55 + RV Parks: VIP Treatment

Have you heard of 55+ RV parks? If not, they’re very popular in Arizona and Florida—two states known for active retirement communities and beautiful weather.

RV life is perfect for the active retiree and 55+ RV parks cater to the growing Boomer-retiree demographic who have found they no longer want to camp with children running around. Or at least not all of the time!

Today I’m diving deep into these parks and why the majority of RVers appreciate this option.

Let’s dive right in!

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort in Casa Grande, Arizona, a 55+ RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What are 55+ RV parks all about?

The name says it all. The mission of 55+ parks is to create a mature environment for active seniors who enjoy a social lifestyle.

What states have the most 55 and older RV campgrounds? 

While every state has 55 and older RV campgrounds, two states take the cake in that category. Not surprisingly, they are Arizona and Florida

There are several reasons that these two states attract the most retirees. 

First, Arizona and Florida have beautiful weather. They can get pretty hot in the summer months but they are a great place to find a temperate winter climate. 

Both states are also tax-friendly for retirees appealing to many folks. 

Yuma, Arizona, is home to the most 55 and older RV campgrounds in the United States. Out of the top 25 parks in the city, 40 percent of them are age-restrictive.

Other popular cities in Arizona featuring 55+ parks are Tucson, Mesa, and Apache Junction. 

Speaking of Arizona, here are 21 Arizona RV Parks You Must Visit.

Since I’m talking about Arizona, here’s a related article: What Makes Arizona Such a Hotspot for Snowbirds?

Golden Village Palms RV Resort in Hemet, California, a 55+ RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why do people love 55+ RV parks? 

In short, folks are drawn to these 55 and older RV campgrounds for their age-appropriate activities. Most parks have excellent amenities that encourage a sense of community and outdoor recreation. 

Most places offer pools, tennis, and pickleball courts and even golf courses. Many parks also have a recreation center that hosts bingo nights, dinners, live music, dancing, arts and crafts, games and cards, and other hobby workshops. 

While each park is different you can expect to find some activities available to residents. Many also offer a meeting place for snowbird clubs to meet. These outside organizations have their events and are excellent places for people to meet peers and make friends while camping.

Common activities at 55+ RV parks

The active lifestyle of 55+ parks is a huge attraction for baby boomers. These parks usually have great amenities that encourage outdoor activities. Pools, pickleball courts, tennis courts, and golf courses are common features.

Voyager RV Resort in Tucson is a popular 55+ RV resorts in southern Arizona. Here’s what they offer their 55+ community:

  • Arts & crafts
  • Dancing
  • Live music
  • Games & cards
  • Hobby workshops
Gold Canyon RV Resort in Gold Canyon, Arizona, a 55+ RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are 55+ parks more expensive than normal RV parks?  

The answer to this question is that there is no answer. It depends on the park. 

Some 55 and older RV parks are much more affordable than others. You will pay for the amenities you receive, so parks that offer more will cost more. 

There are some ways to save money, however. Consider joining a camping club like Escapees which includes many places to stay. Escapees is perfect for every age camper not just those over 55. With your membership, they combine Escapees and Xcapers RV Club. 

When you stay at 55+ parks you will find other like-minded campers. You often become friends and find that you see each other at different places throughout the year. 

Can people younger than 55 stay? 

Again, you have to look at each park to answer this question. Some 55 and older RV parks will allow folks younger than 55 to stay. At the same time, others adhere to a strict age policy. 

The bottom line is that these 55 and older RV campgrounds want respectful people who will be aware of those around them. If younger people are approved and follow the rules, there should be no issue staying there. 

Also, be aware that the retirees in many age-restrictive parks want a quiet environment. It is not the place to bring young children. While us older folks love the sounds of children’s laughter there is a time and place that we want to hear it. 

Most parks do not have an issue allowing those younger than 55 to stay for a short period if they have the availability. 

How do you find 55+ RV Park?

One way is to just Google “over 55 RV campgrounds near me” or check your membership clubs.

Luxury RV resorts for those 55 and older

These 55-and-older RV parks are dedicated to seniors and they have some fabulous amenities.

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort in Casa Grande, Arizona, a 55+ RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort, Casa Grande, Arizona

Located mid-way between Phoenix and Tucson, Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort is minutes from Interstate 10. They have over 2,200 RV sites, park homes, and activities to keep you busy all winter.

You can play pickleball, tennis, billiards, or a round of golf on their 18-hole course. Afterward, cool off in one of their three swimming pools or Jacuzzis and soak in the mountain views. They also have card games, lawn bowling, and special events planned every week.

Tropic Winds RV Resort, Harlingen, Texas

Tropic Winds RV Resort is less than an hour from South Padre Island on the Gulf Coast. The resort includes over 500+ RV sites along with a swimming pool and spa, fitness center, and a clubhouse. The RV Park is open all year with daily, weekly, and monthly sites available. 

Water’s Edge RV Resort, Punta Gorda, Florida

No matter the time of year, Florida is always an excellent option for RVers looking for a warm climate. All RV sites at Water’s Edge have full hookups and RV guests have access to the laundry room, restrooms, pool, and the fishing lake. This resort has options for full-time ownership or short-term stays so it’s possible to stay for a few days or a few months. If you visit during the peak season and want something to do expect a packed calendar of events to keep you busy every day.

Caliente Springs Resort, Desert Hot Springs, California

RVers who want an active lifestyle resort will love the amenities at Caliente Springs Resort. Caliente Springs has pickleball, water sports, golf, tennis, and more. A bonus? This park is located minutes away from Palm Springs and less than an hour from Joshua Tree National Park. This park serves the 55-and-older crowd and has RV sites for different size rigs whether big or small. 

81 Palms Senior RV Resort, Deming, New Mexico

You don’t have to venture far off I-10 to reach 81 Palms Resort in Deming. The senior resort has 106 long pull-thru sites with full hookups and access to their community amenities. They have spotless restrooms and hot showers, an indoor heated swimming pool, coin-operated laundry, and a pet run.

Gold Canyon RV Resort in Gold Canyon, Arizona, a 55+ RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gold Canyon RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona

Stay near where the action takes place when you park your RV at Gold Canyon RV Resort. Gold Canyon is a planned active lifestyle community with everything from park model homes to large pull-through sites with large patios and full hookups. This senior RV resort is also a golf resort and the social and service amenities are unbeatable. Since Gold Canyon is located just east of the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, RVers will find entertainment, shopping, and access to adventure, all within an hour’s drive.

