Founded in 1856 as a fort by settler Charles Tyson, Quartzsite, Arizona earned its geological-sounding name during a short-lived mining boom in 1897.

Walking the displays at The Main Event. If you can't find it at Quartzsite, then you don't need it. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Every January and February, a dusty Arizona town in the middle of nowhere becomes the largest gathering of recreational vehicles and RVers on the planet.

If you’re an RVer who has heard of Quartzsite, but hasn’t attended January’s Sports, Vacation, and RV Show and the ongoing rock and gem shows and flea markets that run throughout the winter, you probably have difficulty grasping the sheer magnitude of the desert spectacle.

What Happens in Quartzsite?

If you pass through Quartzite in 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.

RVers may initially journey to Quartzsite for the RV show, but their reasons for returning year after year are as diverse as the goods sold by the many vendors.

Surprises await as you wander from vender to vendor. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beautiful weather, sunshine, and great deals—what more could you ask for?

Where is Quartzite?

Straddling I-10 just 20 miles east of the California border (Colorado River), Quartzsite sits 140 miles east of Palm Springs, California, and 130 miles west of Phoenix.

So what’s the attraction?

Well, it’s warm in Quartzite during winter, for one. And, second, it’s pretty inexpensive camping.

What makes Quartzsite special is that it has been a rock-hound’s paradise since the 1960’s.

These days, it is also a mecca to well over a million visitors each year, most of who converge on this small town in a wave of RVs during the months of January and February.

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

At this time of the year, 2,000 vendors of rocks, gems, minerals, fossils, and everything else imaginable create one of the world’s largest open air flea markets in Quartzsite.

Eight major gem and mineral shows as well as vendors of raw and handcrafted merchandise peddle their wares to snowbirds, collectors, and enthusiasts, making Quartzsite the place to be the first two months of each year.

You won’t want to miss the 2012 Quartzsite Shows!

2012 Quartzsite Show Dates

Boondocking on BLM land near Quartzsite. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

January 1-February 28, 2012: Desert Gardens -Gem & Mineral
January 6-January 15, 2012: Tyson Wells Rock & Gem Show
January 7-January 22, 2012: Main Event
January 20-January 29, 2012: Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama
January 21-January 29, 2012: Sports, Vacation & RV Show
February 1-February 5, 2012: Hobby Craft & Gem Show
February 3-February 12, 2012: Tyson Wells Arts & Craft Fair
February 4-February 5, 2012: Rock & Roll Car Show
March 3, 2012: Chili Cook-Off & State Salsa Championship

Feeling overwhelmed by the daunting scope of this desert bazaar? Don’t worry. If you aren’t able to explore every facet of Quartzsite in 2012, you can return the following year. And the next, and the next…

To read other stories about Quartzsite, click here.

Worth Pondering…

Nowhere on earth will you find such an assortment of “stuff” as you will at Quartzsite from mid-December to mid-February. As the saying goes, “If you can’t find it in Quartzsite, you won’t find it anywhere.”

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If you enjoy these articles and want to read more on RV travels and lifestyle, visit my website: Vogel Talks RVing.

Leave a Reply


  1. Karen Ashley

    January 2012 was our first time to Quartzsite and loved it except for the lousy RV park we chose to stay in…Don’t recommend Rose RV Park…owner is nasty and sites are terrible. There are many lovely RV parks in town if you don’t want boondock. About the prices….they are STILL better than any retail craft store across the USA. Yes, there are hippie types…but that makes it unique….check out Paul Winer at his Oasis Book store…he will play a mean piano for you. We loved seeing the many gem artists and their works on display….excellent quality at the Main Event show in the QIA. Quartzsite is a place you will want to visit at least once in your life, if even for a few days or weeks. Hopefully it will continue for many years to come.

  2. Rick LeBlanc

    Went to the Quartzsite attraction just last week. Not nearly as nice as the Tucson show which we also attended. No crowds like the ones we experienced in Tucson.

  3. catstorman

    If you want to see Quartzsite before it’s death, better hurry. Sales tax is now 10.6%, property tax has doubled in the last 2 years, and vendor spaces are so expensive that the “Bargains” certainly do not exist here anymore. If you ever wondered what happened to the Hippies of a few years ago, you can find them here. Men with ponytails down to there setters and women in tie dyed whatevers. Most of them are the vendors with exorbitant prices that is the JUNK that they are selling. You can smell em before you see them. The old phrase “Been There Done That” comes to mind and begs another “We won’t be back”.

  4. butterbean carpenter

    Howdy Rex,