Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Free 14-day? In LTVA? Yah Hey!

The turnoff for 727 is just prior to the one for Coyote Ridge.

The turnoff for 727 is just prior to the one for Coyote Ridge.

You don’t say! No way! Before you cough up your last meal, I’ll simply say that I was surprised to find two areas just at the borders of the Imperial Dam LTVA that are signed as officially open to free 14-day camping. I never knew they existed, as all I could find were Mittry Lake (to be covered in a later post), several Recreation Fee areas (also to be covered), and day use or camping prohibited areas. I mention them here just to provide another free option to those wanting to stay in a secluded, traditional desert camping area for free. Unlike Yuma’s roadside sand areas I’ve seen elsewhere, both of these BLM areas together had just one camper between them. You want privacy? Here it is.

This is merely a closer view of the same 727 signpost.

This is merely a closer view of the same 727 signpost.

Neither imposes any demands for either ground clearance or 4WD. I could tow the Defiant into either, which is really saying something. The only thing I wouldn’t do is drive a maxo-motorhome in blind. There are tons of these within the LTVA borders, but these 14-day areas should be seen first before taking an extremely heavy, low-clearance vehicle in. It’s a prudence thing. Turn-around areas are limited, but there.

To get there from Route 95, the same west turn is made on Imperial Dam Road to head for the Imperial Dam LTVA. Once a couple of miles past the entrance to Mittry Lake, the usual turn is made on Senator Wash Road to head for the LTVA. Once over the canal, the first paved road to the left should be taken. Google calls it Senator Wash Road too, but it also calls everything else that’s undesignated as that. My GPS calls it Ferguson Road. Doesn’t matter. Take it. Go past the crossroad intersection of the real Ferguson Road and start looking for the marked 727 trail to the right. If you miss it, you’ll pass the entrance to Coyote Flats. No biggie. The road very quickly ends in a nice paved loop to head you back.

This 7' cistern is at the top on an embankment next to 727.

This 7′ cistern is at the top on an embankment next to 727.

While snapping the pic of the cistern, this woman appeared from the broad wash below. She's 79 and walks at least 8 miles each day on one shot!

While snapping the pic of the cistern, this woman appeared from the broad wash below. She’s 79 and walks at least 8 miles each day on one shot!

Basically, you just follow 727 on in until you’re through the LTVA. There’s no adventure to it except for one washed out area that has a very simple drive-around to the right side.

Presto! Once you're past the few motorhomes and trailers, the signed 14-day camping area begins.

Presto! Once you’re past the few motorhomes and trailers, the signed 14-day camping area begins.

This is just for perspective. The LTVA campers along Ferguson Road are still within sight.

This is just for perspective. The LTVA campers along Ferguson Road are still within sight.

The vista in the 14-day section is a combination of beauty and solitude.

The vista in the 14-day section is a combination of beauty and solitude.

I think what keeps it relatively unused is the plethora of evenly-distributed rocks. There are a few smoother areas though, and it's all level. The utter silence is memorable.

I think what keeps it relatively unused is the plethora of evenly-distributed rocks. There are a few smoother areas though, and it’s all level. The utter silence is memorable.

At a point not all that far in, you come to a Y, where 727 continues to the right and 832 begins to the left. I first took 832.

The designated end of 832 doesn't prohibit anything, and the trail physically continues well past. I recommend smaller single vehicles only, past this point.

The designated end of 832 doesn’t prohibit anything, and the trail physically continues well past. I recommend smaller single vehicles only, past this point. (No big trailers or motorhomes.)

Continue past the end of 832 and on over the hill to see a valley with a large rectangle of rocks laid out on the left side of another Y.

Continue past the end of 832 and on over the hill to see a valley with a large rectangle of rocks laid out on the left side of another Y.

I don't see any reason not to camp here in this valley, which is very nice ground. Trail width around the side of the hill would make hauling the Defiant here a slow, cautious trek. I'm not sure it's do-able, and won't try due to the difficulty of backing up on the same path. Shorter, narrower rigs are a breeze here.

I don’t see any reason not to camp here in this valley, which is very nice ground. Trail width around the side of the hill would make hauling the Defiant here a slow, cautious trek. I’m not sure it’s do-able, and won’t try due to the difficulty of backing up on the same path. Shorter, narrower rigs are a breeze here.

Parked on a wonderfully smooth area, I still couldn't get over the moonscape scattering of large rocks for miles around.

Parked on a wonderfully smooth area, I still couldn’t get over the moonscape scattering of large rocks for miles around.