Golden Village Palms RV Resort in Hemet, California, a 55+ RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Golden Village Palms RV Resort; Hemet, California

While this park isn’t exclusive to 55+ folks it is tailored to the active adult lifestyle. The park features 1,000 full hook-up sites available for rent on a daily, monthly, seasonal, or annual basis. The amenities are top notch including a tournament level shuffleboard complex, regulation sand volleyball courts, championship billiards tables, a library and business center, pickleball courts as well as three pools and spas, modern laundry facilities, and a professional gym.

We RVers may wander far and wide but it’s true for most of us that we end up with some favorite Go-To places—places that draw us back again and again.

Arizona is one of those places for us. And we know it is for many RVers looking to get away and explore during the winter. 

Worth Pondering…

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

—Les Brown

The Ultimate Guide to Cold Weather Camping

Looking to go winter camping, but don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, you’re in the right place.

 ‘Tis the season where the mercury starts dropping and RVers the world over begin to hunt for warmer pastures. After all, one of the best parts of owning or renting an RV is the fact that you can chase 70 degrees as it gets colder up north.

But what if cold weather camping is your jam? Or suppose you want to be close to a ski hill or other place that’s great for winter RV camping? Or do you live in your RV full-time but work still requires you to be in a cold-weather spot?

Whether you do winter RV camping by choice or by necessity, there are steps you’ll want to take to stay warm in your rig. That’s why I put together this Ultimate Guide for Cold Weather Camping. 

I want you to know exactly how to use your RV in the winter—how to shield it from Mother Nature, how to winterize and store it if you want to, and even how you can make money renting your rig to others in warmer parts of the country.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is cold weather camping?

Cold weather camping can be defined as any time you camp in your RV in the winter when the temperature is consistently below freezing. That’s because temps above freezing don’t usually bring with them the same problems and considerations that winter camping brings with it.

When temps dip below 32 degrees, that’s when you have to worry about freezing pipes, increasing heat needs, and cold—and complaining—family members. 

Another consideration with cold weather camping in an RV is wind. Even if the temps are above freezing, winter weather can still bring cold winds. Cold winds can make RV camping in winter a tough proposition because the winds more easily penetrate RV windows and doors than in a house. 

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why cold weather camp?

Cold-weather camping can get you into some of the best places to hang out in your RV. You could stay close to a ski hill for a fraction of the cost of a condo, you could hang right by certain national parks and have them nearly all to yourself, or you could just stay in an area you want to stay in despite the wrath of Mother Nature

None of this means that RV camping in the winter has to be uncomfortable. There are ways to explore the outdoors in a place you enjoy and still come home to a home-on-wheels. 

Heated water hose for winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to keep an RV warm in the winter 

Each RV is unique and some are better equipped for cold weather. Despite the marketing sticker on the outside of your RV saying something like “Extreme Weather Package”, very few RVs are ready for freezing temperatures without some modifications.

It is important for you to know specifically what is installed on your RV such as a heated and enclosed underbelly, holding tank warmers, or insulated pipes.

You can take the following steps to make sure you’re ready for cold-weather RV camping:

  • Add to your insulation
  • Use clear marine vinyl or Reflectix to create an additional insulation barrier on your RV windows
  • Cover your RV with area rugs for an extra layer of floor insulation
  • Insulate your RV roof vents
  • Install heavy drapes that insulate your windows against the cold
  • Check to ensure all doors and windows are well sealed and replace old seals/weather stripping as needed
  • Purchasing or fabricating an RV skirt to seal your RV’s underside
  • Use multiple forms of heat—furnace, heat pumps, electric space heaters
  • Blankets, thermal undergarments, and thick socks go a long way in keeping the family happy while cold weather camping.
Electric space heaters help to keep the interior warm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV camping in winter: Maintain your furnace BEFORE it gets cold

RV propane furnaces haven’t changed much since the early days of RVing but they can still be a pesky appliance to keep running efficiently. And you can be pretty much certain that it won’t be on a 60-degree day in the middle of the week that it dies. It will be on a cold holiday weekend when you’re hundreds of miles away from civilization. As part of preventive maintenance have your furnace tested and serviced by a certified tech before the winter season.

Keep water flowing with a heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping

Keeping water flowing—and unfrozen—is your most important winter camping mission, apart from staying warm yourself. 

You should take these precautions to keep RV pipes from freezing:

  • Use a heated water hose: This will keep water flowing through your city water connection
  • Use the RV fresh water tank: If you don’t want to use a heated hose or aren’t connected to city water, your fresh water tank is a viable option
  • Practice strategic dumping: Leaving your black and grey tanks open is never a good idea; instead, dump only when your tanks are about 70-75 percent full
  • Use low-temp heat tape on hoses: Heat tape can be easily wrapped around external hoses to keep them thawed while using your RV in the winter
  • Let your water drip: I don’t particularly like this one because it wastes water but if you’re in a pinch this will keep your water hose from freezing because sitting water freezes before running water
  • How to pack for cold weather camping
Faucet protector and heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now that your RV is ready for winter camping, it’s time to prepare your family for the adventure. Here is what you want to pack in your RV for cold-weather camping: 

  • Sleeping bags and thick blankets
  • Breathable underlayers such as thermal underwear that wick away moisture
  • Thicker mid-layers like fleece or wool sweatshirts
  • Toque, warm socks, and waterproof boots/shoes
  • Gloves
  • Waterproof outer layer
  • Headlamp and lantern 
  • Snow brush/ice scraper
  • Shovel
Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where to go

Many RVers opt for winter camping in southern destinations because their winters are far less harsh. While you may still need to take certain precautions to keep your RV warm, most snowbirds find southern California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida comfortable during the winter months. Other states that attract snowbirds include Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Nevada.

On the flip side, if you plan to chase the snow, consider Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and even northern New Mexico. If you’ve decked out your RV to be the ultimate cold-weather camper, ski resorts can be a great place to winter camp.

To experience the snow in less harsh conditions consider Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, northern Georgia, and western North Carolina. Since winters here are relatively mild, you’ll get snow without the extreme cold (usually). Explore Smoky Mountain National Park when few people are there and enjoy southern hospitality as you cold weather camp.

