Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

A Look Around the LTVA

A high wind in the late afternoon still brings a beautiful sky, in its own way.

A high wind in the late afternoon still brings a beautiful sky, in its own way.

I’ve been surprisingly busy ever since arriving here to the Imperial Dam LTVA. Much time was consumed scouting for grocery stores that carry what I need, because Yuma is actually huge in layout. I’ve been ordering items online that are not available locally, and it took two trips to Los Algodones, Mexico to get a year’s worth of a prescription that has proven helpful.

An area along Gravel Pit Road is about 30 feet lower, which keeps it out of the wind. But such areas are a no-go for my cellular modem.

An area along Gravel Pit Road is about 30 feet lower, which keeps it out of the wind. But such areas are a no-go for my cellular modem.

Mexico?? Yep, lots of folks head for a couple of towns just across the border for prescriptions and dental work. You yourself might shiver at the idea of either, but the actual results for dental seem to be on a par with the U.S. in all respects. And, the medications are “real”, unlike Internet spam and scams. I happen to have lucked out with a superb dentist back in my home base, but in an emergency, I’d take the plunge in Los Algodones for 1/4-1/3 of the price here. A simple cleaning here is about $30 versus the $190 back home. The great majority of shops here specialize in some form of heavy lifting, be it implants or crowns. My Rx is not real sophisticated, and the cost difference drops it from $25/month to $6.40. That’s handy when you don’t have any health insurance or income. Of course, it takes expensive fuel to get down to the Yuma area for access to Los Algodones, but the kicker is that there’s no need for me to pay my doctor $120-$190 for a visit to write the script. Once you go across the border, you just tell ’em what you need, and they reach for the shelf. The U.S. customs inspectors won’t knowingly allow more than 3 month’s worth per day’s visit, but that just means you walk on over the next day for more.

It's a rare day when the sky doesn't look interesting in some way or other.

It’s a rare day when the sky doesn’t look interesting in some way or other.

Los Algodones deserves its own post complete with colorful photos, but it’s not getting it. What most visitors seem to enjoy or think nothing of, I didn’t care for. Technically, you’re at least as safe wandering the 5 blocks of Los Algodones as you are in any American town or city, perhaps safer. The drug cartels and the lawlessness they breed are held at bay here, possibly because the town makes for a fairly useless border crossing point or area worth battling over. But I didn’t wander the town, simply because of the aura. Wherever you are, there are men shouting to get your attention and direct you into a store or shop. It’s just one of my personal quirks that multiple people shouting at me to steer me this way or that, well, I don’t find that relaxing or ignore-able. It merely makes me want to get my business done and get the hell out. But that’s just me. You might enjoy it.

I think wind speed here is slightly higher here than in Quartzsite, on average. The ground-level dust makes it tough to be fastidious. Good thing I'm not!

I think wind speed here is slightly higher here than in Quartzsite, on average. The ground-level dust makes it tough to be fastidious. Good thing I’m not!

I was going to try to at least look around a bit on visit two, but for some reason Mexican army troops were out in force in the area, particularly monitoring vehicles in line to cross into the U.S.  They were all nicely armed, and I had the feeling that they would not appreciate a holiday snap being taken of them by anyone. Between that, the directed yelling, and the evidence of crushing poverty here and there, I had enough warning signals going off in my head that a prompt return seemed like a sound idea. See, I’m not known for my street smarts or ability to read into situations, to put it mildly. Historically, I tend to unknowingly place myself into the path of risk. Not the best direction to err. So, I figure that if I hear the warning bells, rightly or wrongly, there are just two most-likely possibilities. Either I’m in a situation that is actually quite safe, but that I find disconcerting or, my warning alarms are going off late, and the situation is actually significantly worse that I’m perceiving it to be. In either case, the enjoyment potential is zero. Exit, stage left.

This is about the LAST thing I expected to see in Arizona. But, the BLM here does occasionally remove dead brush or "trees" and mulch them for reuse.

This is about the LAST thing I expected to see in Arizona. But, the BLM here does occasionally remove dead brush or “trees” and mulch them for reuse.

Don't be mislead by all the "vast plains" shots I take. These deep gullies are all over the place here and until you get close, you won't notice they're there.

