Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lake Havasu City steps up to plate to keep park open

One of Arizona's most visited state parks, Lake Havasu's Windsor Beach, is on the state's budgetary chopping block. When state officials threatened to close down the park for lack of funding, 'City Fathers' have stepped into the gap.

Charlie Cassens, Lake Havasu City's interim city manager is quoted in the Arizona Republic, "We're ready to do whatever's necessary to keep Lake Havasu State Park open for our residents and our visitors," he said. "That is a vital and integral part of this community's economy." State officials will meet this Thursday to deliberate whether or not to turn control of the popular park over to the city. With nearly 250,000 visitors a year, a closure would certainly mean a hit on tourism revenues.

Other Arizona municipalities have already been helping out the state, some contributing funds to assist with park operating costs, others loaning equipment or working to organize volunteer labor pools for park maintenance.

photo courtesy Arizona State Parks

Monday, December 28, 2009

Rim Country Parks & Rec announces new programs

The Rim Country along the Mogollon Rim along with Arizona Game & Fish announced new classes for 2010 to be held in the Payson Parks & Rec office at: 1000 W. Country Club Drive, Payson.

WATERFOWL 101 with the Arizona Game and Fish department

Join us for this unique seminar provided by the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Migratory Game Bird Supervisor Mike Rabe on waterfowl natural history and identification. The class will include a slideshow and presentation, followed by identification of waterfowl in Green Valley Park. Participants should bring binoculars if they have them, but extras will be available. Space is limited, so register today!

Dates: Tuesday, January 19 – 3:45-4:45PM

Fee: $5

WILDERNESS FIRST AID certification course

Register with the Payson Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department for the American Red Cross Wilderness First Aid Certification course, held Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 6 and 7 from 9 a.m.-6 p.m.. Course participants will learn skills needed to survive in emergency medical situations in the wilderness and obtain a three-year Wilderness First Aid certification upon successful course completion. Register online:, or at the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Office: 1000 W. Country Club Drive, Payson, AZ 85541. Please contact the Parks & Recreation office at 928-474-5242 x 7 for more information.

WATCHABLE WILDLIFE 101 – Wildlife viewing basics

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to learn where and when to look for wildlife, as well as steps for successful wildlife viewing in the Rim Country from Joe Yarchin, Arizona Game and Fish Urban and Watchable Wildlife Program Manager. Topics to be covered include how to view wildlife responsibly to minimize impact on the animals, the habitat, and other nature enthusiasts.

Date: Wednesday, February 18

Time: 6-7 p.m.

Location: Parks and Recreation Office – 1000 W. Country Club Drive

Fee: $5

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Arizona State Parks to close if governor signs bill

A bill passed this week by the Arizona legislature will lead ultimately to the closure of all state parks, according to the Arizona State Parks Foundation, including those along the Colorado River such as Buckskin Mountain, River Island, Cattail Cove and Lake Havasu State Park - Windsor Beach.

The bill cuts more than $9 million of Parks funds, leaving the agency with only about $10 million in its 2010 budget. That’s less than 30 percent of the agency’s normal funding and not enough to continue park operations beyond this fiscal year.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and the Arizona legislature are seeking $205 million in cuts to mitigate a deficit estimated to be $1.5 billion. The Foundation says the proposed cuts to State Parks would provide just 4 percent of their goal, while shutting down the Park’s annual contribution to the Arizona economy of more than $266 million (much of which is generated in busy parks like those in the Parker area).

The cuts will force major reductions in Parks staff and closure of more than half of the State’s 30 parks this fiscal year. The resulting loss of Park revenue is projected to leave the Parks System with no money to start the next fiscal year, July 1, 2010. The next step would be to shut down the entire system and dispose of Parks properties, returning most of them to their original owners.

The Foundation’s website now contains an “urgent call to action”, saying:

If legislatures could keep parks open to Arizonans through 50 years of prior downturns, wars, gas crises and political turmoil, surely current lawmakers can find the revenues to do so–-especially given the great economic value, popularity and intrinsic worth of our state parks.

If you or your children wish to ever visit such extraordinary places like Kartchner Caverns State Park, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, or Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, you must act today. It is our last hope.

