy. No one in a flatbed Ford was turning round to look, though.

There are vortexes in Sedona and you’re supposed to feel some New Age energy. We didn’t feel it—but this Red Rock country is beautiful.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snowbirds want to leave Minnesota during the worst of the winter. January, February, and March are the prime months. They leave after the holidays and return in April. Others head out as soon as the first frost hits the pumpkins in October coming back when they can plant their geraniums outside.

Red Rock Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Those Northern locales, of course, are Canada and various states in the Northeastern U.S., Upper Midwest, and Northwest. Snowbirds start arriving in late fall, stay for months while it’s frigid back home, and depart before students fill the beaches for spring break.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We’ve made the snowbird trek to southern California and Arizona numerous times. But searching for new ways to “take it easy” pursued other southern climes. Our snowbird travels have now included all the Sunbelt states.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the most popular snowbird destinations is Quartzsite. Not far from the Colorado River, this dusty Arizona outpost expands to hundreds of thousands as RV folks arrive every winter for the largest rock hound exposition in the United States and free camping.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At its core, Quartzsite is a boondocker’s paradise. There is every type of camper from weekenders to full-timers and from small trailers to tag axle diesel pushers. It’s a friendly atmosphere with many Bureau of Land Management (BLM) camping areas available. Free is a great camping word, right? In as much, you don’t hear it very often. Keep in mind that this is dry camping and your rig must be fully self-contained.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the BLM areas, you can camp for free for up to 14 days. If you are a long-term camper, the cost is $180 to stay from September through April. 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.

Coachella Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indio, and the other desert resort cities in the Coachella Valley, you can camp for the winter in luxurious RV resorts that offer all sorts of amenities. Known for Olympic sized pools, tennis courts, and over one hundred golf courses within 40 miles, this is truly upscale RV camping.

Palm Desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palm Springs acquired the title “Playground of the Stars” many years ago when this village in the desert was a popular weekend Hollywood getaway destination.

Palm Desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Only 100 miles east of Tinseltown, it was an easy drive, even in the days before freeways. And even though Hollywood’s winter climate was mild, the celebrities of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s headed to the desert for weekends of poolside relaxation.

Palm Desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the village has grown and attractions consist of much more than just hanging out poolside. Whether it’s golf, tennis, polo, taking the sun, or a trip up the aerial tram, Palm Springs is a winter desert paradise.

Hiking Indian Canyons, Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But to accomplish snowbird status you really need to do some serious planning. If you want to be a snowbird there truly is more to it than just forwarding your mail. It is not easy to pack it up and leave for three months or more. Some people have trouble with a two week vacation.

Anza-Borrego State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RVing for an extended period so far from home during the long winter months isn’t all sun and fun, especially if you don’t prepare properly. Preparing your home for an extended absence requires thorough thought and planning. Before heading south for the season, snowbirds must take steps to secure and winterize their homes.

Desert wildflowers near Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you’re new to the snowbird lifestyle or an experienced RVer, creating your own customized checklist is a great way to keep track of your seasonal preparations.

Worth Pondering…

We have chosen to be reasonably warm year-round, so we are snowbirds. Every year when I hear the honks of the Canada geese overhead at our home in Alberta, something in my genes starts pulling my inner-compass to the South. And an inner voice whispers: “Surely you’re as smart as a goose.” Feeling that I am at least as smart as a silly goose, I line up the motorhome with that compass pointer and head for the Sun Belt.

Why You Need to RV in the South This Winter

Here’s how (and where) to migrate to warmer weather this winter

Summer has technically been over for a while now, but does it really have to end? The answer is “no.” If you’re one of the many who love summer, why not continue to chase it and enjoy an endless summer in the South?

You may have some hesitations about packing up and heading south during the winter, but there are a number of reasons why you’re going to love hooking up in the southern half of the states when the weather up north takes a turn for the worse.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Let’s start with the obvious. The weather down south is a dream in the winter. During the heat of summer, much of Arizona and Texas may be less than ideal, but when the winter storms hit elsewhere in the country, you’ll be comfortable walking around in shorts and a t-shirt.

Riviera Beach, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even if you aren’t looking for summer-like weather, heading just a bit south in the winter will give you much more bearable weather than up north. Imagine stepping outside of your RV in the morning to sunshine as opposed to snow. You don’t have to ask us twice which one we’d rather have.

Folly Beach, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As much as we love summer, we cannot bring ourselves to love the mosquitoes that come along with it. Enter: winter camping in the south. For the most part, it’s bye-bye to mosquitoes except for some parts of southern Florida but you will definitely see relief from the summer swarms.

Coachella Valley, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While flocking to the south isn’t a rare thing (the term snowbird certainly is a real thing), you’ll find there are still not nearly as many travelers at some of the southern states hot spots as there are during summer. Think places like the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, and Alabama Gulf Coast. While you may find some crowds, you won’t be dealing with the massive numbers of people that you will in the summer.

Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some RV parks and campgrounds are only able to operate part of the year due to the restrictions that weather places on their usability. However, thanks to the great weather down south you’ll find that all the parks are open. And, they’re pretty much guaranteed to be a lot less crowded than during the summer, so chances are good you’ll have the opportunity to pick your favorite camping spot.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You need more gear to camp in the winter than the summer. However, if you’re camping down south in the winter, it’s essentially the same as camping up north in the summer, so you won’t need a bunch of extra gear.

