Monday, November 30, 2009

AZ Game and Fish seeks public comment

The Arizona Game and Department will hold a series of public meetings and accept public comment as part of an effort to update and revise Arizona's State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP).

The plan outlines strategies and conservation actions aimed at promoting partnerships and coordinating efforts among all who hold a stake in conserving Arizona's wildlife. As such, the plan addresses the full array of wildlife and habitats but focuses on identifying and managing the “wildlife and biotic communities of greatest conservation need.”

A public meeting will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. Dec. 15, at the Arizona Game and Fish Department Kingman regional office, 5325 N. Stockton Hill Road where you can be heard.

For over a decade, a coalition of more than 3,000 conservation organizations known as “Teaming With Wildlife” has labored to keep species from becoming endangered by increasing state and federal funding for wildlife conservation.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Yuma is ground zero for great bird watching

The annual southern migration of RV snowbirds has begun. And one of the most popular destinations is Yuma, a warm wintertime hotspot at the southwest corner of Arizona.

For some of these human snowbirds, watching real birds is a popular pastime. And lucky for them, they are close to ground zero for some great viewing opportunities.

The Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, Kofa's Palm Canyon, Betty's Kitchen Wildlife and Interpretive Area, and Cibola National Wildlife Refuge offer diverse and picturesque terrain that attract more than 380 species of birds. Hundreds of species of birds winter in this region, while countless others make it their home year round. Egrets and herons are commonly seen, as are migrating shorebirds and waterfowl. For the more adventurous, a day of hiking in Palm Canyon can bring into view shrikes, three species of wrens, white-collared swifts performing their acrobatics in the narrow canyon, and high above, red-tail hawks or a golden eagle occasionally soar into view.

Cibola National Wildlife Refuge has established the Canada Goose Drive, a four-mile drive offering close views of wintering waterfowl, as well as great looks at sandhill cranes. Betty's Kitchen provides a site for easy viewing (especially migrating warblers) while taking a comfortable walk along a well maintained trail. The Imperial National Wildlife Refuge is an important wintering area to Canadian geese and many species of ducks.

Learn more about combining RVing with birdwatching.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Arizona's wooden 'bridges' spanned the sand

At the turn of the twentieth century, when auto travel was becoming the rage, Yuma, Ariz., was at a crossroads but with a big obstacle to the west: sand dunes -- vast sand dunes.

The Algodones Dunes stretch more than 40 miles. Throughout history, travel of any nature was severely inhibited by this great barrier. Explorers, wagon freighters and stagecoaches approaching and leaving Yuma Crossing avoided the dunes by traveling north or south. With the building of Yuma's Ocean to Ocean highway in 1915, a way had to be found for automobiles to cross the vast expanse of sand. A wooden plank road seemed the answer.

The first such road was constructed in 1915 and was rapidly replaced by a second one in 1916. The San Diego Chamber of Commerce, eager for the business the road could bring, donated 13,100 oak planks. The second road was built in eight-foot by twelve-foot sections and reinforced with strap iron along the edges and centers. The speed limit was 10 miles per hour.

It wasn't much of a road -- a 6.7 mile one-laner with pullouts for passing. During sandstorms, the road could become impassable, forcing motorists to wait. But sandstorm or not, it was always a rocky ride, earning the road the nickname "Old Shaky."

In 1925, traffic increased to 30 cars per day -- a problem; officials reacted by regulating the traffic: east-bound traffic would leave on even hours, westbound traffic on odd hours. But this wasn't enough: after 10 years of use, the road was falling apart and traffic jams were frequent and sometimes nasty when the right-of-way was disputed. On August 11, 1926, the opening of paved, two-lane California State Route 80 put an end to travel on the wooden plank road. Today, motorists speed across on Interstate 8.

A good place to see a piece of plank road is at Yuma Crossing State Park in Yuma, where a lone section of the old road has been preserved, complete with a 1909 Model T right on top.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Don't miss the beauty under Arizona

New (and some old) Arizona RV snowbirds often wonder: What's there to do in this big country? With cactuses and old mining sites abounding above ground, you may forget to look down -- not for rattlesnakes, but for caves. Just off south east Arizona's Interstate 10 you'll find some of the most spectacular underground scenery like you've never seen before at Karchner Caverns.

Back in the 1970s, two young cave explorers were poking around in a big sinkhole near Benson, Arizona. A blast of warm air emanating from a crack in the sinkhole led them into a huge limestone cavern filled with thrilling sights: Unusual limestone formations, apparently unseen by human eyes, perhaps forever. They held the cave a secret for many years, finally bringing the property owners in on their find. Eventually a deal was banged out with Arizona State Parks, who purchased the property, and carefully protected their new asset until they could be developed in a way that would safeguard the cavern's outstanding features.

These caverns are "living," in that the growth of limestone formations is still ongoing. The slow, steady drip of mineral bearing water over the centuries has slowly built up formations. And they are truly outstanding--you may have seen stalactites and stalagmites before, but have you ever seen a turnip shield? How about birdsnest needle quartz?

