Each year in January, we drive from San Diego, CA to Yuma, AZ to visit family. I have an aunt and uncle who are “snowbirds”, and my husband has an aunt who lives there year-round. We never go during the summer, because that would be craziness (I’m not really into those 115-degree temperatures!). There’s not a whole lot to do in Yuma except visit the historic prison, check out the flea markets, or buy a date shake. We do enjoy visiting family, but we thought it would be fun to combine a family visit with some exploring. After asking around, we learned there was a rock and mineral show in nearby Quartzite, Arizona. I thought to myself, “I’m not much into rocks and minerals.” It must have showed in my expression, because I was then assured it was much more than a couple tents full of rocks!
So let me tell you about Quartzite…
Quartzite was founded in 1897 as a small mining town and remained so until 1965 when the first Pow Wow Rock, Gem and Mineral Show was held. That was the beginning of the annual rockhound winter migration (mostly January and February) to Quartzite. Now there are nine annual rock and mineral shows held that draw 1.5 million visitors. The population of Quartzite swells from a permanent population of just under 4,000 to 30,000+, mostly via a huge RV city that sprawls into the surrounding desert. (For more information about the rock and mineral shows, look here)
So we made the 76-mile drive from Yuma to Quartzite with the hope that it would be worth the drive.
Going to Quartzite is like going to a HUGE never-ending flea market with food vendors, homemade crafts, fields of antiques, lots and lots of rocks, jewelry, fossils, petrified wood, and so much more. And the people? Oh my! All kinds of people, too! Almost all are very friendly. I’m not sure how to explain it, but there’s definitely a unique culture in Quartzite. Perhaps it’s the arid heat that brings out the grit in people.
We began by looking at the rocks. Thousands of them in every color you can imagine. Things made out of rocks, too, like jewelry, knick-knacks, chess sets, candle-holders, furniture…I can’t begin to list them all! I think my favorites were rocks with fossils or the beautiful crystal suncatchers.
(click on any picture to enlarge)
Not just gemstones…
As fascinating as the rocks and gems were, it didn’t end there. There were rows and rows (hundreds? thousands?) of vendors selling anything from RV steps to dog-grooming aids to homemade aprons to saber blades. And everything in between. Kind of like a huge outdoor Walmart!
What else is there in Quartzite?
We got in the car and drove around Quartzite a bit, just to see what else we could find. Lots of motorhome sales. And cactus and odd street names. And then I found my “happy spot”!
Wait for it…
This was basically an open field, absolutely full of antiques from all over the United States. Vendors would travel the midwest in their trucks or campers, buying antiques and then driving across the country to sell at this swap meet in Quartzite. You know me–I LOVE old things! And the more rusty and authentic, the better. I was in heaven walking around looking at everything and taking photos. I met some great people and heard their stories about how they collected the antiques, too. And my husband was so good about just letting me go crazy with my photo-taking!
These were my favorites…
Finally, as the sun was setting, we began our trek back to San Diego. Exploring Quartzite was a fun adventure for us — a great little detour in the Arizona desert. Would I go again? Definitely!
Please share your little side-trips with us. You know — those off-the-beaten-path explorations you have made (for better or for worse). I’d love to hear about them!
And if you’d like to learn what there is to do in Yuma, AZ, be sure to read this post: