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Crazy Quartzite or Quartzsite - What You Need to Know


Quartzsite Sign

Quartzsite Sign

©Elizabeth R. Rose

What Happens in Quartzsite?:

If you pass through Quartzsite AZ in the summer, the answer to this question is, “Absolutely nothing.” You will see flat desert, some roadside businesses, tumbleweeds and that’s about it.

But come winter, the answer is quite different. Each winter the flat desert bustles with activity. RVs by the thousands camp in fairly primitive desert conditions. So what’s the attraction? Well, it's warm in Quartzite during winter, for one thing. And it also offers pretty inexpensive camping. But there's another more important reason people descend on Quartzsite in droves, especially during January and February, and it doesn't have anything to do with the weather. In fact, the reason has more to do with geology than anything else. Still, no matter why you're visiting or thinking of visiting Quartzsite, there are a few tips that can help make your trip more convenient and your stay more enjoyable.

So What’s the Attraction?:

What makes Quartzsite special is that it has been a rock-hound's paradise since the 1960's. Each winter Quartzite swells in population due to well over a million visitors, most of whom converge on the small town in a wave of RVs during the months of January and February.

The Desert USA website, explains: “Eight major gem and mineral shows as well as vendors of raw and handcrafted merchandise peddle their wares to snowbirds, collectors and enthusiasts.”

Where is Quartzite?:

Quartzsite, in western Arizona, is just 20 miles east of the Colorado River on I-10. From Phoenix, the trip to Quartzite is about two hours. It is also easily accessible from Los Angeles.

What About Night Life?:

Having listened to friends who talked about their experiences in Quartzite, I learned that one of the “must do’s” in Quartzite is to join the Quartzite Yacht Club. No, the desert sun hadn’t fried their brains. There really is a bar and grill named The Quartzite Yacht Club. Indeed, it is a yacht club of sorts, in a sand sea of desert schooners.

What Can I buy in Quartzite?:

Here is a Quartzite calendar loaded with events for you to choose from. If you like gems and minerals, hit the sales during the big “rock hound” events. If looking for bargains at flea markets is more your style, they offer a big Peddler’s Faire. Add in a mix of classic car shows, chili cook-offs and RV shows and sales and Crazy Quartzite could keep you mighty busy.

When You Go:

Traffic: Be prepared for traffic. This is a small town and I-10 traffic can get backed up in January and February.

What to Wear: It’s dusty out there in the desert. Most shopping is in makeshift tents along dusty rows of RVs. The wind can pick up, a rain storm can move in, and you need to be prepared with a jacket and sturdy outdoor clothes. Wear walking shoes.

How to Plan: There are two websites that keep up to date information.

Desert USA and the Quartzsite Business Chamber of Commerce.

When you are in town, pick up a copy of The Desert Star newspaper for more up to date news and ads.

Where Can I Stay?:

Quartzite doesn’t have many motels. Here's a list of best prices for places to stay in the Quartzsite area. You can book online.

Liz's Tips:

I like the comforts of the city so I enjoy staying on the west side of Phoenix and venturing to Quartzsite as a day trip. I recommend leaving early (7 or 8 a. m.) to avoid the traffic, packing water and lunch, and double checking the Quartzsite calendars so I can hit the events I am most interested in.

My friend and I both like rocks and minerals and we enjoy bargain hunting. So we chose a day when there were vendors selling a large variety of items. We did find our rocks and minerals, picked up some beautiful agate slices, and then spent hours trudging up one row of “shops” and down the other. I was amazed. We found fine antiques (Roseville pottery and more), a group of vendors from Africa selling ethnic statuary and baskets, and a "desert rat" selling rusty tools out of the back of his car. The variety was mind-boggling.

I bought placemats, matching napkins and a silver necklace. When we were pretty tired, the wind kicked up and a rainstorm threatened us. We ducked into McDonalds, had a milkshake, and waited out the storm. (There aren’t many restrooms so that was another great reason for ducking into McDonalds!)

This may sound crazy, but I am going back to Crazy Quartzsite again this year!

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