Don’t be mislead by all the “vast plains” shots I take. These deep gullies are all over the place here and until you get close, you won’t notice they’re there.

The reservoir's water level varies wildly depending on local irrigation use. It's replenished by controlled water flow all the way from Parker, about 110 miles north.

The reservoir’s water level varies wildly depending on local irrigation use. It’s replenished by controlled water flow all the way from Parker, about 110 miles north.

This sign made me wonder, but I'm told the water level can vary several feet within hours,  without the alarm going off. The sign makes the worst case sound bad, whatever that is.

This sign made me wonder, but I’m told the water level can vary several feet within hours, without the alarm going off. The sign makes the worst case sound bad, whatever that is.

With the right permit though, waterfront living is yours for two weeks before you have to move. This annual permit is $75!

With the right permit though, waterfront living is yours for two weeks before you have to move. This annual permit is $75!

Stumbling around the reservoir can reveal some pleasant views.

Stumbling around the reservoir can reveal some pleasant views.

Looking back at the same waterfront area, but from the other side.

Looking back at the same waterfront area, but from the other side.

There's a nice "day use" area just a little further along.

There’s a nice “day use” area just a little further along.

You can't camp overnight at this particular one (of several), but it does have a spectacular boat ramp. Watch your prop though: it gets shallow at points.

You can’t camp overnight at this particular one (of several), but it does have a spectacular boat ramp. Watch your prop though: it gets shallow at points.

The day use area offers restrooms, picnic tables, benches, and restful views.

The day use area offers restrooms, picnic tables, benches, and restful views.

DSCN0351wtmk

This shot was taken Day Two, as I first discovered the spoor of the elusive wild burro.

Ah! Further evidence that stories I'd read of burros being in the area were true!

Ah! Further evidence that stories I’d read of burros being in the area were true!

Up on a ridge, this chair was set between two travel trailers for a heckofa view. There was only room for two trailers up here. Many ridges were larger.

Up on a ridge, this chair was set between two travel trailers for a heckofa view. There was only room for two trailers up here. Many ridges were larger.

Park and set up camp wherever you like. The choice of view is yours.

Park and set up camp wherever you like. The choice of view is yours.

Lots of folks prefer to pack in close for a more social experience. That tends to create a sense of social stability after a couple of years - a temporary "neighborhood" of sorts.

Lots of folks prefer to pack in close for a more social experience. That tends to create a sense of social stability after a couple of years – a temporary “neighborhood” of sorts.

I sometimes just fail to pick up on what makes some things draw devotees. Yurts are a form of tent used by the Mongols, intended to be efficient as far as strength for materials used. Devotees tend to ascribe a kind of spirituality to them, as if they are now sharing a common bond with nomads from Mongolia. Okay, if that's what floats your boat. Just don't ask me to break one down or set it up.

I sometimes just fail to pick up on what makes some things draw devotees. Yurts are a form of tent used by the Mongols, intended to be efficient as far as strength for materials used. Devotees tend to ascribe a kind of spirituality to them, as if they are now sharing a common bond with nomads from Mongolia. Okay, if that’s what floats your boat. Just don’t ask me to break one down or set it up.

This is just the greeting sign for my general area, letting you know that you're about to be shaken down for cash.

This is just the greeting sign for my general area, letting you know that you’re about to be shaken down for cash.

I'm about a half-mile away from that signed entrance.

I’m about a half-mile away from that signed entrance.

You occasionally see military aircraft of different sorts. I this case, it's two fighter jets, way up there.

You occasionally see military aircraft of different sorts. I this case, it’s two fighter jets, way up there.

And the "elusive" burros waltz past my office window  just a few days into my stay.

And the “elusive” burros waltz past my office window just a few days into my stay.

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21 thoughts on “A Look Around the LTVA

  1. Well, that was interesting.

  2. Michael on said:

    Thanks for the further photos and commentary, helping readers like me get a more realistic sense of the place.

