Quartzsite, Arizona, is usually a tumbleweed town of nearly 4,000 people. At certain times of the year, its population swells to nearly a million, making it larger than cities like Baltimore and Tucson.
Summer weather in Quartzsite is akin to the inside of a pizza oven, but in fall, winter, and spring, it’s mild and full of sunshine, and at night, it can be surprisingly spooky.
For much of the year, it’s little more than a curiosity, where most people stop for gas or a cup of coffee on their travels between Phoenix and Los Angeles.
The Annual Mineral Shows At Quartz And Swap-Meets.
Considered by many to be the world’s largest rock and gem show, Quartzsite’s Annual Mineral Show and Swap Meet is held in January and February when the usually scorching Arizona desert is smooth and wonderful.
Filled with rock hounds, jewelers, and crystal lovers from far and wide, the lone Quartzsite population swells exponentially during the show.
Even if remarkable rocks and crystals aren’t your things, it’s a great way to escape the harsh winter, rub shoulders with some unique people, and have a good time.
There are also plenty of RV sites if you’ll be bringing your house on wheels.
Castle Dome Museum
There aren’t many places that are more fun and mysterious to explore than real ghost towns, and Arizona is full of them.
Most are old, pioneering mining towns that went bankrupt, leaving empty and worn-out rehearsal offices, saloons and brothels standing like sentinels from a bygone age.
For much of its history, dating back to the 1860s, Castle Dome was such a town, although it was a lively place for a few decades.
The city made a period as a training facility for soldiers heading to fight the Japanese and Germans during World War II.
Hi, Jolly’s Grave
If you’ve ever wondered, “Who in the world is Hi Jolly, and why is his grave in Quartzsite, Arizona?” then get ready because you’re about to find out.
Hi, Jolly was a Syrian immigrant hired by the federal government to introduce camels to the arid deserts of the southwestern United States.
Although the plan was scrapped, Hadji Ali, known as Hi Jolly, stayed on and lived out the rest of his days at Quartzsite.
He died in the early 20th century, and in the 1930s, townspeople who loved and admired him placed a bronze camel on his grave.
Just east of Quartzsite, on Interstate 10, is the town of Dripping Springs, which consists of historic and abandoned mines, a stone cabin, and Native American petroglyphs.
The sites will take you back to another era when tough men made a living by force in the rock of Arizona, and Native Americans who weren’t thrilled by their presence lurked around every corner.
The last part of the trail leading to the site will require some effort, so if you go in the summer, wear appropriate shoes, a good hat, and plenty of water.
The site is free, and there’s even a cave near the cabin with water trickling into it. Enter at your own risk.
Petroglyphs And Grinding Holes
Located near Quartzsite, Tyson Wash is a dry wash that feeds into the Colorado River after rains, usually in the spring.
The area is home to Native American petroglyphs, which are art and pictographs outlined in rock, and supposedly tell snippets of a Native American creation story. They are signs of gratitude and respect that indigenous peoples have for the land.
Grinding holes are where corn and seeds have been around for millennia, leaving large, distinct depressions in the rock.
The sites are just across the road, south of Quartzsite, on a Bureau of Land Management road, just off Highway 95.
Alignment Of Rocks In The Quartz & Intaglios
Much of the history of Quartzsite revolves around the rocks, from the Native Americans who used them to grind up foods and create petroglyphs to the prospectors who mined the valuable metals contained within them. Rock lovers and gems come from far and wide for the annual show.
Quartzsite Rock Alignment is a sign that spells “Quartzsite” with an arrow, used as a guide for airmen who might otherwise have been lost in the desert.
The Intaglio is a large image of a fisherman also created from rock by the Native Americans of the area; An interesting rendering considering the desert environment in which it is located.