On the Lower Colorado River

Back to the Colorado!

buckskin Mountain

state Park, Arizona

Whatever floats yer boat, we say! And good luck to ya!

We have been looking forward to this trip for some time…

a return to the Lower Colorado River and Buckskin Mt. State Park, and possibly a visit to Cattail Cove State Park about 10 miles further north on the River.  We have made this trip two times earlier with our previous motor home…after Christmas through New Year’s in 2004, and again after Christmas through New Year’s in 2005…but in 2006, were unable to make our traditional New Year’s trip because we were dealing with a doggie issue that unfortunately kept us from going camping at all for several months.

So in 2007 we were really looking forward to making the trip again…and the first time with the Airstream!  Buckskin Mt. State Park is one of only two Arizona state parks that make reservations, and only 15 sites are reserveable…so we made our reservations in August. (The other park with reservations is Roper Lake State Park near       Safford, AZ.)

We took off on Thursday, 27 December 07, getting out the drive way about 10 am. We were all excited—us and the Girls, Annie and Sadie. We took I-10 northwest toward Phoenix from Tucson to the junction with I-8 near Casa Grande, heading west to Gila Bend on I-8 (which goes to Yuma and San Diego).  At Gila Bend we took highway 85 north to Buckeye, AZ, and a bit further north to pick up I-10 again to head west. Highway 85 is a well-traveled route used frequently by folks headed toward LA from SoAZ who want to bypass the fray of Phoenix traffic. That group includes us. Once on I-10 we headed west to Quartzsite, a sort of “Mecca” for a large segment of the RV community. For us, Quartzsite is a very otherworldly place and we find it an odd sort of phenomenon. It’s strange for us to see half-million dollar rigs parked in the middle of nowhere in every direction from Quartzsite...out in the middle of the raw desert...and not a particularly pretty desert. We just don’t get it. It might be interesting to look through the booths and all at the swap meets and mineral shows in Quartzsite…and there are undoubtedly some interesting folks there, but we don’t

                               quite understand the almost hypnotic, magnetic draw

                                   Quartzsite has for so many RVers. Perhaps it’s the

                                   availability of low-or-no-cost camping and a sense a

                                  “roughing” it by boondocking with virtually no services …

                                    to others it may be the lure of swap meets and booths. We

                                   can go to swap meets at home … and there are certainly more interesting places to boondock. But to each their own… if it blows yer skirt, then by all means, go for it! Each time we go through Quartzsite we are amazed by it...that in itself is worth the trip. And one thing is for sure...it has to be the sinlge largest accumulation of RVs of all types and sizes in the world...you can even buy your RV there, as several major RV dealers have set up shop there.  It’s sort of a self-perpetuating community in that sense.  Didn’t see any Airstream dealers, though.

The trip to Quartzsite was fun, too. We were tickled to spot several Airstreams by the time we got there (a favorite pastime of any self-respecting Airsteamer). We saw our first one as we left Tucson going west on I-10, and between Gila Bend and Buckeye we saw 2 Airstream motor homes going the opposite direction…both flashed their lights and waved at us…as we waved back.  (We wondered if they were headed down to Picacho Peak State Park for the WBCCI  Four Corners Unit New Year’s Rally.) Then on I-10 we saw another one going east…and of course in and around Quartzsite we saw several either parked in RV places or alongside the road in the empty countryside with not even a road....yet still gleaming proudly in the winter sun.

Parker, AZ is about 35 miles north of Quartzsite on highway 95…and sits at the border of Arizona and California…Turn right at the light at the main intersection  in Parker and you are still on highway 95 headed north toward Buckskin Mountain State Park. Highway 95 winds along the Colorado River and is lined with vacation homes along the River and on the bluffs facing the River…anywhere where it’s possible to get near the water or even see it, there are either RV places or vacation homes stacked up against each other…  Just north of Parker is the Blue Water Resort and Casino. “The Gem of the Colorado… Right on the River! Right on the Money!”  You can park your RV in the parking lot and avail yourself of the casino, restaurants and shows. As is the case with   

all Arizona casinos, the Blue Water is operated by Native American Tribes, in this case a group called the Colorado River Indian Tribes I believe. 

The trip north on highway 95 is interesting. It’s a well-maintained highway with scenic views of both the surrounding mountains and the River in all it’s blue-green glory. The Colorado River really is a beautiful sight that one doesn’t quite expect in the middle of the otherwise arid desert geology.  It forms a desert oasis of green in the form of tall palm trees, resort homes and rugged desert all woven together.  But step back a mile from the River and you’re in the desert again.  From the Arizona side, one has views of the extremely rugged and foreboding mountain ranges across the River on the California side, with a narrow ribbon of green along the River, spotted with RV resorts and river-water recreation destinations. 

                             About 7 miles north of the Blue Water Casino is Buckskin Mt.

                                 State Park looking like one of the many RV resorts that dot   

                                the banks of the River in this area. Take a left off the

                                 highway and then about half a mile of winding roads

                                down to the River and you are at the entrance/ranger station of Buckskin Mt. State Park. The park is situation between steep rugged hills and a bend in the River. This is a favorite destination for winter visitors…with both pull-through and back–in sites, some having full hookups, and the rest with water and electricity. There is also a large ramada facing the River with 110 electricity. The long ramada is segmented into individual ramada spaces and sits just above the swimming beach. Near the ranger station is a nicely landscaped garden with signs naming the vegetation specimens, and a small visitor center with various scheduled activities for to enjoy along with information about the area. There is a large grassy area along the River, with a store, gas station, propane tank and restaurant.  Unfortunately for all our visits so far, the store and restaurant close down about 1 December through the winter and re-open later in the spring. There is also a boat ramp and a dump station. This area of the Colorado is very popular for boating, skiing and fishing.  Even in the winter there were speed boats on the River periodically. Across the River from the park are two private RV parks… Don’t expect to chat much on your cell phone at Buckskin…there is no TV reception (unless you have satellite…and then you have to be careful where your site is), no cell reception and no AM/FM radio reception. It’s necessary to drive about 4 miles to get a good connection. So take a good book, music and DVDs to help with the entertainment end of things. Oh…the ranger said if you stand on top of a post near the middle of the parking lot and raise your arm as high as you can, you might get a cell signal…and that’s probably only on Tuesdays during a full moon.

We got to Buckskin about 4 pm…just before the ranger station closed for the day. This was a Thursday, so it wasn’t yet packed for the weekend, but it was still a good idea to make a reservation, especially if you want a particular location. We reserved a small site at the far end of the park near the bathroom and showers in an area where large rigs don’t frequent because it’s a dead end with a short turn-around space…the loop is named “Ranger Way” because it’s on the road that goes to the ranger’s quarters around a bend and behind a hill. The electric and water sites in this loop are small, fairly private, and sit against a steep hill.

The first order of business was taking the Girls for a walk, of

course…they had had a long ride and there were quite ready to

stretch their legs and “water lilies.” Once that routine was

accomplished could set up camp and settled in for the evening. 

It was a little chilly and windy that first night…in fact, it blew our chairs over and rolled up our outdoor carpet the first night…

Weather for our stay was wintery…sometimes overcast and a little breezy, but other days the sun shined through…good jacket weather during the days with fairly brisk evenings.  We had made reservations for 4 nights…through New Year’s Eve day, thinking we might move up to Cattail Cove State Park, but when we drove by Cattail Cove on one of our day trips, it was pretty full, so we decided it may be better to stay put. We had talked about using the tail end of this trip to hop over to Joshua Tree National Park in CA…across the River and about 80 miles west and explore that before picking up I-10 at the southern end of the Park and heading home. But then we decided it might be a little chilly…and since there are no hookups in Joshua Tree camp grounds, we decided to save that for a later trip when it was perhaps a bit warmer (but not in the heat of summer).  The decision to stay put was a good one—we enjoyed walking along the River with the Girls and there were some hiking trails and day trips we wanted to take.

One disappointing thing for Terry (besides ground camp fires not being allowed) was that we did not have cell reception at Buckskin, not that we had to talk to

               anyone urgently…but this was our first trip with our new Alltel air card

                 so we could have an internet connection. And when you can’t get cell

                 reception, you can’t get an air card connection to Alltel’s broadband

                network either. We had to drive about 4 miles up the road  to check emails. Since we were going to be gone for 12 days, it was important to be available to clients at least occasionally. So we’d make the drive each day, or into Parker to look around and get on the internet to check on life back home. Actually, a few unforeseen situations developed for a couple of clients that Terry was able to deal with on this trip remotely…he was thrilled…even though it meant that he had to drive a few miles to do it. Greg was more than patient when he needed to “take care of business” and Terry’s clients were more than thankful. Winners all around...despite the bad reception!  Bear this in mind if you visit this park...we really felt isolated from what was going on in the world...but then sometimes that’s a good thing.

