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Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

 > January Desert Wildlife Tour: report of a TC-type trip

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Tiger4x4RV

Inland Empire, Southern California

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Posted: 02/05/14 04:57pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I explored wildlife areas on the Salton Sea and the Colorado River just north of Yuma for 12 days, about 800 miles, mostly pleasant weather, lots of quiet solitude, with great scenery everywhere. What more could one ask of a trip?

This trip would be doable for all but the largest TC's. Several hundred miles of it were dirt or gravel, some rough. One road, noted later, said no trailers. I used 4WD for a couple of very short stretches and one turnaround required low range.

For the first three nights, my base camps were near but not in the Senator Wash BLM Long Term Visitor Area. Hundreds of RV's from tiny vintage trailers to giant high-end class A's were camped in the LTVA, a surprisingly clean and well-run area. Nearby, the short-term camps, Squaw Lake and Senator Wash North and South, were well-populated. $15 a night, half price with my Interagency Senior Pass, bought clean restrooms, coin showers, water, and trash facilities. Dump station was in the LTVA and required a fee. Info link for Squaw Lake BLM camp.

View of Squaw Lake from the hill above it. Buildings in the distance are on the AZ side of the Colorado River. I am standing on the CA side.

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View of the parking lot they call a campground at Squaw Lake. My Tiger and several TC's were among the smallest units there.

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The generating station next to Squaw Lake campground.

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First exploration: a drive to Ferguson Lake. 24 miles round trip. Saw two ATV's down by the lake and no other vehicles the entire trip. Mostly this was an excellent 2WD dirt road. I went all the way to the end. If you do it, I'll recommend turning around at the rock cairn on the hill where you first get a water view. The road gets steeper and narrower after that, you don't get much view from down at the water, and it could get nasty if you met another vehicle on the road.

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My second and third nights were spent pulled off the road on the north shore of Senator Wash Reservoir. This is inside a campground which does not have designated sites, $15/$7.50. Most people camp right next to the lake. Although the lake was nearly deserted, I chose to camp up on top and enjoy the view. Info link for camp area at Senator Wash North Shore.

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Three burros were bedded down about 100 feet from the camper when I woke up. Sleepy photographer, tinted window, so not the greatest photo.

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Next exploration: across the river to Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, in AZ. The visitor center and its friendly staff were very informative.

Note: No fees at National Wildlife Refuges. The staff always says you already paid for it with your taxes.

These signs were on one of the refuge roads:

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Unfortunately, it wasn't far to the next set of signs...

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The next day I moved on to Picacho State Recreation Area, CA, where I camped for two nights at Taylor Lake. $20, minus $2 for those over age 62. I was the only camper there. Staff visited daily, the restrooms were immaculate, the trashcans were clean and empty. Nice place. I've been to this park before, and my best photos of it are in this album from 2008. The sign for the road to Taylor Lake says No Trailers.

My campsite was Taylor Lake #1, on top of the hill. The truck is actually level here and is positioned for maximum viewing of the scenery.

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Here's a shot of the restroom, with boat launch ramp behind it and two of the other campsites. I am standing in the fourth and final campsite to take this photo.

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The view:

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Next stop, Cibola NWR. This is south of Blythe, along the Colorado River. They have a wonderful visitor center staff and great exhibits.

Sandhill cranes at Cibola NWR. The tally board at the visitor center says that 926 of them are in residence this year. The fields are farmed just for these birds. They are very skittish and stay a long way from the auto tour road. Even my 48X zoom camera doesn't show much.

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Geese at Cibola NWR. The white ones like being in the water, the dark ones like being on the sand.

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View from Cibola Lake Overview, at the south end of the refuge. I did use 4WD to get up this hill. Lake is in foreground, Colorado River is above. Too bad those houses on the other side of the river sort of spoil the wilderness view.

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Next stop, Oxbow BLM camp, another $15/$7.50 camp. It is right on the river and there are nice shade trees.