According to the Foundation, the last hope for keeping State Parks open is a line-by-line veto by Governor Brewer of the Parks cuts in the bill. They are appealing to the Governor to do this and ask that the public do the same.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

Tucked away in a tiny valley surrounded by a forest of pine trees, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park has been in the making for thousands of years. It is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world, standing 183 feet high over a 400-foot long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point.

The discovery of the small and beautiful valley between Pine and Payson was documented in 1877 by David Gowan, a prospector who stumbled across the bridge as he was chased by Apaches. Gowan hid for two nights and three days in one of several caves that dot the inside of the bridge. On the third day, he left the cave to explore the tunnel and green valley surrounding it. Gowan then claimed squatter's rights.

In 1898 he persuaded his nephew, David Gowan Goodfellow, to bring his family over from Scotland and settle the land permanently. After a week of difficult travel from Flagstaff, the Goodfellows arrived at the edge of the mountain and lowered their possessions down the 500 foot slopes into the valley by ropes and burros.

Today, visitors can stand on top of the bridge or hike down below to capture the true size and beauty of this geologic wonder. There are no campground facilities in the park but it is surrounded by natural forest where you can boondock or head for a national forest campground on route 260 east of Payson or continue up to the Mogollon Rim.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Free RV camping near Lake Havasu City

With plenty of beautiful water for recreation and a warm winter climate, it's no wonder that Arizona's Lake Havasu City is so popular with the RV set. There are state parks and RV resorts a'plenty in the area--of course, all come with a price. If you're looking for a free place to park the rig, don't miss out on the Craggy Wash campground, just north the the city airport, courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management.

Craggy Wash is probably best described as that: Craggy. It's a rough and tumble environment, just perfect for a bit of four-wheeling, and plenty of area to boondock with your RV. If you're not familiar with the boondocking concept, it calls for self-containment. There are no hookups at Craggy Wash, no places to dump your garbage or your holding tanks. It's strictly a "come prepared," and "pack it in, pack it out" ethic at rule.

Some old timers lament that the BLM has changed the camping layout. Rather than finding a place to stay up close to Highway 95, you'll now have to drive back from the highway just about a mile before you shake off the "No Camping" signs that the agency recently posted. The first camp area is in a large flat, surrounded by rocky pinnacles, and inhabited by dozens of RVs of every shape and description. If having too much company, too close gives you claustrophobia, fear not. Just keep driving past the flat, and within a quarter to a half mile, the traffic drops off dramatically and you'll find plenty of little out-of-the-way places you can put in and find peace and quiet.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Good resource about Yuma RV parks

Yuma is a very popular winter destination for RVers. While the top part of the USA and much of Canada is chilly or downright cold, Yuma is generally warm and sunny. RV parks in Yuma fill up, so it's always best to make a reservation as soon as you know when you'll be there. He is a good web resource for locating and learning about RV parks in Yuma and the nearby area.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fees going up at Arizona State Parks

Fees will increase March 1, 2010 for accessing the 30 Arizona State Parks. The revised fee schedule keeps the Premium Annual Pass which allows full access on weekends at the river parks, but increases the fee from $125 to $200. The Standard Annual Entrance Pass which allows access to all the parks, but not weekends on the river, will increase from $50 to $75.

In addition there will be increases for 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 a complete listing of the fee changes and amenities at state parks, statewide hiking opportunities, off-highway vehicle trails, and other outdoor recreational and cultural opportunities in Arizona visit

Photo: Buckskin Mountain State Park

New site helps find Arizona RV parks and campgrounds

In a move to provide RVers with updated and more complete information, The Arizona Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds has expanded its website to provide added information on RV parks in the state. The revised site also will make it more accessible to smart phone users.

The original site had only a paragraph of description for each park, but now includes a full-page display for each park with photos, a search element to help find parks based on their proximity to cities, highways, and attractions.

The website is at

Friday, December 11, 2009

Record striper caught at Lake Pleasant

Put these three things together, pouring rain in the Arizona desert, alone on Lake Pleasant near Phoenix during the downpour, and fishing gear in your hands, and you too might have John Davis's mojo.

Arizona Game and Fish officials say Davis, a Phoenix angler, caught an inland state record striper at Lake Pleasant, 30 miles north of Phoenix. They say the striper Davis reeled in on Dec. 7 weighed 28.58 pounds and measured 45.7 inches.

Davis says he was fishing in torrential rain at the time and he was the only angler on the lake. Davis says he caught about 50 other stripers during his daylong fishing trip and released almost all of them.

