Wide open spaces of blow-torched desert surround Quartzite. What attracts snowbirds from BC and Alberta each year to this western Arizona town? Warm weather, wideopen spaces and cheap living are part of the answer. Or perhaps it's just the type of serenity that my wife and I experienced last January, sitting by a campfire in the desert, with gleaming desert stars overhead, and the spicy smell of hot dogs roasting over an open flame, listening to night vibrations and muted conversations drifting in the air while someone nearby plunks a guitar and softly sings a Hank Snow tune. Our RV was parked alongside others in the
no-fee area on the Bureau of Land Management
Land surrounding Quartzite where RVer's can
boondock for free on the desert, as long they
move every two weeks to a new free location
close by. Or, you can pay and camp for seven
months for less than a dollar a day.
In town, RV parks offer full hook-up sites for
$100 a month and up. Many retirees hole up until
it gets too hot, and then move on, to return in the
Quartzite is a town of 3,500 permanent residents, just 20 miles east of the Colorado River on I-10, a rock hound's paradise since the 1960's. These days, it is also a Mecca to well over a million visitors each year, most of who converge on this small town in a wave of RV's during the months of January and February.
They come for the giant, ongoing mineral shows, flea markets, and annual RV Show, but stay for the experience.
Miles from Alberta to Quartzite, Arizona: 1,850.
Miles from B.C. to Quartzite, Arizona: 1,500
Quartzite is famous for its mild winter
temperatures, giant gem and mineral show, and
"The Main Event" called the 24th Annual
Quartzite Sports Vacation & RV Show occurs
January 20th -28, 2007. The 10th Annual
Quartzite Hobby, Craft & Gem Show occurs
January 31st - February 3rd - February 4th and
the 9th Annual Quartzite Rock & Roll Classic Car Show occurs February 3rd - February 4th.
The Main Event includes Rocks/Gems/Arts/Crafts & Year Round Swap Meets/HOT Air Balloons/Ultra Light/Parachute/Bi-plane & Glider flights. City wide events start in October and end March 3-4th with the Mardi Gras Faire at Tyson Wells. In between there are continuous happenings ranging from a Poker Run (Summer Meltdown) and the Vienna Boys Choir. Gold Rush Days, and Rock & Roll Car Show to name a few. And that's just the organized events. Free
musical jams begin whenever two or more people
with instruments run into one another, and keep
this outpost hopping.
The music runs the gamut, from Bob Wills
and the Texas Playboys to Patsy Cline. There are
places you can go seven days a week to hear
music for free in Quartzite, like Mac McCartney
singing his own true country songs.
Quartzite has been evolving from a culture of
rock-hounds to one of recreational-enthusiasts. In
the 70's the goal was a rock-hunting vaction.
Driving pick-up campers and pulling trailers,
tourists would hunt for quartz in Palm Canyon, or
turquoise near the numerous copper and silver mines in the area. Today, their children drive $300,000 rigs and prefer swap meets and music jams to rock hunting.
In January and February, 2,000 vendors, many from Canada, come to show off their rocks, gems, minerals, fossils and everything else imaginable, creating one of the world's largest open-air flea markets. Eight major gem and mineral shows as well as vendors of raw and handcrafted merchandise peddle their wares to snowbirds, collectors and enthusiasts. A week is not enough to see
everything in the tacky and circus
like atmosphere of Quartzite. The
town is a virtual smorgasbord of
people, places, and things, which
excites all the senses.
Where I live in BC it's
perpetual green. Quartzite is a
direct contrast - perpetual brown;
though sounding ugly, it's a
delightful change of scenery. A
hundred steps out on the desert
and away from the campsites and
you experience the feeling of being
in a western movie set, and find
yourself looking around for horses
Quartzite has a classic 'low desert' climate; low relative humidity, and hot summer
temperatures. On the average, it receives less than four inches of precipitation a year. Shops,
stores, restaurants and homes are air-conditioned year round. This is what it's all about.
Sunshine, a flawless Arizona sky, and few responsibilities create a senior walk-on-the-wild side.
Average January High: 66 degrees
Average February High: 71 degrees
Average August High: 106 degrees
For more information, contact the Quartzite Chamber of Commerce at 495 Main Event Lane, Quartzite, Arizona 85346. Phone 928-927-5600.
Further contacts include Arizona State Parks: 602-542-4174 and Arizona National Forests: