Day Three of the QIA PowWow greeted everyone again with perfect weather. Cool mornings and then long sleeve shirt weather in the afternoon. Wind picking up later in the day but no more than a breeze. —
I was at the PowWow only long enough to exchange a piece of eudialyte that I had bought the day before from Alexander BlagulaAll of the previous night my purchase had bothered me. I had settled for what I could afford, not the cab I truly wanted. Before heading to Quartzsite I stopped at Wells Fargo in Parker to get the extra money I needed. Alexander seemed happy to see me, as I think he knew what I wanted to do. With graciousness he took back my first stone and gave complete credit for the new cab. In the way he talked and acted, I got the feeling that he was glad I was buying his best material. This video is from the day before. —
I took a few videos of the crowd at the PowWow and then moved across I-10 to Desert Gardens. To make it there, I used the frontage road as I had always done. Before you get to Desert Gardens, however, you have to pass through the Tyson Wells venue area. That venue sells a variety of things, not just rocks. It was complete madness, just looking at the teeming crowds put me nearly into a panic attack. I couldn’t imagine anyone voluntarily entering that swarm yet hundreds, if not thousands, seemed happy to do so.
Once at Desert Gardens things calmed down. The aisles are wider than the PowWow, making it seem more relaxed. The food, though, expect for the hot dogs, was limited and disappointing. I think the food is prepared by vendors who pay to be there, rather than cooked by happy volunteers. I’d bring your own food as you will probably be wandering for several hours. The big rocks are here, especially of rough of all kinds. Every vendor was from somewhere different, each had their own story and their own experiences. Each was an expert on at least several of the rocks or minerals they were selling. They all have their favorites, although they are often hesitant to name them. A number of fluorescent mineral dealers were at Desert Gardens. I didn’t see any radioactive minerals.
The first folks I met were at P.V. Rocks. Gary Peavy owns this business and he hails from Peoria, Illinois. He does some regional shows but once a year he gets out to Quartzsite. Wide variety of materials with much from the Midwest. E-mail is email@example.com and his website is https://pvsrocks.com. —
— I was finally able to meet up with R.C. of Geological Specimen Supply (external link). He hand carried my latest order to me, rather than posting it as usual. Just what I needed, another box of rocks. He pointed out T-Cat in his van. R.C. always takes a cat collecting with him. He had been looking at PowWow for what I used to call peridot in vesicular basalt. I think he is saying it is actually peridotite xenolith in basalt. I think. I always have to read up on what R.C. says to me. It’s a great learning experience. He answered some of my pesky rock questions and seemed interested in the crazy looking railroad ballast I had seen near the La Paz County Fairground. Yes, rockhounds and geologists are interested in railroad ballast. —
I also caught up with the Keadys of Rockchuck in Schurz, Nevada. (external link) I’ve written extensively on them before. Chelsea is continuing lapidary while awaiting the birth of her first child. I have their video on a previous page, but, what the heck, here it is again.
After many tries, I also managed to find Laura Fitzpatrick, otherwise known as #geologistonboard. She is an Instagram influencer, who has thousands of followers. She writes extensively and in depth on geology and travels the world with her husband hunting and investigating everything rock related. She recently toured the Himalayas, reporting on each step of the way through Instagram. It’s all about the Gram. She agreed to an impromptu interview inside her well kitted Geo Mobile, a specially outfitted four wheel Mercedes van. She turned out to be a real gold bug and marvelled over my gold in quartz jewelry, insisting on taking pictures of the pieces. I tried not to bore her with my prospecting stories but she followed every detail of my accounts. Through the internet she is helping thousands learn about geology and to give people accounts and pictures of places most of us will never see. #geologistonboard
— I also talked with David Bintliff of the Rock Broker. See the video below. My big regret was that I did not stay or ask that he light up these rocks. I tried to make it the next day but bridge traffic was terrible. If you meet David, he does have lamps on site and I am sure he will show you what is happening with these multi-mineral, multi-UV colored rocks.
You can read more about Quartzsite at Rock&Gem’s website and Facebook page. (external link). I was covering the day to day at the PowWow for them this year and I have written extensively on all things Quartzsite in the past. —
The QIA PowWow: Day One, Wednesday, January 15th, 2020
Perfect weather greeted everyone in Quartzsite, Arizona for the first day of the QIA PowWow. Not quite shirt sleeve weather but a light jacket or a long sleeved shirt served well. No wind, a blessing for all of the vendors with shade canopies that normally take sail in a strong breeze.