One day when we came back to the camp ground from an outing we were greeted by white smoke, fire trucks and a lot of people standing around the park near the shoreline. Across the River, there was a fire…the fire truck on the AZ side of the River was there in case sparks should reach our side… Apparently a fire broke out in the end unit of a 4-unit park model right on the River…as the fire spread there were 4 big explosions as the propane tanks exploded. It probably took the fire department some time to get there as they would have had to come from Parker up the CA side of the River…so by the time they got there it was a full-blown inferno…the next day all that was left were the charred ruins of the units and a badly scorched tree…

We made several nice day trips…the longest took us to Lake Havasu City about 30 miles north, above Parker Dam which creates Lake Havasu with its overflow being the lower Colorado River. We wanted to see what it was like, check out the London Bridge like dutiful tourists, and also check out Lake Havasu State Park, which is currently closed to overnight camping because they are renovating it. We finally found the park after a few missed turns and a trip to the northern edge of town. We drove through the renovation area to see what they were doing…the ranger let us in without paying to do that…it’s going to be a pretty nice park, right on the Lake remarkably near the main drag of town…with sites that are tucked into nooks of low vegetation along a meandering road. Not sure what kind of a camping experience it will be (currently there are no electric hookups). This area is big into boating and skiing, and since we do neither, it might not be our cup of tea. We’ll have to check in later on that one…maybe   next year!

We did go to see the London Bridge that was dismantled and

brought across the Big Pond and reassembled here. The focus of

local tourism is the Bridge, of course, which connects the

“mainland” to the “island.” You can drive or walk over the

Bridge…and there are a couple of huge hotels which look quite

Tutor-ish in architecture. There is a very nice park along the

island side near the Bridge…there’s a nice wide concrete walkway spotted with street lights and benches along the bank…and places to tie your speedboat along the sandy shores…there’s even a grassy dog park. The Girls enjoyed the smells and pats from strangers, as always…and were very excited when we walked them. There is something very odd about having the actual London Bridge plopped down in the desert of western US and made into a tourist destination…in a place that has very little, if anything, to do with England….other than the Bridge, of course...by Jove!

Enough of the Bridge. We hopped back into the truck and headed south again…we thought Lake Havasu City was strange…being out in the middle of the desert for no apparent reason other than being a place to take a boat and have a marine experience in the desert….with a foreign bridge of all things! Apparently lots of folks think it’s the place to go…there are huge homes along the main drag (everything is built to look toward the Lake). We picked up a real estate rag along the way…the prices are sky high…houses in the $300,000-$400,000 range and up, with condos nearly as high. We thought that if we were going to spend that much money on a vacation home it would be somewhere else. But that’s just us.  One highlight…we saw another Airstream on our way up to Lake Havasu City behind us…then we saw the same AS again stopped somewhere in town…then saw them a 3rd time heading north out of Lake Havasu City.  We weren’t towing ours, of course, so they probably wondered why we were waving, if they even noticed.

On our way back down toward Buckskin, we stopped at a view point to look over the Bill Williams River, which feeds into Lake Havasu just above Parker Dam...it comes from Alamo Lake almost directly east of Parker Dam...  (There is another state park there, by the way, Alamo Lake State Park...kinda off the beaten path...we camped there one night on the way home from our last trip up to the lower Colorado. The Bill Williams River is mostly a cattail marsh as it meets the lake, and is part of the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge. We didn’t see any wildlife from the view point by the highway, but it sure was pretty with the rusty red cattail rushes framed by the distant mountains.

We went to see Parker Dam which was built between 1934 and 1938 by the Bureau of Reclamation, and which is worth driving across just to say you did.  It’s dam interesting!  But beware...they don’t let RVs or trucks drive over it at all since 9/11…so don’t even try…there are cement barriers that create a very narrow passage to go across the dam…we could barely get our truck through it…if you had a dually, you would not make it through the barriers. There is an armed guard to make sure no one tries, too…  It is also closed to traffic at night.  If you didn’t have a specific reason to cross the dam, there’s really nothing on the other side but a winding road that connects all the RV places and a few camp grounds together along the CA side of the River, and finally connects with the main road 40-some miles south…the road that crosses back over to Parker on a great old bridge or goes west toward Joshua Tree National Park.

Parker is a cross-roads town… coming from CA, a town to cross the River and go to the casino or Lake Havasu City, Quartzsite, Phoenix or Prescott, AZ. Or from AZ to go to the north side of Joshua Tree National Park… There are 3 gas stations we saw, all busy with lines of trucks and RVs and attendants dedicated to making sure the propane flowed constantly…this is a huge RVing and boating area. There’s a great little jerky shop sitting on a lot on the main drag that has any flavor and variety of jerky one could imagine (good, too…try the “Cowboy,” “Regular,” and Cowboy Pepper”) and a number of other temptations…and there’s a wonderful RV supply place about 2 blocks of the main street called “Spanky’s RV Supply” that was named after the dog who wondered in and took up residency...but who has since passed away.  Spanky’s picture hangs lovingly inside to pay homage to him. There’s also a sign at the counter that says “No Sniveling” to set the tone of customer service for the store. Very nice people, too…the kind of store you just want to go in and look around because you know there will de something you need. And there was! Terry told the clerk that this was the most excited he had been about a store since he discovered Camping World. We’ll go back the next time we’re there just to check it out again.  Pulling a trailer? Don’t worry…there’s a big open dirt parking lot next to the store just for you.

So between the Girls and walks and side trips to Parker and other places of interest, we were kept pretty busy… When Terry went to pay for more nights, which would be New Year’s Eve and beyond, he learned that if we had reserved for 5 nights we would have gotten their winter season “deal” of 7 nights for the price of 5.  But when we made our reservations, the person taking the reservations didn’t tell us that or we would have made a 7-nights-for-5 reservation. So he politely pointed that out and petitioned (read “whined appropriately”) for them to let us pay for the 5th night then and take advantage of the special offer (which ended 31 Dec). At first they sad they couldn’t do that, but when the big boss reviewed the situation (from his office...we never saw him), they decided to let us take advantage of their special offer.  So that put us there for 7 nights, through Wednesday night, leaving on Thursday, 3 January. Great deal!

The only problem with staying in one place for 7 days and not having sewer hookups is the possibility of having to move the trailer to dump the holding tanks. No one wants to have to move their trailer just to dump tanks! But we want you to know that we went the whole 7 nights without having to dump the tanks!  We were so impressed with ourselves…move over, boondockers!

So on Thursday, 3 January, we broke camp, dumped our tanks and moved to the recently renovated section of Buckskin Mt. State Park called the “River Island Unit”… It’s a mile north of the main campground…and no, it’s not on an island…there’s a sand bar in the River…guess that’s the “Island” part of “River Island Unit.” This camp ground is much smaller than the main one. It’s much more intimate too, with fewer people…nicely laid out and very tidy…with some new trees and manicured sites.  We stayed there two pleasant nights and days and decided to head south on Saturday to get out off the River and closer to home before a storm rumored to be heading our way hit…we decided to stay a couple of nights at Picacho Peak State Park just to get a few more days on the trip and to “regroup” before we headed into the final stretch home.

Picacho was nice…the rain coming at us from CA caught up with us our first night there…pretty rainy night and the next morning it was foggy and drizzly…  so we spent a nice day mostly inside with DVDs and TV…and a great internet connection with the Alltel air card… There was much internet and email activity that day, as Terry completed a client project that had a deadline the next week, and which he had not even planned on beginning until we got home…proving to Terry (and clients) that he could, in fact, function work-wise, while enjoying the Airstream and camping.

We broke camp at Picacho Peak on 7 January and headed home to Tucson…  It was   a wonderful trip with good times and experiences to remember…  This was a record setter for Airstream sightings...we saw 23 all together, including a vintage Land Yacht in the park from Canada, and then there was a 17’ Safari Sport that stayed 2 nights...Terry talked to the owner of the Land Yacht, but he was pretty involved in polishing and didn’t stop to chat.  His wife never even came out the door.  The owners of the Sport were never there and then one morning they were gone...they were from California...  That’s the most Airstreams we’ve seen on a single trip...ever!

This was the first longer trip we’d made with the PressurePro Tire Pressure System in place, too...and it worked great...so much more enjoyable traveling when you can monitor air pressure while in motion...takes a lot of worry of it for us... email us if you want more information about PressurePros...

Click on the slide show button below for pictures...and you can click on “Other Trips” at the end to return to the Trip Page...  Ease on down the road!


Almost there!
The first order 
of business: 
water the 
Major bummer.
“London Bridge is falling down, falling...”  Wait! It’s in Lake Havasu City now!