That last Y to the left continues on around to who-knows-where. Burros on the ridge hung around until they got bored of looking at me.

That last Y to the left continues on around to who-knows-where. Burros on the ridge hung around until they got bored of looking at me. I didn’t take it as a criticism.

That big rectangle of rocks is actually a lineup spelling out "Hi Choppers". Several can be seen making the rounds throughout the entire area.

That big rectangle of rocks is actually a lineup spelling out “Hi Choppers”. Several can be seen making the rounds throughout the entire area.

Taking that last Y branch to the right leads to a drop-off too violent for the Ford. The workaround to the right is fine, but leads to a four-wheeling area that would be a bad idea to try solo in such a big, heavy hog.

Taking that last Y branch to the right leads to a drop-off too violent for the Ford. The workaround to the right is fine, but leads to a four-wheeling area that would be a bad idea to try solo in such a big, heavy hog.

Remember that 79-year-old lady on her hike? She appeared here and told me there used to be a family living here. they left the family car, apparently, which now resembles a turkey carcass a week after Thanksgiving.

Remember that 79-year-old lady on her hike? She appeared here and told me there used to be a family living here. They left the family car, apparently, which now resembles a turkey carcass a week after Thanksgiving.

727 continues on for a bit before diving into a firm-surface wash. Cool! Let's go!

727 continues on for a bit before diving into a firm-surface wash. Cool! Let’s go!

Oops, forget it! The far side climbout is steep and graveled enough to shift everything in the bed and pose a problem for the street tires. Once again, not a good idea to solo on.

Oops, forget it! The far side climbout is steep and graveled enough to shift everything in the bed and pose a problem for the street tires. Once again, not a good idea to solo on.

I retraced 727 back to the paved road, and kept thinking how I really like this 14-day area in spite of the relatively limited sites suitable for vehicle camping. Much of it is pristine, free of having people working it over and making stupid little rock trails and fencing as if to civilize it. It is starkly beautiful, utterly silent, not overly long distance-wise, and certainly worth an inspection tour. Back on the paved road, a few hundred feet down revealed the signed entrance to Coyote Flats. Signs warn that this is an LTVA permit area for self-contained rigs only.

The entrance to Coyote Flats. Apart from the "look at me!!!" aspect, why park here? Dusty, busy, noisy.

The entrance to Coyote Flats. Apart from the “look at me!!!” aspect, why park here? Dusty, busy, noisy.

The Coyote Flats area is more problematic to describe how to get through. Taking a Y-branch to the right led to an LTVA boundary sign and a marker prohibiting camping. But look who turned up –

Stalker? Learned to teleport? It's the same lady on the same exercise walk. Considering that I need a nap after 2 miles, I'm not gonna challenge her to arm wrestling.

Stalker? Learned to teleport? It’s the same lady on the same exercise walk. Considering that I need a nap after 2 miles, I’m not gonna challenge her to arm wrestling.

Returning back to the Y and taking the left branch leads to more splits. All I can say is, stay on the main trail, which leans right and stays out of washes. It will soon offer a chance to turn right on marked trail 728, which leads to the free camping area. You’ll pass over a kind of overhang, where dirt has slowly eroded one side of the foundation of the dirt road into a wash. It’s okay, it’s wide enough for anything, but I personally wouldn’t take anything over it that’s extremely heavy and wide that doesn’t distribute weight nicely. Cave-ins happen. The 26′, 7,000-pound Defiant and 9,000-pound Furd are no issue. A 40,000-pound Class A, I’d do some soul-searching first: “How badly do I want to camp for free?”

Bearing left at the Y quickly leads to washes and what looks like an abandoned spillway - at least until it rains.

Bearing left at the Y quickly leads to washes and what looks like an abandoned spillway – at least until it rains.

728 leads to a fairly small area of 14-day camping. In two visits, I saw only one rig here. My visits were not far enough apart to gauge apparent 14-day enforcement.

728 leads to a fairly small area of 14-day camping. In two visits, I saw only one rig here. My visits were not far enough apart to gauge apparent 14-day enforcement.

Judging by the surrounding walls of washed-out ridge, this 14-day area is apparently low ground. Yet at the same time, I saw no evidence of trail or camp area erosion to indicate flooding. There are also higher and lower levels that allow site choices.

The area I looked at wasn't even 1/2 mile long, but did offer plenty of seclusion and freedom of choice.

The area I looked at wasn’t even 1/2 mile long, but did offer plenty of seclusion and freedom of choice.