— High clouds, bright sun. Sunscreen, big cap, and lip balm time. If you lack a cap, the Quartzsite Roadrunners Gem and Mineral Club will sell you one. Or a nice Polo. As everyone knows, all Roadrunner based apparel enhances life.
I got to talk to only a few vendors but I will be back tomorrow. Jeffrey Anderson of Dwarves Earth Treasures eagerly looked at my first self-collected thunderegg. Although he has cut thousands of geodes and thundereggs, his expression was that of someone truly in love with his trade, who couldn’t wait to cut my rock open and to polish it. He’s not cutting on site this year, but will get it done at his shop before his next show and mail it back to me. Jeffrey is deaf and communicates with a signboard and, as he once wrote me, with some acting. He was selling a great selection of polished and unpolished material. This evening I got an e-mail from him, putting in exact writing what he tried to communicate to me over his show table. He is at Booth 159.
— Jason Fabbi of Las Vegas was at Quartzsite for his seventh year. He is at Booth 330 and his business is called JHF Stones. Jason is a Graduate Gemologist (GIA). He does custom jewelry, often working with a stone a customer found themselves. He is also a lifetime member of the Southern Nevada Gem & Mineral Society which is quite an honor. (external link) Full disclosure, he made a wonderful bolo tie for me last year and this year he fashioned a ring for me that Ringo Starr would be proud of.
— Geologist Wayne Holland was back again with his amazing collection of gold specimens, many he mined himself. His booth is right next to the main QIA building. He is a Total Gold Authority with an expertise that ranges far into a mix of other minerals, some local to the Southwest and exotic. He’ll appraise your gold for a reasonable fee, any money completely worth it to hear him hold forth on his specialty. When an expert like this starts talking, it is best just to listen, take notes, and try to keep up. You’re not getting this experience on eBay!
— I don’t want to stress the vendors too much in this recap. They are great souls but all the visitors seemed interesting as well and all in a happy mood. Striking up a conversation with a random stranger turns that stranger into a friend. For some reason, on Wednesday I ran into a variety of experienced world travelers. They could recount their adventures from China to Mexico to Switzerland. I met a charming lapidarist named Nina and I wish I was still talking to her. You’ll meet rockhounds and jewelry people and other folk who journeyed a long way to get this place. Everybody wanted to be there and it was clear they had been looking forward to the PowWow for some time.
David Walblom once again presented terrific dinosaur sculptures, both here and at Tyson Wells across I-10. David is a treat to talk to and if you are looking for an unusual lapidary tool, well, you came to the right place.
— The volunteers must not be overlooked, the hundreds of them the only way this event can happen. Particularly striking was a young man who was tasked with cleaning the men’s restroom, an awful job that he took on with a smiling face. I thanked him for his work because I have had to clean bathrooms in some of my jobs. He seemed surprised with my compliment as he appeared content to be doing what he could to help. Hours later he was still there, still cleaning with a an uplifted expression. That’s dedication and a testimony to a fine work ethic and character. Other volunteers were equally busy and yet never too busy to explain events, give directions, or hand you a freshly made hamburger. Food prices are very reasonable and there is even a buggy that drives the aisles, like a vendor working a ball park, bringing food and drink to you. — —
People with wheel chairs and walkers managed the gravel surface of the PowWow, with people helping whenever they needed to get their gear on board the shuttle service that takes people from the parking lot to the show. This is a passenger trailer towed by a tractor. I’ve operated a Kubota before but never towed people behind me. The trailer has stairs to mount but everyone pitches in to help people on board.
A dog named Holly. Probably a rockhound. —
Admission free, parking free, experience free. What are you waiting for? See you tomorrow.
You can read more about Quartzsite at Rock&Gem’s website and Facebook page. I was covering the day to day at the PowWow for them this year and I have written extensively on all things Quartzsite in the past.
Quartzsite in Arizona is coming alive for the season right now. Make plans now to get there, if you haven’t done so already. The culmination of rock related activities related in Quartzite will be the 2020 QIA PowWow, a four day show that starts on January 15th and ends on January 19th. But Desert Gardens will get started January 1st as well as lots of other venues. More below.
I recommend staying two full days in Quartzsite if you haven’t gone before. Lodging is extremely limited in town, however, you can sleep in your car in the desert. Are there any other questions? Oh, okay.
The article below is the fifth piece I wrote for Rock&Gem Magazine. It appeared in the April, 2017 issue and it is here now due to the gracious consent of the current managing editor, Antoinette Rahn.
Quartzsite, Arizona is a town and a meeting place. In winter it is a gathering of the clan for recreational vehicle Snowbirds, flea market enthusiasts, ham radio operators, off-road motorists, geo-cachers, and rockhounds. Especially rockhounds. Quartzsite is rock and gem heaven.