Lovers Key State Park, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sounds like a win-win, right? In case you need more convincing that a southern camping trip this winter is the right thing to do, here are some great spots that may sway you.

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Known as one of the top 10 places in the world to get in some seriously good stargazing, Big Bend National Park in Texas is a great place to escape to in the winter. But the night skies aren’t all there is to see here. You’ve got everything from hiking to birding, canoeing to hot spring soaking in Big Bend. This is a great place to see some beautiful desert scenery that will have you forgetting winter exists.

Albuquerque

Albuquerque as seen from Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As New Mexico’s biggest city and one that you’ve certainly heard a lot about, there is a lot to explore in this city. The museums here are among some of the country’s best, and the shopping is great if you’re in the market for some beautiful Native American crafts.

However, if you’re more into outdoor exploration, then you’ll want to head just outside the city where you can hike, bike, and climb to your heart’s content.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A trip to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona is a must. This species of cacti is native to Mexico but exists in the United States just here at the monument. Winter is an ideal to visit when the temperatures are moderate and you’ll catch some stunning photos. The warm temperatures make for ideal camping conditions.

Anza Borrego State Park

Anza Borrego State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One surprise about this area of the southeastern Californian desert is the palm oases which you come upon in the Borrego Palm Canyon through the park’s most-visited hiking trail. When you want to take a break from hiking, you can make yourself at home in Borrego Springs, a small town entirely encompassed by the State park itself and full of art as well as natural beauty. Anza Borrego State Park has a plethora of camping options, with four established campgrounds and 175 total campsites.

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”

10 Best Destinations for Snowbirds This Winter

Escape the chilly, sometimes positively arctic, weather this season and go someplace warm

As the days continue to get colder, it’s time to think about a reprieve from the frigid, snowy, gray weather conditions of the north. Between October and April, birds migrate south to keep warm during the winter, and human snowbirds follow suit.

Rockport-Fulton, Texas

Rockport-Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The quaint fishing village of Rockport has been a favorite coastal hideaway and snowbird roost for years. Envision the life of an affluent Victorian family while exploring Fulton Mansion, built in 1877 with comforts not easily found: gas lights, central heat, and running water. At Goose Island State Park you’ll find the wintering grounds for whooping cranes and other migratory birds. It’s also home to the 2,000-year-old Big Tree, one of Texas’ largest live oak.

Quartzsite, Arizona

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A dusty destination in the middle of nowhere—but, come January, the little town of Quartzsite transforms into the vendor capital of the world and becomes the largest gathering of RVs and RVers on the planet. This sleepy Arizona town has become famous for luring snowbirds who like to browse amid RVs and RV products, gems and minerals, crafts and hobby items.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Gulf Shores © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With miles of sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand, RVers will find what they’re looking for—and more—along Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Seafood markets offer shrimp, oysters, crab, and snapper. There are numerous seafood restaurants with an endless assortment of dishes. Gulf Shores is a coastal, resort community known for its white-sand beaches.

Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palm Springs acquired the title “Playground of the Stars” many years ago because what was then just a village in the desert was a popular weekend Hollywood getaway. Today, the village has grown and consists of much more than just hanging out poolside. Whether it’s golf, tennis, or a trip up the aerial tram, Palm Springs is a winter desert paradise.

Sarasota, Florida

Sarasota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sarasota and her string of eight islands are tucked into the Gulf Coast of Southwest Florida. Sarasota County encompasses nearly 40 miles of shoreline and include the City of Sarasota, Longboat Key, Lido Key, St. Armands Key, Manasota Key, Siesta Key, Casey Key, City of Englewood, Nokomis, City of North Port, Osprey, and the City of Venice.

Mission, Texas

Bird watching near Mission © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, Mission welcomes the thousands of Winter Texans that call Mission their temporary home. With winter temperatures averaging 72 degrees and with a ZERO percent chance of snow… why wouldn’t they?  And there is never a shortage of activities to do, attractions to visit, or delicious Tex-Mex food to eat.

Yuma, Arizona

Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yuma is Arizona’s warmest winter city and the sunniest year round place in the U.S. Yuma has a classic low desert climate with extremely low humidity. From soothing waters to lush golf courses, breathtaking natural scenery to dining and shopping, there is a diverse selection of recreational activities and cultural attractions.

Lake Charles, Louisiana

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Adventures in culture, food, and music await in Cajun Country where life is on the spicy side. With Louisiana flavors such as boudin, crackling, crawfish, gumbo, jambalaya, and hot sauce, Acadiana has all the makings for a taste-tempting trip. But there is more to the Cajun appeal than just the food. Between bites of their tasty cuisine, boredom is never a problem in Cajun Country. Nature experiences are abundant on the Creole Nature Trail, an All-American Road.

Brunswick and the Golden Isles, Georgia

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Four of the beautiful isles—St. Simons, Little St. Simons, Jekyll, and Sea—and a nearby coastal town are known collectively as Brunswick and the Golden Isles. These coastal isles have long served as refuges for wildlife, havens for millionaires, and bastions of history.

Edisto Island, South Carolina

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto Island is a sea island in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, 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. Activities include touring Edisto Island, Edisto Island State Park, the beach, and driving/walking tour of Botany Bay Plantation,.

Worth Pondering…

I’ll take heat rash over frost bite any day.

—Ken Travous