    Quick clarification: Isn’t the $75 annual fee mentioned for “waterfront living” only for day use? Perhaps that’s what you were saying. In any case, even the $180 for 7 months is a great deal for both days-and-nights. Below I’ve pasted the relevant–though admittedly less than ideally clear–text from the BLM web page about the Imperial Dam LTVA…at: http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/recreation/camping/LTVA/imperial.print.html

    “FEES / PERMITS REQUIRED: A Long Term Visitor Area Permit is required from September 15th through April 15th each season. The cost is $180.00 and is valid for up to 7 months. A Short Term Permit can be purchased for a 14-day stay. This permit is$40.00. Permits may be purchased on site or at the BLM Yuma Field Office located at 2555 E. Gila Ridge Road in Yuma. From April 16th through September 14th, the fee is 10 per vehicle for day-use, $15 per vehicle for overnight use, or $75 annually per vehicle, for up to 5 people per vehicle. There will be a $1 per person fee charged for each person over the 5 person limit. The maximum stay is 14 days in a 28-day period…”

    What do you make of all that?

    Another question: Is the water in the reservoir of sufficient quality that a person using a good filter could drink out of it? If so, a hardy desert-dwelling soul could make fewer trips to town, and plan on it as his or her source of a most pressing commodity. But I guess the “day use” areas offer free (with the permit) water anyway. Is that right?

    • Well, as for reservoir water quality, I don’t know. Between boiling and the proper filter, it would probably be fine to drink. But here in this area you are correct, it’s moot: your permit allows you access to potable water, whether fountain or faucet. If all you have is the Recreation Area pass, getting access to the Imperial Dam LTVA’s dump station involves a nominal per-use fee.

  3. Michael on said:

    Update: You know, after I read that BLM text on fees again, I think I was mistaken about the day-use thing.

    Instead, it now seems to me that the total annual fee for full-time living would be $255: $180 + $75, the former for the 7 months of cooler weather, and the latter for the 5 months of warmer weather. $255 a year is still a mighty fine deal.

    Is that the way you’d understand the BLM fees?

    • Linda Barton on said:

      I am happy to see these pictures and get info. How far are you from where the RTR will be. I would also like to know if the water is good for human use?

      • Linda, the Imperial Dam LTVA and other recreation sites here are about 80 miles south of Quartzsite, so it’s a good, warmer staging area for a Quartzsite visit, but not close enough to commute. Between the two, Yuma is noticeably more pleasant over the winter season, while Quartzsite has the vendors and the RTR gathering in January.

        If you’re talking about siphoning groundwater, I don’t know. It just occurred to me that with mining having been so popular, drainage over arsenic-laced tailings might be an issue here and there in Arizona. Many of the fee areas like I’m in or have mentioned do offer potable water anyway. There’s also a 25-cent water dispenser a couple of miles from where I am. The free camping areas here like Mittry Lake, Fortuna Pond, and Redondo Pond do not, as far as I’m aware. I’ve noticed other free areas on my ride to Los Algodones, near I-8.

      • When I registered with my friends at BLM LTVA, it was $180 for the year, Oct – to October. BLM said, this is good until Oct. 2014. I split that fee with them for $90. They had a Class C and a tow vehicle and I have my van, my trailer was parked elsewhere. I don’t believe there is an additional fee… but one of the guys camped near me mentioned paying to be there 7 months. I think there are different rules for different people and at different gates, depending on who is working at the time. Does this surprise me? No!

        And Doug, you already have a LTVA sticker, so you only need to move from the Rec area back onto LTVA… it doesn’t have to be 25 miles away. I was told at the La Posa North gate, people who register for two weeks in free areas, can then move to LTVA just a couple miles away after two weeks and pay the $40 to stay two weeks on LTVA, then move back to 2-wk areas a couple miles away, and so forth. There are people in Quartzsite who do this all winter long… and never go 25 miles away. Another little loop-hole they don’t tell you about. That would make it $10 per week averaging out.

        • Sweet deal, Swankie!

          • I did double check my sticker and it does say from Sept to April. Still I think there is no one here from April to Sept. I’m going to check next time I drive though the gate when they are open (9-5)

            • When you’re still in Quartzsite April 1st, I suspect you won’t care much if anyone’s going to be at the gate come the 15th and beyond. I stayed until April 3 last year, and should have left Mid-March instead.

              • I stopped at the gate tonight and asked and your information was correct. The man who put the sticker on my van was incorrect. As of April 16, if you don’t leave this area, you must go down to LaPosa South and buy the $75 permit to stay from April-Sept. They will come by on patrol to kick people out as of April 16. But the gate will not be staffed. So it is $180 for winter season, and $75 for Apr to Sept.