While many Quartzsite locations sell rocks in the winter months, the biggest production is January’s QIA PowWow Gem and Mineral Show. In 2017 it featured over 550 spaces and 272 vendors. Put on by 300 volunteers, seller’s wares had to be 75% gem, rock, mineral, or jewelry related. Running concurrently with the PowWow at another site, the Desert Gardens Gem and Mineral Show concentrates mostly on rocks, with a little less jewelry than the PowWow. Then there’s the Tyson Wells Rock and Gem Show. And the Prospectors’ Panorama. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Quartzsite is in southwest Arizona, 244 miles east of Los Angeles and 127 miles west of Phoenix. Las Vegas is 213 miles to the north. Located in the La Posa Plain, La Paz County, Quartzsite is bordered to the south by the Dome Rock, Castle Dome, and Kofa Mountains. In its heyday, 39 mines operated around Quartzsite. Mostly gold mines, with one or two cinnabar and lead. A profusion of old mines and collecting sites gave rise to Quartzsite in the mid 1960s as a rockhounding paradise. Quartzsite’s population now stands at roughly 3,000 people.
In 1856 Charles “Charly” Tyson dug a well that would provide water to cross country travelers, nearby ranchers, and to mine workers in the surrounding mountains. He built a small adobe structure and called it Fort Tyson. It eventually became a stagecoach stop on the route from Ehrenburg, Arizona to Prescott. By that time one building had become several, the compound taking on the fuller name of Tyson’s Well Stage Station.
Quartzsite owes its present appellation to postal naming conventions. The postmark “Tyson’s” served the town until 1895 when mail service ended due to the local postmaster falling ill. A new post office opened in 1896 at another location. The Postmaster General decreed that discontinued place names couldn’t be used and, further, only one-word names were acceptable. Quartz Site is what the townsfolk wanted, from all the quartz at a nearby stamp mill. The postal service shortened it to Quartzsite.
The PowWow Gem and Mineral Show first started in 1967 with 18 locals selling items at a small school to about a thousand people. The event progressed into what may now be the largest public rock and gem show in the country. Over these fifty years the entire town has become dotted with rock shops, auction houses, and trading posts of all kinds. While I was there a venue announced the sale of a pallet of American flag products, 4,000 helium balloons, and over 10,000 old Playboy magazines. Essentially, if something has been made, it’s probably been sold in Quartzsite.
Quartzsite’s popularity as America’s largest yard sale and winter retreat probably peaked in the year 2000. In January of 1999, Huell Howser, California travelogue producer par excellence, took his film crew outside the state for the first time to cover Quartzsite. In a warm and engaging hour, which is free to view online, Howser interviewed many townsfolk, mostly about the history of the community. Then, in 2000, National Geographiccame to visit. They called Quartzsite Nowhere, Arizona. Until November:
“Then, like a mob of chattering starlings settling into a too-small tree, the snowbirds start landing in November. By mid-January, the mechanical car counter at the Interstate 10 exit is ticking off 26,000 vehicles a day. Within weeks 175,000 RVs cram inches apart into 79 trailer parks, onto front yards, and spill out seven miles on either side of town. Every year more than a million people reset their internal navigation and drive from Everywhere, North America, to this western Arizona dot on the map. Luxury motor homes, fifth wheels, cab-over campers, trailers, and converted school buses plunk down on the same patch of land.” “America’s Largest Parking Lot” by Cary Wolinsky. National Geographic, January, 2001.
Things have settled down since then. My visit started on Wednesday, January, 18, 2017. Empty RV parking spaces in town seemed numerous. Space looked plentiful at BLM land outside of town. But since few venues charge for admission or parking, there’s no real way to keep count. The BLM did tell me approximately 28,401 people stayed at their free and pay areas in fiscal year 2016. And the Arizona D.O.T. says Main Street now averages 12,400 vehicles in each direction over the course of a year. The city website says 2,000,000 annual visitors. Whatever the numbers, the rock shows continue to draw vendors in record amounts, with waiting lists common for spaces.
As to the PowWow itself, Wednesday was ideal. Bright sunshine and short sleeve weather. I regretted not bringing sunscreen and I later bought a hat from the Quartzsite Gem and Mineral Club. More on them in a bit. To begin with, the PowWow is located just off Main Street at 235 East Ironwood Drive. Follow the cars. A parking lot doesn’t seem obvious, but keep moving along and you’ll find it; everything funnels to the main lot. Two tractor pulled shuttles take visitors to any entrance they like. Drivers give everybody time to get on, including those with walkers. Shuttle, parking, and admission are all free.