Oh--and Lake Pleasant has a large campground that will fit even large rigs, including primitive to full hook-up sites. Get your fishing gear out and get moving.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tucson's white dove of the desert: Mission San Xavier del Bac

If you are a history buff you know that in the West, unlike along the eastern seaboard or New England, you don’t see many historic sites chronicling European exploration with dates in the early 1600s or early 1700s.
Father Kino, one of the first Spanish missionaries, visited the O’odham community of Wa:k (Bac), south of what is now Tucson, in 1692. Father Alonso Espinosa attempted building a rustic church in 1700 but it was 1756 before he began building the first church of any substance. Father Francisco Garces arrived in 1768 as its first minister.

The current structure, though added to and rebuilt over the years, was begun in 1776 and wasn’t completed until 1797. It is an outstanding example of Spanish baroque architecture, with elegant arches, domes, twin bell towers (one left unfinished), and inside a priceless collection of Mexican baroque art, frescoes, and wooden carvings.

An ongoing process of restoration begun in the early 1990s is returning some of the luster to the 200-year-old art. San Xavier’s dazzling white walls have given it the name “The White Dove of the Desert,” and it still serves the Tohono O’odham today with daily masses.

There is plenty of parking for large rigs. Photography is permitted when services are not in progress. Drive nine miles south of Tucson on I-19 and take exit 92. Turn west for one mile. The church is open daily 8AM to 6PM. Admission is free and donations are accepted.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bullhead City RV parks nearly booked for winter

Most RV parks in the Bullhead City, Ariz., area are already filled up for the winter according to a survey by the Mohave Daily News. “We're booked, especially after the first of the year,” Paddy Oliver of the El Rio Waterfront Resort told the newspaper. She said the average stay at her resort for winter visitors is about two months and is popular with Canadians.

“We've been full for about a month,” said Melanie Shetley, manager of the Mirage RV Resort. She said the average stay for snowbirds at her park is five months. Most other parks are already filled as well, some booked for as long as six months. Some parks report slight declines from last year.

But overall the picture is bright, according to Connie Fields, tourism specialist with the Bullhead Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center. “Since the beginning of October, they have been coming in. As soon as it starts to get freezing or snow they come,” she said.

Bullhead City is across the Colorado River from Laughlin, Nev., and its casino row alongside the river. Its mild winter temperatures make it a favorite destination for seasonal visitors in RVs.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Prescott's Sharlot Hall Museum illustrates AZ Territorial history

A few short blocks from the plaza in downtown Prescott, the Sharlot Hall Museum’s assemblage of historic buildings, permanent collections, and changing exhibits--the largest museum complex in central Arizona--illustrates the early Wild West days of Prescott and the Arizona Territory. The museum staff, actors, and volunteers present a variety of live programs such as festivals, theatre performances, and living history reenactments that depict the area’s rich regional heritage.

The Governor’s “Mansion,” which housed the first territorial governor, is no more than a rustic cabin, but a mansion by mid-1860’s standards compared to the tents, wagons, and crude cabins in which the rest of Prescott’s citizens lived. It was built on this site in 1864 from Ponderosa pine logs cut in the surrounding forest. Sharlot Hall moved into the mansion at 415 West Gurley Street in 1927 and opened it as a museum a year later.

Additional museum buildings include the Fremont House built in 1875, home of John Charles Fremont while he served as Arizona’s fifth Territorial Governor; the Victorian Bashford House; and Fort Misery built in 1863-64--the oldest standing log building in the Arizona Territory.

Scattered around the museum grounds you will find replicas of a typical ranch house and schoolhouse of the period, an authentic 1885 iron turbine windmill relocated from a local ranch, a vehicle collection featuring Sharlot Hall’s 1927 Star, and a variety of gardens including the Rose Garden with over 260 rose bushes honoring Arizona’s pioneer women.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New free Arizona fishing guide

Arizona Game and Fish has created a new attractive, high quality fishing guide book designed to make it easier to figure out where to fish, when to fish, how to fish, what to fish with, and much more. Major changes from the 2009 booklet include: a 2010 fish stocking calendar, all new lake and park maps, listings of family-friendly park amenities, and a fishing equipment checklist to help get you started. The 2010 Guidebooks will be available for free from Game and Fish Department offices, sporting goods stores, and retail license dealers by December 15.