    • Well, almost – the LTVA fee is right-on, good for 9/15-4/15. The $75 Recreation Area Fee is good all year, the caveat being that the stay limit is 14 days in any 28-day period in any one place. Then you need to move to another site that’s at least 25 miles away. It’s technically possible to simply alternate between two Recreation Areas all year. These fee sites include Betty’s Kitchen Interpretive and Watchable Wildlife Area (currently being torn up), Ehrenberg Sandbowl, Squaw Lake, Senator Wash Reservoir, Oxbow Recreation Area and Boat Ramp, Imperial Dam and La Posa LTVAs – but only during the heat stroke 4/16 – 9/14 summer “off” season. Not every single parking area for these allows overnights, as they are Day Use areas. No biggie as far as I can tell: if one doesn’t, another nearby one does. Each area tends to be clearly signed, though by default camping is allowed unless an area is marked Day Use Only. Many sites have a mix of both. I’ll be showing photos of the Squaw Lake site soon and frankly, it makes me wish the Enterprise was better suited to “short” 2-week stays!

  4. Very useful post! I hope to be in the area in February and have been a bit concerned about my van’ clearance. With your wide and detailed photos, it looks like there is not worry about deep ruts and such — at least not in the LTVA. Thanks.

    • Come to think of it Carla, I haven’t noticed a single shallow rut down here, let alone a deep one. For a van, there is no issue at all either here or at Mittry Lake. Each of the various side trails may go up and down a bit, but are in great shape. One of Mittry’s entrance roads is washboarded badly, but otherwise flat as a pancake. I have dragged the Enterprise’s tail twice while exploring for a place to plant it here, but that was at the rise of a trail entrance – a very common thing. The other was while dipping down into a wash on a side trail. My TT has only 10 inches clearance at an overhang of 9 feet, which is pathetic. If you’re used to brutal forest roads, this entire areas will resemble your happiest dream.

  5. I just checked my sticker and it does say it is good until April 15, 2014. I think that is because it’s too hot here after April for anyone to hang around… and maybe there is no volunteer staff here between April and Sept to monitor anything. Anyone know for sure if BLM LTVA are staff during the summer here?
    Quartzsite, AZ area only I am asking about.

    And Carla, there are deep ruts out here… but you don’t have to drive though them to get to most areas.

    • It does get unbearably hot, but since they want money for limited time periods, somebody has to be somewhere there to collect it or they will expect you to get it elsewhere and occasionally cruise for receipts in the windshield. That’s my way of saying that I don’t have a clue.

  6. Please excuse me if this has been discussed elsewhere. Where do you get water from and where do you dump? Are there facilities close by?

    • Nope, you’re the first, Dee! The LTVA at Imperial Dam (where I am) has a dump station next to the host/check-in trailer at the “South Mesa” entrance. That includes sewage ports, rinsewater, dumpsters, and drinking water faucets. There are also drinking water fountains here at the restrooms, as well as pay outdoor showers just down the road. There are signs off 95 that direct you to the LTVA, and once in, more signs that direct you to the camp host. You’re supposed to have a LTVA sticker to get freshwater and dump trash and waste. I think that a Recreation Permit does not officially give you access to use them and requires a separate fee, but I’d have to ask a host about that to be sure. From what I’ve seen here, nobody’s running around doing a Colonel Klink on enforcement anyway. I suppose the best bet for LTVA people staying at non-equipped LTVAs would be to head for the nearest LTVA with a dump (like Imperial or La Posa), or a closer commercial RV park to service tanks. Kinda depends on fuel cost vs dump station cost (which would be free to them). Same for Recreation Pass holders, except that an LTVA dump is probably not free to them. Freeform boondockers would simply hunt for a commercial park’s dump station for a fee, of which there are many. Have I made this confusing?

      • Very interesting. I am gung-ho to boondock, but hubby is less so. He is concerned about power, water and dumping. We have a 39 foot diesel pusher, so he is, understandably, concerned about getting stuck. We are presently in the Rio Grande Valley and won’t be leaving here until April. Thinking of boondocking in LTVAs next year and going to Quartzsite.

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