The Pacific Northwest is known for mild winters, light snow and rain, and ocean fun. Even during the winter, the Oregon coast is a fun spot for cold-weather camping. And north of Washington State in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, you’ll experience Seattle-like weather.

The Springs at Borrego Golf & RV Resort, Borrego Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to stay safe while cold weather camping

Cold weather camping brings with it a few extra precautions.

First, keep an eye out for icy conditions—especially black ice. Ice is a sticky situation for any vehicle but it can be especially problematic when driving an RV. Second, be sure to have an emergency RV kit with you at all times in case you get stuck on the side of the road. Finally, be sure you always have extra water, food, and blankets on board at all times in case you get stuck in cold weather. 

How to winterize your RV

While cold-weather camping is appealing to many RVers, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes you just want to tuck your RV away for the winter until spring arrives. Storing your RV for the winter can be a great option. If you choose to do this, you should take the following steps to prep your RV for cold-weather storage: 

  • Drain your water lines via your low point drain: Consult your owner’s manual to find the location of your low point drain. Once you find it, open it to drain all the water from your lines.
  • Drain your water heater and bypass it. Your owner’s manual will tell you how to do this. It’s very important that you allow the water in your water heater to cool before you do this so you don’t get burned.
  • Pump non-toxic RV antifreeze through your water lines.
  • Store your RV batteries in a climate-controlled location: You can extend the life of RV-deep-cycle batteries by storing them in a temperature-regulated place.
  • Pour a bit of non-toxic RV antifreeze down your sink drains: This helps to protect the P-traps. Also leave some in your toilet bowl to protect those parts.
  • De-winterize your RV in spring before you head back out. 
Sea Breeze RV Resort, Portland, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Want to rent out your RV this winter?

Winter RV camping can be a fun journey if it’s your jam. But what if you’d rather make money with your camper during the winter? Many parts of the U.S. still experience high demand for RVs during the winter and there are many ways you can connect with individuals who want to rent RVs in these climates. Moving your RV south for the winter could be a great option for you if you were otherwise planning to store your camper for the winter.

While it might seem intimidating to have your RV rented out to strangers in a faraway place, there are many ways you can have peace of mind while your RV makes money as a winter camping rig. 

Hit the winter roads

Cold-weather camping is a tried and true path that many have trod. While it’s not necessarily for everyone, the bottom line is that you have many options for your RV in the winter from storing it to camping in it to making money with it. No matter which way you choose to use your RV in the winter it’s good to know that cold weather doesn’t need to stop your camping plans.

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

Welcome to the 1,500th RVing with Rex Article!

My schedule has evolved around our RV lifestyle and writing about it

My schedule has revolved around our RV lifestyle and preparing a daily article relating to the RV lifestyle. And now, here I am with 1,500 posts under my belt.

In the process my hair has gone from brown to gray and my energy level decreased by 30 percent―maybe more―due to my advancing age. No complaints, though.

Vista del Sol, a RV resort in Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If I were a race horse I’d be around the final curve, headed to the finish line.

When we began our RV snowbird lifestyle back in 1997, I had no idea that over 25 years later we would still be at it. Amazing!

I cannot express how wonderful the last 25 years have been.

I would love to be around for another 20 years but I’m not counting on it. But I vow that I won’t abandon this amazing online project until I’m no longer able to put intelligible words on a blank page.

The Barnyard RV Park in Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thank you for being such a loyal reader of rvingwithrex.com. I appreciate you very much!

You may not know this but I produce rvingwithrex.com with a staff of only one. Yes, just one! And that would be me. I work seven days a week to get everything done, not because I need to but because I want to. It’s a labor of love!

RVing with Rex is a dream, come true for me. Decades in the making but now being lived out like one giant movie, seen through the wide expanse of our RV windshield as North America rolls on by. We can stop anytime, and explore anywhere. And I share it all with you on this blog.

That would be my workspace at Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I have posted 1,500 articles on my website and each year I publish 365 RVing articles, one each day of the year including New Years, Christmas, and my birthday.

The goal then and now is to share our RV lifestyle. I have to admit, I am not very mechanical. This blog is only partially aimed at tinkerers and mechanics. It’s about the RV lifestyle and the great things to see and do out there on the open road—and how to stay safe.

Hiking Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to RVing, I enjoy photography, hiking, and birding—and writing about it.

By background, I’m an educator. I love learning and delving into history, and seeing new things, enjoying God’s awesome creation. Taking pictures and using said photos to tell a story. I’ve written for a Western Canadian-based RV magazine and Good Sam blog and annual North America Campground Directory.

Bird watching (green jay) in Bentsen- Rio Grande Valley State Park & World Birding Center in Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Typically, we’re on the road six to seven months a year. We’re not fulltimers. We return to our Alberta home (Go Oilers Go) for the summer.

We also like to attend RV rallies and events. While Alberta directors of the Newmar Kountry Klub we hosted club rallies and caravan tours.

I truly enjoy being immersed in something I love. The blog is a labor of love. It is all my own work. No one tells me what to say or what not to say.

Photographing sandhill cranes in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As I said, I love to travel and write about our experiences. It’s in my DNA, I guess.

The RVer in me is upset at all the bad information being published today about RVing by websites, blogs, videos, and on social media.

It’s bad because we have entered the era of writers who write to fill space strictly for money. The more sensational or controversial their story (click bait works great), the more valuable they become to publishers.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some publishing experts predict that by 2025 more than 90 percent of the content on the Internet will be written using Artificial Intelligence (AI). It’s already happening (but not with me). 

Keeping my content relevant is increasingly challenging. I do not hire content creators—freelance writers who crank out articles by formula. The best way I can set myself apart from such fluff is to write the most valuable, useful, informative, accurate, educational (and sometimes entertaining) articles available anywhere—written by a real RVer (that would be me!), not pretenders.

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

We should all be grateful that Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen, Henry David Thoreau, and William Shakespeare didn’t aim so low.

And now, along come the robots—inexpensive online services where writers with only minimal talent and subject knowledge can crank out articles all day long. An article that once took a real writer a few hours to write can be written in a few minutes. The results are sometimes accurate but they are very often superficial and just plain wrong. Read my article, Ghost Wright: On the Future of AI and you will see what I mean.