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Oxbow Bridge

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Next stop, Salton Sea State Recreation Area. I paid for day use at the headquarters area, where I enjoyed the visitor center, harbor, birds, and other amenities. Then I moved a few miles south to the Salt Creek primitive camp area. $10, or $8 if age 62+. Portable toilets, water faucet, trash cans, picnic tables, fire pit. The real amenities are the beach a hundred feet away, the thousands of birds, and some of the most spectacular sunsets ever. Oh, and the trains. The endless trains, one after another. Surprisingly though, I slept very well.

Beach decor at Salt Creek:

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Sunsets:

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Trains:

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Birds (mostly gulls and white pelicans this trip):

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Next stop, the Wister Unit of California's Imperical Wildlife Area. Fee to visit for non-hunting use is $2.50 a day. No maps were available, either online or at the kiosk, except for a very faded poster. I just started exploring, turned off on the first road that didn't say it was closed. Well, I ended up driving a mile or so down a narrow damp dirt levee road with an abrupt end which required a very scary many-point turnaround and low range 4WD. Not fun, but better than backing out all that way would have been.

Much of the wildlife area is having its wetlands restored. Here's what a wetland under construction looks like:

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Visiting areas where I had seen birds before, I found nothing but dry salt flats. Even the thermal mud pots were dried up. Then, near Red Hill Marina and just beyond a sign which said road ends 500 feet, I found a very pleasant viewing area with lots of birds.

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The last two nights of the trip were spent in one of my favorite campgrounds, Laguna, in the Cleveland NF. 104 sites, with only two of them occupied (the other camp was not visible or audible from my site) and half of them closed for the season. $20/$10. It was quite chilly, even close to snowing the second night, but there were hundred of happy birds. I enjoyed my visit very much.

Note: This is a very old campground. Sites are small and usually not level.

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Note: If you are counting nights and finding that things don't add up, this report leaves out one night visiting a friend in Yuma and one night in the free BLM camp area at Ogilby Road.

Next trip: Central Valley (CA) wildlife areas in a week or two if the weather is acceptable. Stay tuned.


2006 Tiger CX 4x4, 8.1 L gas V-8, Allison 6-speed


tbltony

ventura,ca.

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Posted: 02/05/14 05:26pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

fantastic sun sets and pictures ,cant wait to go there .very goob job. tbltony

stickbowjoe

West Texas

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Joined: 02/03/2014

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Posted: 02/05/14 05:27pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Nice. Thanks.

Joe


2012 Ram 3500 diesel, dually
2013 Lance 850
Pretty good truck, pretty good camper.
Just Sally (German Shorthair) and me,
full timing, and shooting and catching
most of our meat.

kbaum

Thermopolis

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Posted: 02/05/14 05:37pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Looks like great fun and great scenery. Also much better weather there than here in Wyoming!


2013 Northern Lite 10 cdse
2012 Dodge 3500 SRW 4x4 Cummins Crew Cab

Newmar Dutch Star 4018 (home)

GoinThisAway

middle TN

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Posted: 02/05/14 06:00pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Very nice scenery. Thanks for sharing!


2008 Dodge 3500 DRW 4x4
2008 Bigfoot 25C10.4
Torklift/Fastguns/Hellwig/StableLoads

exhaustipated

Topeka, Kansas

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Posted: 02/05/14 06:18pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great pics of sunsets and scenery. Thanks for sharing.

Escargot

California

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Joined: 10/05/2009

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Posted: 02/05/14 06:26pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great!
Thank you for sharing!


2006 Pleasure Way Plateau TS, MB Sprinter

fatmanobx

Russellville, Ar. Home Base

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Posted: 02/05/14 06:59pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great report, thanks for sharing.


2011 Lance 855
3.5# Minpin named Darcy RIP
Ford F250 Super Duty

DemingNM2009

Maine

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Posted: 02/05/14 08:06pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

We enjoy visiting Cibola NWR. Thanks for introducing us to other wildlife areas in the vicinity.


George and Linda
Maine and New Mexico
Northstar 850sc
2014 GMC, 3/4 ton

the tc life

colbert wa.

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Posted: 02/05/14 08:20pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Nice report. I like the photo of a wetland area under construction. Finding out why its done a certain way would be interesting. Was there any info about it?


2010 adventurer 810ws
1999 c3500 dually 12' flatbed

THE TC LIFE


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