Quartzsite, Arizona, a Sonora Desert community 18 miles east of the Colorado River, on I-10, is the RV Boondocking Capital of the World.
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.
As you approach Quartzsite from any point on the compass, you begin seeing them approximately 20 miles away from town: clumps, groups, and temporary communities of RVs circled around common campfire rings like wagon trains of old. Many solo units also are scattered among the sagebrush. In early morning and late afternoon you will see tall, straight fingers of campfire smoke pointing upward from these campsites.
Hundreds of thousands of RV owners, enthusiasts, and dreamers descend on the flat, rocky desert fields surrounding the town. Folks come from all over the US and Canada to behold the wonder that happens in Quartzsite every January and February. They come for the warm sunny weather, and great deals—what more can you ask for?
As you enjoy your time at Q, you can also prepare for your next boondocking trip by getting tips on techniques and hotspots from all the new friends you’ll make. Plus with so many RV experts around if something does go wrong, help is just a short walk away.
You can find everything from geodes to GPS devices, and frying pans to dream catchers. If you can’t find it at Quartzsite, it probably doesn’t exist!
The desert landscape is transformed into make-shift RV parks, little cities within a city. The streets have no name, but the purpose is the same—to boondock in the desert, rendezvous with old and new friends, visit the rock and gem shows and flea market vendors, participate in the Sell-A-Rama, wander the RV show under the Big Tent, and soak in the wonder of it all.
Quartzsite has become a mecca to visitors and exhibitors for rocks, gems, mineral specimens, and fossils during the town’s famous two-month-long gem and mineral show and flea market meet every January and February. From its humble beginnings the now-massive Quartzsite show has grown to epic proportions with vendors offering everything under the Quartzsite sun.
Be warned, though. Don’t come in the summer when nothing much happens. The gypsy-like encampment will have long disappeared. Vendors start packing up in mid-February and are long gone before the snowbirds migrate north and the intense desert heat becomes unbearable.
But come winter, everything changes as the small desert community bustles with activity. RVs by the tens of thousands camp helter-skelter on the BLM land.
Originally built by Charles Tyson, Quartzsite began in 1856 as Fort Tyson, then became a stagecoach stopover called Tyson Wells and this name still echoes in the annual Tyson Wells Rock and Gem show. A mini mining boom led to its renaming as Quartzsite.
What started as a small-town mineral show in the late 1960s in western Arizona has developed into a phenomenon that peaks in January by bringing more than 1 million people to the town of Quartzsite, where a huge RV show greets them.
The 2015 Quartzsite Sports, Vacation and RV Show will run January 17-25. In 32 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 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.
Add to that the Pow Wow rock and mineral show and the Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama and Quartzsite becomes the third-largest city in Arizona for a brief time.
If you’re an RVer, Quartzsite in January is on your bucket list.
Quartzsite is a phenomenon, a gathering place.
Let the shows begin!
I’ll see you at the Q!
Quartzsite = $400,000 diesel pusher motorhomes towing $40,000 SUVs looking for free camping.