I will NOT post articles written by AI!

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

My pledge is to provide readers with the very best, most accurate information available anywhere about RVing.

All that said, I hope you are safe and making the best of our challenging times. Be wise. Be careful. Don’t take needless chances. Be kind to others because right now that goes a long way to comforting people who are nervous, scared, or otherwise emotionally hurting over the dramatic upheaval in their lives. Design your life in a way you enjoy your days and you will have a good life.

Lover’s Key State Park in Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And thank you for reading.

Be healthy. Be safe. Have fun. Enjoy the RV lifestyle. Keep reading.

Worth Pondering…

I think, therefore I am.

I listen, therefore I know.

I travel to discover, therefore I grow.

The 10 Best State Park Camping For Snowbirds

If you’re planning on snowbird RVing this winter consider one of these state parks

Many RVers prefer state park camping for its scenic beauty and proximity to outdoor activities. Most state parks offer the amenities needed to stay comfortable such as electric and water hookups, bathhouses, a dump station, and some campgrounds offer sewer hooks and laundry facilities.

If you are one of the many snowbirds heading south for the winter in an RV, you can find numerous state parks open for year-round camping. Here are 10 of the finest state parks with camping facilities.

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona

Visitors traveling along I-10 in southern Arizona can’t miss the prominent 1,500-foot peak of Picacho Peak State Park Enjoy the view as you hike the trails that wind up the peak and often in the spring, overlook a sea of wildflowers. The park offers a visitor center with exhibits and a park store, a playground, historical markers, a campground, and picnic areas. Many hiking trails traverse the desert landscape and offer hikers both scenic and challenging hikes.

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picacho Peak State Park’s campground offers 85 electric sites for both tent and RV camping. Four sites are handicapped-accessible. No water or sewer hookups are available. Access to all sites is paved. Sites are fairly level and are located in a natural Sonoran Desert setting.

Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meaher State Park, Alabama

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

Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Related: 16 of the Best State Parks in America

Buccaneer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buccaneer State Park, Mississippi

Located on the beach in Waveland (west of Bay St. Louis), Buccaneer is in a natural setting of large moss-draped oaks, marshlands, and the Gulf of Mexico. The use of this land was first recorded in history in the late 1700s when Jean Lafitte and his followers were active in smuggling and pirating along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The French Buccaneer, Lafitte, inhabited the old Pirate House located a short distance from what is now the park. The park site, also known as Jackson’s Ridge, was used as a base of military operations by Andrew Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans. Jackson later returned to this area and built a house on land that is now Buccaneer State Park.

Buccaneer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buccaneer State Park has 206 premium campsites with full amenities including sewer. In addition to the premium sites, Buccaneer has an additional 70 campsites that are set on a grassy field overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Castaway Cove (campground activity pool) is available to all visitors to the Park for a fee. 

Myakka River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Myakka River State Park, Florida

The majestic Myakka River flows through 58 square miles of one of Florida’s oldest and largest state parks. Experience Myakka by boat and by tram on a 45-60 minute tour.

Myakka River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Myakka Canopy Walkway provides easy access to observe life in the treetops of an oak/palm hammock. The walkway is suspended 25 feet above the ground and extends 100 feet through the hammock canopy. The taller tower soars 74 feet in the air to present a spectacular view of treetops, wetlands, and the prairie/hammock interface.

Myakka River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The campgrounds make a perfect home base while you go kayaking on the river, hiking the park’s trails, or exploring on their boat or tram tour. The park has three campgrounds with 90 sites total including Palmetto Ridge with full hookup gravel-based sites and Old Prairie and Big Flats campgrounds with dirt-based sites.

Related: The 15 Best State Parks for RV Camping

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina State Park, Arizona

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

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

120 electric and water sites are available at Catalina. Each campsite has a picnic table and BBQ grill. Roads and parking slips are paved. Campgrounds have modern flush restrooms with hot showers and RV dump stations are available in the park. There is no limit on the length of RVs but reservations are limited to 14 consecutive nights.

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

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

Spanning more than 600,000 acres, Anza-Borrego Desert is the largest state park in California. Five hundred miles of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas, and many miles of hiking trails provide visitors with an opportunity to experience the wonders of the Sonoran Desert. The park features washes, wildflowers, palm groves, cacti, and sweeping vistas. Visitors may also have the chance to see roadrunners, golden eagles, kit foxes, mule deer, and bighorn sheep.

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

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park offers primitive camping as well as developed campgrounds including Borrego Palm Canyon which offers 120 campsites including 51 full hookup RV sites and the smaller Tamarisk Grove with 27 well-shaded non-hookup sites. Eight primitive campgrounds and two dispersed camping (boondocking) areas are also available.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico

If you like camping, fishing, boating, or just being outdoors, Elephant Butte is for you. Elephant Butte is a reservoir on the Rio Grande that was built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 1916. The name “Elephant Butte” was given due to a butte that has the shape of an elephant. This is one of the few lakes in New Mexico with white pelican colonies.

Related: America’s Best State Parks

Elephant Butte Lak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The mild climate of the area makes this park a popular year-round destination. There are 15 miles of hiking trails, boating facilities, and picnic tables available for day use. Lions Beach Campground has 173 sites including some with full hookups as well as primitive beach and boat-in camping.

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf State Park, Alabama

Gulf State Park has two miles of beaches, a spacious campground, and a brand new Lodge and Conference Center. Yes, the park has gorgeous white sand, surging surf, seagulls, and a variety of activities, but there is more than sand and surf to sink your toes into. Just when you’re done hiking, it’s time to go biking. Tired of swimming and paddling in the Gulf? Swim and paddle in Lake Shelby. There’s an educational adventure at the Nature Center as well as programs at the Learning Campus and Interpretive Center.

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park offers a 496-site improved campground including 11 modern bathhouses, pull-through sites, back-in sites, waterfront campsites, and ADA accessible sites. The paved camping pads fit large RVs and provide full hookups with water, sewer, electricity, a picnic table, and a pedestal grill. The park even has three new “glamping” sites and 11 primitive camping sites that include stone campfire rings, grill tops, and picnic tables nestled among the trees and along the creek.