This broad elevated area offered a nice overlook back toward the entrance. There is no litter at all, but plenty of evidence that this campground was once popular.

This broad elevated area offered a nice overlook back toward the entrance. There is no litter at all, but plenty of evidence that this campground was once popular.

End of designated 728 marker, just past the campground. There's no off-roading, and it doesn't prohibit camping, but I'm not sure how to interpret this sign otherwise. Don't drive the trail any further? I stopped here just in case.

End of designated 728 marker, just past the campground. There’s no off-roading with Jeeps, ATVs or motorcycles, and it doesn’t prohibit camping, but I’m not sure how to interpret this sign otherwise. Don’t drive the trail any further? What’s “EC?” I stopped here just in case.

There you have it. Free 14-day camping that nobody’s talked about before. Should I defy the Prime Directive and visit these areas again, I will update this post with GPS coordinates. Still to go: posts on Mittry Lake, Squaw Lake, and Ferguson Lake.

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13 thoughts on “Free 14-day? In LTVA? Yah Hey!

  1. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hey Doug, thats southern for hello. Great post on those locations! Hopefully if I get on the road in time I will be able to spend March in Quartzite taking lapidary lessons at the lapidary club there. I intend to stay in the LTVA for $40 per two weeks. I realize money is money and if you r really tight on funds camping for free on BLM is best, however I will need to dump and also get water plus travel once and sometimes twice a day to Quartzite for use of the lapidary club. I can ride my ebike from the LTVA thats close by Quartzite. I figure the gas savings by biking plus dump and water included is about going to equal the $40 or maybe even save me some money. The $180 deal is also attractive if I were going earlier in the year.

    in with all those folks does decrease the wildlife viewing and increases

    • Well messed that up. Anyway the crowds, dust, light pollution and decreased wildlife and nature aspect is also a consideration. Walk in beauty, Bill

    • Yep, O.L.C., the LTVA in Quartzsite makes close access to “downtown” easy and usually makes sense financially for any self-contained rig. Last year, Quartzsite started to get uncomfortably hot by the end of March, so your two-week stay and any extra time at a free BLM area may be just about right for you. Makes me wonder when the lapidary club shuts down for the season(s).

      • Hey Doug the club website is a little confusing on startup in the fall and closedown in the spring. One way it looks like its open until the end of March and the other way it appears they r open as long as the LTVA. I notice Colorado has LTVAs, wonder if the pass works for both?

        • I don’t know about the club, but have contacted someone who goes there regularly.

          The CO LTVAs are a different system, different pass, and in my mind of marginal use. They cost $300 and are at 5,500′ elevation at most, which is not sufficient for a summer stay in my mind. Too hot! Me, I’ll have to keep moving every two weeks or so this summer, with the exception of Wendover Ut for the Bonneville land speed record events in Aug-Sept. The BLM does not enforce time limits there because of the events and because it’s not the best place to be long term. Not bad. Just not good.

    • When the Roadrunner Gem and Mineral Club closes down depends on who leaves and when they leave. The Club it 100% volunteer based and the labs / shops etc. can’t happen unless trained supervisors and shop foreman are present. It begins to get way to hot in March for the club to stay open. My suggestion is for you to plan your time in Quartzsite to be there in Nov and Dec, and then Feb. Jan gets way too busy to suit me.

      I am a sawyer and a lapidary shop foreman. I usually plan to arrive in Q about first week of October and stay until it gets too hot. I stay on LTVA and agree with you that the savings from being 2.2 miles from the Rock Club is more than worth the fee for LTVA. Good luck.

      • Thanks, Swankster!

      • Hey Charlene Swankie thanks to you for the info and to Doug for reaching out to me. Swankie do you think I could get some time in the first couple weeks of March at the rock shop?

        • Hey, Cowboy…. it’s hard to say… if weather remains cool like it has been, you probably can. People like to make the season as long as possible. Probably no one in the club can tell you for sure at this point. They never set a closing date, unless they loose the key supervisors and shop foreman. Many members hang on as long as possible until they get kicked out the door. It all depends on the weather and the heat and the schedules of the key individuals. My guess would be they would still be open the first week of March, but again, I’m sorry, it’s hard to predict. You could call the club and ask. You have to plan on being at Orientation which is only Thursday mornings, before you can do anything else at the club. Join for $15. Then you have to attend an orientation for each of the following: Lapidary, Faceting, and Silversmithing before you can use any of those shops. That would make a two week window pretty tight, especially if they begin to close things down.

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