If you're in the area in the "off season" of June to early September, yuou can reap real tour bargains. The one and a half hour tour is well worth the regular admission price. Adding a big discount is just icing on the--cavern.

photos: Top by Mike Lewis under Creative Commons license--you are free to share and make derivative works of the file under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it only under a license identical to this one. Official license. Bottom: R&T DeMaris

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Where is this lighthouse?

Where was this photo taken? It's in Arizona, we'll tell you that much. But where? Along what body of water? Near what town? If you are the first to tell us, we'll send you a copy of the "The Greatest DVD on Quartzsite," a wonderful DVD available from

UPDATE: We have a winner, Robert Maurer, who noted that this lighthouse replica on the shore of Lake Havasu, just a few hundred yards from the town's famous London Bridge, is a replica of the East Quoddy Head in New Brunswick, Canada, as seen in the photo to the left.

Most of Arizona's highway rest areas now closed

RVers in Arizona or headed there may find their favorite highway rest areas closed. The Arizona Department of Transporation (ADOT) has temporarily suspended operations at 13 of its 18 highway rest areas.

Declining transportation revenues resulting from the weakened economy and the state budget shortfall have caused a reduction in ADOT's budget by nearly 25 percent this fiscal year. ADOT said that temporarily suspending operations at the 13 rest areas will allow it to reallocate funds to focus on roadways first. The status of the rest areas will be assessed in June.

Grand Canyon north rim to close Monday for winter

Arizona State Route 67, leading to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, will close for the season on Monday, November 30, 2009. According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, the road could be closed earlier if heavy snows occur in the area prior to the closure date.

Most facilities at the North Rim closed on October 15. However, scenic roadways and overlooks, as well as pay-at-the-pump fuel services, camping, backcountry permitting, and gift and bookstores have remained open in order to provide basic services until the road closes for the season.

State Route 67 and all services on the North Rim are expected to re-open for the 2010 season on May 15, 2010. Facilities on the South Rim and in the inner canyon remain open year-round.

Books and DVDs about the Grand Canyon at

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lots of space to camp "on the cheap" in Arizona

It's that time of year when tens of thousands of RVer begin to migrate to Arizona to escape chilly northern temperatures in favor of milder ones and sunshine in Arizona. Bookings at Arizona RV park and resorts are way up this year, so RVers who plan to arrive later should make their space reservations right away.

Lucky for RVers, though, there are millions of acres of public lands in the state, most administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Some RVers bypass conventional RV parks and campgrounds to boondock on these public lands for free or less than a dollar a day in Long Term Visitor Areas. Perhaps the most popular long term camping areas are on BLM lands near Quartzsite.

A good source of information about places where RVers can stay for free or less than $10 is at

Learn more about "Boondocking" in Arizona and the Southwest at

Photo: Boondocking on public lands near Quartsite, Arizona.

Get to ready to pay more at Arizona State Parks

You'll pay more to visit or camp at an Arizona State Park beginning March 1, 2010. A new fee schedule includes increasing the Premium Annual Pass which allows full access on weekends at the river parks from $125 to $200. The Standard Annual Entrance Pass which allows access to all the parks, but not weekends on the river, will rise from $50 to $75.

Day-use and camping fees at the state parks including an increase at Lake Havasu and Cattail Cove State Parks for day-use on weekends and state holidays from $10 to $15.

For more information about the amenities at the 30 State Parks, statewide hiking opportunities, off-highway vehicle trails, and other outdoor recreational and cultural opportunities in Arizona, visit

Photo: Buckskin Mountain State Park.

The very friendly fish at Arizona's Lake Mohave

A short drive from Oatman, Ariz., and Laughlin, Nevada is the Lake Mohave resort at Katherine Landing. It's an out-of-the-way place reached by paved road, popular with winter RV visitors plus boaters and anglers. It's also popular with huge schools of carp who beg for a handout at the marina near the RV park.

RV snowbird season looking good

Winter bookings at RV parks in metropolitan Phoenix are up after three years of decline, a sign it may be a good year for the industry that caters to winter visitors in recreational vehicles.

"Advance reservations are up" at about a dozen of the state's large RV parks and campgrounds, said Jeff Crider, an industry-association spokesman, "which highlights signs of a stronger snowbird season."

In Mesa, where there are more than 44,000 RV spaces, parks report that bookings are up and cancellations are down. "We are not only better than last year, but we're actually beating numbers from three years ago," said Cheri Dewarrat, manager of East Mesa ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort. "Last year, we had occupancy of about 85 percent. . . . Now, we're looking at 95 percent and maybe better."

Factors adding to the rebound include a stronger Canadian dollar and lower gas prices. Catering to RV snowbirds is a bread-and-butter business in Mesa, Apache Junction and Yuma, which also is looking at a good season. Yuma offers about 24,000 RV spaces and thousands of acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) range where RVers can park for free or about a dollar a day with a permit.