Galveston Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston Island State Park, Texas

With both beach and bay sides, Galveston Island State Park offers activities for every coast lover. You can swim, fish, picnic, bird watch, hike, mountain bike, paddle, camp, geocache, study nature, or just relax! Hike or bike four miles of trails through the park’s varied habitats. Stop at the observation platform or photo blinds, and stroll boardwalks over dunes and marshes.

Galveston Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

20 water and electric (50/30-amp hookup) sites are available on the bayside of the park with 1.5 miles of beach to explore. Sites are close together with a communal pavilion and shared ground fire rings. Restrooms with showers are about 150 yards away. These sites are for RV camping only. Weekly and monthly camping rates are available from November to February.

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona

Named after the fabled lost gold mine, Lost Dutchman State Park is located in the Sonoran Desert at the base of the Superstition Mountains, east of Apache Junction. Several trails lead from the park into the Superstition Mountain Wilderness and surrounding Tonto National Forest. Take a stroll along the Native Plant Trail or hike the challenging Siphon Draw Trail to the top of the Flatiron.

Related: 8 Wild and Beautiful State Parks

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The campground has 138 sites: 68 sites with electric (50/30/20 amp service) and water and the remainder non-hookup sites on paved roads for tents or RVs. Every site has a picnic table and a fire pit with an adjustable grill gate. There are no size restrictions on RVs. Well-mannered pets on leashes are welcome, but please pick after your pets.

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…”

Happy travels!

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.”

Being a Snowbird in the Time of COVID

With COVID-19, will snowbirds still answer the call of warmer weather?

Now is the time when snowbirds flock south.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has recently announced that fully vaccinated Canadian travelers will be permitted to enter the United States via the land border for non-essential purposes effective November 8, 2021. When entering the United States for tourism purposes, travelers will be required to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19, such as their provincial vaccine receipt or QR code.

Goodyear, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It has been confirmed by the Biden Administration that international visitors who received a full course of any WHO-approved vaccine such as Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca will be recognized as fully vaccinated. Further, the U.S. government will also recognize travelers who received mixed doses of any WHO-approved vaccines as fully inoculated against COVID-19.

Palm Springs, California is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canadian entering the United States at a land crossing will not be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. However, all air passengers arriving in the U.S. from a foreign country are required to get tested for COVID-19 with a viral test no more than 3 days before their flight departs and must present the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight.

Related: Matching Your Snowbirds Destinations with Your Lifestyle

Laughlin, Nevada is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After a winter spent away from sunnier climates, many fully vaccinated Canadian snowbirds are set to make the trip south this year. But with the Delta variant surging in different parts of North America, some snowbirds are weighing their options as to the best way forward especially with the U.S. land border reopening to Canadians on November 8.

Casa Grande, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A survey conducted in June by Snowbird Advisor found that 91 percent of snowbirds intend to travel south this winter and two-thirds of them plan to spend more than three months outside of Canada. (A similar survey conducted last November found that only 30 percent of snowbirds had definite travel plans last winter.)

This eagerness to travel to warmer climates in the winter is evident but there’s an element of the snowbird population that’s taking a “wait-and-see” approach as well as some who are planning for a more uncertain future.

Desert Hot Springs, California is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona and Florida are the ultimate destinations for Canadian Snowbirds. Arizona has become home to many snowbirds during the winter season. Canadians have contributed to Arizona’s economic growth with billions of dollars from tourism and snowbirds.

Related: Ultimate Collection of National Parks Perfect for Snowbirds

In 2020 there was a significant decrease from 1 million snowbirds to 200,000. Now that U.S. borders will open up to Canada in November, Arizona is hoping to see that rise again.

The Colorado River (Arizona/California) is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“We’re hoping and praying that they come back but it’s not a given. So we keep telling everyone in Arizona I hope you’re marketing to the Canadian tourists and snowbirds because they have choices,” said Glenn Williamson is the CEO and founder of Canada Arizona Business Council. 

As I ponder what it means to be a Canadian snowbird in the time of the COVID pandemic, my mind goes to Anne Murray and her famous song, Snowbird.

Venice, Florida is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the summer of 1970, Anne Murray released Gene MacLellan’s song, Bidin’ My Time. A DJ at a radio station in Cleveland flipped the single and played the B-side, another song by MacLellan called, Snowbird. The track quickly became popular with local listeners and eventually went on to become a surprise hit worldwide. The song sold over one million copies in the United States making Anne Murray the first Canadian female artist to receive a gold record in that country and establishing the careers of both Murray and MacLellan.

Phoenix, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in Springhill, Nova Scotia, the Anne Murray Centre had hoped to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that remarkable accomplishment last year with a live event, but COVID put those plans on hold.

Related: 10 RV Parks in the Southwest that Snowbirds Love

With the pandemic still affecting travel and live events, the center decided to present an online celebration—50+ Years of Snowbird—on its Facebook page.

Palm Desert, California is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Anne was a big fan of MacLellan’s songwriting and would end up covering more than half a dozen of his songs. In her book, All of Me, Murray said, “Gene was not only a hugely gifted songwriter but also one of the most naturally soulful singers I’ve ever heard. He was a sweet, shy man of uncommon humanity, with a wonderful sense of humor.”

Gene’s daughter, Catherine MacLellan, took part in this online event.

Tucson, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“It’s a beautiful, broken-hearted love song,” said MacLellan. “It’s a really simple song that for some reason just keeps living on. No matter where I’ve been in the world, from Australia to the U.K. and Europe, people remember and love that song. It fascinates me. It took off in a way no one expected.”

The Alabama Gulf Coast is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The song symbolizes the relationship between her father and Murray, she said, and it’s one she believes her late father was very proud of. She said he was pleased to see Murray receive international acclaim which helped open the lucrative international market to Canadian singers and songwriters.

Yuma, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Anne was really the first Canadian music superstar that made it big across the world,” said MacLellan who is an accomplished singer/songwriter in her own right having released seven full-length albums.

She has won multiple East Coast Awards, Canadian Folk Music Awards, and P.E.I. Music Awards as well as a Juno in 2015 for her album, The Raven’s Sun.

Indio, California is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 2017, Catherine released If It’s Alright With You, a tribute album to her father, and created a stage show by the same name. She also produced an award-winning documentary about him called The Song and the Sorrow.

She will be interviewed by author Charlie Rhindress who has written best-selling books about Rita MacNeil and Stompin’ Tom Connors and is currently working on a book about Nova Scotia’s most accomplished female singers, including Murray.

The Florida Gulf Coast is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“I have spent most of my career telling Atlantic Canadian stories and celebrating people from the region, so I am thrilled to talk to Catherine about her father and Snowbird,” Rhindress said. “The year Snowbird swept the Juno Awards, Anne jokingly referred to herself, Gene, and her producer, Brian Ahern, as the Maritime Mafia. That song was instrumental in putting the east coast of Canada on the map as a force to be reckoned with in the music industry.”

Corpus Christi, Texas is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The two will discuss the relationship between Anne and Gene as well as the history of Snowbird and some of Gene’s other songs which were covered by Anne including Put Your Hand in the Hand, The Call, and Bidin’ My Time. MacLellan will also discuss her father’s musical legacy and perform some of those songs which Murray recorded.

Related: The Absolutely Best State Park Camping for Snowbirds

The Anne Murray Centre was not able to open in 2020 due to COVID-19 and had a shortened season this year. To stay connected with its supporters, the center has hosted a series of online events over the past year.

Orlando, Florida is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snowbird

Beneath this snowy mantle cold and clean
The unborn grass lies waiting
For its coat to turn to green
The snowbird sings the song he always sings
And speaks to me of flowers
That will bloom again in spring
When I was young
My heart was young then, too
Anything that it would tell me
That’s the thing that I would do
But now I feel such emptiness within
For the thing that I want most in life’s
The thing that I can’t win
Spread your tiny wings and fly away
And take the snow back with you
Where it came from on that day
The one I love forever is untrue
And if I could you know that I would
Fly away with you
The breeze along the river seems to say
That he’ll only break my heart again
Should I decide to stay
So, little snowbird
Take me with you when you go
To that land of gentle breezes
Where the peaceful waters flow
Spread your tiny wings and fly away
And take the snow back with you
Where it came from on that day
The one I love forever is untrue
And if I could you know that I would
Fly away with you
Yeah, if I could you know that I would
Fl-y-y-y-y away with you

A Year Later and the Land Border Remains Closed to Canadian Snowbirds

Canadians eagerly awaiting the green flag to start their exodus across the U.S./Canadian border still don’t know when they will be allowed to travel south

As with Robert Frost’s two paths diverging in the woods, the COVID pandemic has hit a fork in the road for Canadian snowbirds.

All the leaves are changing, the temperature is falling, and the sky is gray… well, not yet. I’m just mentally preparing for fall. I love the crispness in the air perhaps because it triggers a snowbird response that tells me it’s time to start packing the RV for travel to warmer climes. Georgia O’Keefe said, “I have done nothing all summer but wait for myself to be myself again,” and while that’s not really the whole story of what I did this summer (I’m guessing Georgia O’Keefe wasn’t dealing with back-to-back years of a pandemic), it’s pretty close!

Many Canadian snowbirds winter in Arizona. Pictured above is Canyon Vista RV Resort in Gold Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The world has changed tremendously since our last winter in the U.S. Sunbelt which seems like so long ago. If you had told me that the land border to the United States would be closed for not just one winter but for two, I would have told you that was a bad joke. As it turns out…NOT!

Fully vaccinated U.S. citizens have been able to travel to Canada for non-essential purposes for more than a month now. But the American side of the border remains closed to Canadians wanting to enter the U.S.

Though the closure has been ongoing for 18 months—since March 2020—the ban doesn’t apply to air travel. Absolute frustration is what it is. The biggest problem for snowbirds is why are you allowed to fly with 300 other people in a plane but you can’t drive in your own vehicle?

Many Canadian snowbirds winter on the Arizona side of the Colorado River. Pictured above is Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bull Head City © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

News of the land border restrictions for Canadians being extended came on the same day that the White House announced its plans to begin opening air travel for all vaccinated foreign nationals in early November. Since more than one million Canadians make the trek down south every year and 70 percent of snowbirds travel to the U.S. with their vehicles, the majority of Canadian Snowbirds are impacted. For some reason, Canadians with an RV are in a different situation; they usually spend about $20,000 when they winter in the U.S.

Many Canadian snowbirds winter in the Coachella Valley (California). Pictured above is Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA in Desert Hot Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But it still isn’t clear if, or when, Canadian citizens will be allowed to travel across the border. The prohibition on non-essential travel from Canada has been extended until at least October 21. The bottom line is those who want to leave prior to this day are not going anywhere and they must wait for another 30 days and see what happens then. Snowbirds had held off booking winter reservations in Canada (mostly the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, the Okanagan, and Vancouver Island) in hopes that the U.S. would finally ease border restrictions that have been in place since the start of COVID-19 in March 2020. But with the White House announcing that restrictions at the land border on non-essential travel by Canadians will be extended another month, snowbirds are concerned that it will not open in time to drive south.

Many Canadian snowbirds winter along the Texas Coastal Bend. Pictured above is Sea Breeze RV Resort in Portland (near Corpus Christi) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Waiting another month or two to see whether the land border will open means dealing with winter driving conditions, or at worst, spending winter on the frigid prairies or snow-bound Ontario.

My confusion, and that of most other snowbirds, is trying to understand why I can fly, but not drive. And that is still my frustration! Driving seems to be much safer than going in and out of busy airports.

I’ll soon be basking in the sunshine (not likely) as we prep ourselves for a second winter in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. We’ll spend the winter in a campground at Fort Langley, less than 50 miles east of Vancouver.

Many Canadian snowbirds winter in the Rio Grande Valley. Pictured above is Bentsen Palm Village in Mission © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Camping has been running a winter program for a decade but last winter they had a bunch of new people come from the Prairies and as far east as Ontario and Quebec who would normally drive their RV to the U.S. Sunbelt.

The Lower Mainland of British Columbia may not be the best place for old people. For weeks on end, it was cloudy and rained incessantly. Decades ago research in Holland found a strong relationship between hours of sunlight in winter and the mortality rate among seniors: The more sunlight, the lower the death rate, and vice versa.

Fort Camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But it has two meritorious features: The campground sits on an island in the Fraser River with numerous walking paths and hiking trails both inside the campground and on the outer reaches of the island on the Tavistock Trail. And the campground is within easy walking distance of the Village (Fort Langley) with its unique shops, boutiques, and sidewalk cafes. I welcome the variety of choices.

Fort Camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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…”

Discover Over 500 Bird Species in South Texas

There is this place that is for the birds and is all about the birds, where you will find some of the best birding while RVing

Good morning. It’s Saturday and you deserve some good news, so we’re pleased to inform you that a Laysan albatross named Wisdom has successively hatched yet another chick at Midway Atoll in the Hawaiian archipelago. Discovered by biologists in 1956, Wisdom is at least 70 years old making her the world’s oldest known wild bird. She still flies as many as 1,000 miles in a single foraging expedition.

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

Wisdom’s latest chick successfully hatched in February, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s office in the Pacific Islands. Wisdom laid her egg sometime during the last few days of November according to the wildlife agency. Soon after, Wisdom returned to sea to forage and her mate Akeakamai took over incubation duties. The pair have been hatching and raising chicks together since at least 2012, the wildlife agency said.

Great kiskadee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the past decade, Wisdom has been astounding researchers and winning fans with her longevity and devotion to raising her young. She has flown millions of miles in her life but returns to her same nest every year on Midway Atoll, the world’s largest colony of albatrosses. To feed her hatchlings, Wisdom and her mate take turns flying as much as 1,000 miles on a single outing spending days foraging for food along the ocean’s surface.

Ladder-backed wooepecker © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Every year, millions of albatrosses which normally have only one mate in their life, all come home to Midway around October. If all goes well couples reunite and then team up to incubate a single egg and feed their new chick. Midway’s two flat islands act as giant landing strips for albatrosses and millions of other seabirds which rely on the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge to raise their young. This year’s albatross chicks will make their first flights in early summer.

Altamira oriole © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the past, biologists have said Wisdom possesses a unique set of skills that have let her have a long and productive life soaring over the Pacific Ocean. When she was first banded, Dwight Eisenhower was in the middle of his two-term presidency.

Her advice to the younger generation? Think before you tweet.

Yellow warbler © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not fitting the stereotype of the avid birdwatcher that travels to the most exotic corners of the globe, many RVers simply want to be where the birds are. Not wearing the latest outdoor gear, carrying the biggest scopes, peering through the most expensive binoculars, and checking another bird off the official life list, I carry my mid-priced super-zoom camera and take great pleasure in seeing the beautiful creatures that fill the air with music and the skies with color. That’s what draws me and many other snowbirds to South Texas.

Roseate spoonbills and ibis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located at the southern tip of Texas, the Rio Grande Valley hosts one of the most spectacular convergences of birds on earth. Well over 500 species have been spotted in this ecowonderland, including several that can be found only in this southernmost part of the U.S. Each year, birders come to The Valley to see bird species they can’t find anyplace else in the country—from the green jay, black-bellied whistling ducks (pictured above), and the buff-bellied hummingbird to the great kiskadee (pictured above), roseate spoonbill (pictured above), and the Altamira oriole (pictured above)

Cassin’s kingbird © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After all, The Valley offers not just one but a total of nine World Birding Centers and is located at the convergence of two major flyways, the Central and Mississippi.

Often referred to as The Texas Tropics, this area is very popular, too, with snowbirds from the Midwest and Central Canada. However, these winter tourists are not simply referred to as snowbirds but affectionately dubbed Winter Texans. After all, these birdwatchers and winter visitors are very important to the area’s economy, so they are, indeed, welcomed.

Rose-breasted grosbeak © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, just south of Mission, is not only Texas’ southernmost state park, but since October 2005, the headquarters of the World Birding Center. The 760-acre park draws visitors from as far away as Europe and Japan hoping to spot some of the more than 325 species of birds and over 250 species of butterflies, many of them from neighboring Mexico and Central America.

Plain chachalaca © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cars are not allowed in the park but a trolley makes regular pick-ups along the 7 mile paved loop allowing birders to hitch a ride from one feeding station to the next. It’s a quiet, beautiful, place and it is filled with birds. As the trolley rounds the bend into the park visitors are frequently greeted by a sizable flock of the loud and raucous plain chachalaca (see above), a brown, chicken-like species that’s found only in this part of the country.

To assist the casual birder Bentsen offers a series of bird blinds strategically placed near various feeding stations. The hut made of horizontally-placed wood slats is reached by a ramp so it is accessible to those with disabilities.

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

Inside the blind the wood slats can be folded down to form a platform for cameras so a tripod isn’t necessary to keep the camera steady. All you need to do is sit and watch the show as the birds keep coming to feed. We sat on a bench in the blind, peered through the opening and pressed the shutter repeatedly without disturbing the birds.

Yellow-breasted great kiskadees swooped down in front of us and drank from the small pool of water. This flycatcher has black and white stripes on its crown and sides, appears to be a kind of cross between a kingfisher and a meadowlark, and attracts attention by its incessant “kis-ka-dee” calls.

Green jay © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Green jays (pictured above) postured and fluttered at the feeders. This beautiful bird is, indeed, green-breasted (unlike our blue jay), with green wings, but there’s also some white, yellow, and blue plumage. This bird’s flashy coloring, boisterous nature, dry, throaty rattle, and frequent “cheh-chehcheh-cheh” call make it very easy to spot.

Golden-fronted woodpecker © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A golden-fronted woodpecker (see above) fed at the peanut butter log. Barred with black and white above and buff below, the male has red restricted to the cap; nape orange; forecrown yellow; the female lacks red but has an orange nape. Its voice is a loud churrrr; the call a burry chuck-chuck-chuck.

Another World Birding Center located in McAllen, is at Quinta Mazatlan, a historic 1930s Spanish Revival adobe hacienda that’s surrounded by 15 acres of lush tropical landscape and several birding trails.

Pauraque © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Estero Llano Grande in Weslaco attracts a spectacular array of South Texas wildlife with its varied landscape of shallow lakes, woodlands, and thorn forest. Commonly seen species include the great kiskadee, Altamira oriole, green jay, groove-billed ani, tropical parula, common pauraques (pictured above), green kingfishers, grebes, black-bellied whistling ducks, and an assortment of wading birds like the great blue heron, and roseate spoonbill.

The warm winter climate and the awesome bird watching attract Winter Texans to The Valley and keep them returning year after year. We’ll be back, Hope to see you there.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Winter Texan is Better Than No Texan

Canadian Snowbirds Change Migration Patterns

Pandemic changes migration patterns of Canadians who head south for the sun

Canadians who travel south have changed their migration pattern dramatically this winter. In a normal year, more than one million Canadians head south to the U.S. Sunbelt states. The COVID-19 pandemic has clipped their wings and forced most to stay in Canada this winter.

Penticton and Skaha Lake in the South Okanagan © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of those who are traveling, most are driving west to RV parks and campgrounds in British Columbia—the South Okanagan, Lower Mainland, and Vancouver Island. There is no place in Canada from the East Coast all the way to this area that doesn’t have winter. So, there’s no escape until you come here. These three regions in British Columbia appear to be the perfect destinations for snowbirds who want to forget about the snow and the worst of the freezing cold.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

British Columbia is the place to be in Canada during the winter. Whether snowbirds look at minimum and maximum temperatures or number of snow days these three areas are the best option. Plus, with fewer than five days with snowfall, whichever BC region that snowbirds choose will allow them to escape the worst of the weather conditions they dread the most: snow, wind, and frigid winter days.

Fortunately, Canadian snowbirds can still make the most of a bad situation. Although replicating the conditions of a Texan winter in Canada is not possible, spending the tougher months in balmier climate within the country’s borders is for many.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the Canadian Camping and RV Council at least 50,000 full-time users of recreational vehicles who usually spend their winters in the US Sunbelt had to find a site north of the border. Thousands of those snowbirds have converged on southern BC, packing full-service campgrounds to wait out the winter, say tourism and lodging groups in the province.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the B.C. Lodging and Campgrounds Association, about 100 private-sector campgrounds are open year-round most of them in southern BC. Full-time RVers have been wintering here for years. The difference this year is snowbirds have nowhere else to go. By mid-July, numerous RV parks reported 100 people on their winter wait-list. They’re from everywhere in the country that’s cold.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On a small island in British Columbia’s Fraser River is a campground packed with Canadian snowbirds who found refuge when the border with the United States was shut. Unlike other years, all 118 full-service sites at Fort Camping in Langley are occupied.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It started in March, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Canadians around the world to come home. Taking no chance on the border reopening, many booked Fort Camping for the winter. They sensed that they would to be in deep trouble come winter with the border closed and nowhere to go. At Fort Camping most have satellite TV and whatever they need nearby and numerous walking paths and hiking trails. They have wonderful internet service here.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Canadian Snowbird Association says Florida is the most popular winter destination for Canadians who routinely head south for the season with around half a million of them visiting the state in a normal year. They estimate around 3.5 million Canadians including non-snowbirds visit the state each year and spend around $6.5 billion. The second most popular destination is Arizona. According to the Arizona Office of Tourism, around 964,000 Canadian visitors were responsible for $1 billion of the $26.5 billion in tourism spending last year. This past September, visitors spent $752 million overall, but that’s down 60 percent from the $1.9 billion expected in a normal year.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It was prime parka weather in northern Alberta on Friday morning—a crisp -35 Celsius (-17 Fahrenheit) degrees which reminded me that I had planned to spend time in southern Arizona this winter. I could start my day with a hike at Catalina State Park, revel in the dry heat, and hang out with all my cacti friends. 

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is the first winter in 20+ years that we haven’t driven our RV to the US Sunbelt—California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. But not this year! It’s a lifestyle as opposed to vacationing for two weeks. If you told me a year ago that I would spend the winter of 2020-21 in the Great White North, I’d surely wonder which one of us was crazier.

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I look at the positives—it could be a lot worse. We’ve got a nice warm home-on-wheels, we’ve got pleasant neighbors, we’re in a beautiful area of the country, and spring comes early. Would I like to be down south, oh you bet!

And, while these alternative destinations within the country’s borders might not be as sunny as their usual winter destinations, these regions in British Columbia could be the ideal solution for snowbirds in a less-than-ideal year.

On a hopeful note, the one-year absence has not diminished Canadian snowbirds’ enthusiasm for their winter homes. We’ll be back next winter. I certainly hope so!

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Together again someday

“We’ll Meet Again” was a popular song—and saying—during World War II among Americans and Canadians alike. Then, both countries were united against one enemy, just like during this pandemic. So expect friendly border crossings again. The border will open…

Just pack your toque—that’s Canuck for beanie—eh?

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…”

Parks That Snowbirds Should Explore This Winter

The best parks for snowbirds to explore this winter

While the most familiar of America’s parks are the national parks and state parks, America’s parks operate under a variety of names including county parks, regional parks, metro parks, natural areas, national forests, national grasslands, national wildlife refuges, landmarks, monuments, historic sites, geologic sites, recreation trails, memorial sites, preserves, scenic rivers, and wildlife areas.

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

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

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro National Park in Arizona

The giant Saguaro cactus is the most distinct feature is this park that straddles the city of Tucson. The park, created to preserve the cacti, boasts some great hikes. Driving Saguaro will take you through a Western landscape that’s unmistakably Arizona.

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.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree National Park in California

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.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congaree National Park in South Carolina

Preserving the largest tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the U.S., 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.

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.

Catalina State Park in Arizona

Catalina State Park, one of the many gems in the Arizona State Park system, offers beautiful vistas of the Sonoran Desert and the Santa Catalina Mountains with riparian canyons, lush washes, and dense cactus forests. The environment at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains offers great camping, hiking, picnicking, and bird watching—more than 150 species of birds call the park home.

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf State Park in Alabama

Gulf State Park’s two miles of beaches greet you with plenty of white sun-kissed sand, surging surf, seagulls and sea shells, but there is more than sand and surf to sink your toes into. Visits here can be as active or as relaxing as you like. Try exhilarating water sports, go fishing, learn about coastal creatures at the nature center or simply sprawl out on the sands.

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

Anza-Borrego State Park in California

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

Usery Mountain, a Maricopa County Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Maricopa County Parks in Arizona

Maricopa County Parks offer hiking and biking trails, picnicking and camping, educational programs and guided hikes. Some parks also offer horseback riding, golf, boating, fishing, and archery. There are 11 parks in Maricopa County, which ring around the Phoenix metro area. 

Worth Pondering…

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

—Rachel Carson