I came simply to look around, this being my first time in Quartzsite. Listing everything I saw would be like reciting a lengthy gem and mineral guide. Items varied from Bruneau jasper to lapis lazuli to malachite to Oregon sunstone. One booth sold “Hot Rocks”, with a Geiger counter next to them in case you had doubts. Another vendor had over a hundred sample boxes filled with different rocks and minerals, all arranged in alphabetical order. 21 boxes under “C” alone. That assortment ranged from Terlingua, Texas fluorescent calcite, to Coontail quartz from Magnet, Arkansas, to coyote teeth from British Columbia. And that was just one seller’s table.
A dinosaur sculpture greeted me on one aisle. On the next, oil paintings on marble. As I wandered, I came across Timothy Harned’s tables. He owns Bustin’s Glass and Minerals. I last saw Tim at the 2016 Logandale Fall Festival in Logandale, Nevada. The promoters advertised a Rock and Gem Faire at the event but Tim turned out to be the sole vendor. It was good to see him again and we talked. Again, Quartzsite is a meeting and gathering place.
The QIA building is PowWow’s center. QIA stands for the Quartzsite Improvement Association. Within their building is a limited number of dealers, display cases, and the kitchen and dining hall. Food is sold throughout the day, with all proceeds going toward supporting the QIA and its many community causes. The dining hall makes a great place to reconnoiter with your group, study the vendor list, and then plan what to see next.
The PowWow in 2017 ran from January, 18th until the 22d. As I mentioned, the Desert Gardens Rock, Gem, and Mineral Show was running concurrently and through February 28th. This venue is on the other side of I-10 at 1050 Kuehn Street. It has no parking lot shuttle service. A walk around Desert Gardens was similarly staggering, especially because of larger material. This is the place to find big pieces of rough. Need a spectacular garden rock? You’ll find it at Desert Gardens. The Desert Gardens venue was less busy than the PowWow and had a more relaxed feel. You should visit both. But the appeal of Quartzsite extends beyond the rock shows, to dedicated rock and gem shops and to the clubs that operate throughout the winter. First, the clubs.
The Quartzsite Roadrunner Gem and Mineral Club is one of the largest and most organized rock clubs in the country. Membership is only $15 a year and they are active October through March. Field trips go every Tuesday through the season and twice a day during PowWow. Non-members pay $2 a trip. Roadrunners this year during PowWow went to find bacon rock, desert roses, geodes, apache tears, and green banded rhyolite. Among other things. Round trip mileage ranged from 40 to 162 miles over a variety of roads, many of them tough. http://qrgmc.org
The Quartzsite Metal Detecting Club consists of coin shooters and gold prospectors. Membership is a terrific bargain at $20 a person. This lets you in on the club’s 14 claims encompassing 280 acres of gold bearing ground. The club is most active November through the middle of March, however, you are free to work in summer if you can stand the 118 degree heat. If you are a coin shooter, you can participate in their many winter season hunts. $20 for each hunt.Do not mail your dues to them, instead, pay in person at the Miners Depot described further on.
I stayed in Quartzsite for three days, however, with so many club activities, a week would have been a better choice. And then there are the stores.
Quartzsite is peppered with stand-alone and pop up stores selling rocks, gems, and minerals. Quartzsite’s business and souvenir map reveals retail shops like Gem World, T-Rocks, Sunwest Silver, and, less obvious, Hardies Beads and Jewelry. That last store is a Quartzsite institution. While mainly selling collecting supplies and beads, they have an outstanding rock collection installed on their interior east wall. Their museum contains quite a few specimens from the Quartzsite area, including gold in quartz. See the image below.
For gold prospectors, make certain to stop in at Blake and Lisa Harmon’s Miners Depot on North Central Boulevard. Miners Depot is a desert prospecting store and the unofficial clearing house for gold information in the Quartzsite area. Inquire about the metal detecting club. As with everything in Quartzsite, hours are seasonal.
While shopping, don’t miss a chance to visit the Tyson’s Well Museum. It’s free and enthusiastic volunteers will tell you the history of Quartzsite as a stage station and a supply depot for nearby mines. Speaking of which, outside in back, is the original assay office of the Mariquita mine. The many items speak to the everyday life of miners. The volunteer I talked to was also a member of the metal detecting club. He discussed at length the many mines surrounding Quartzsite. Be sure to notice the museum ceiling made of saguaro ribs.
Quartzsite doesn’t take itself too seriously. The square dance club is called the Cactus Dodgers, a propane supply company is called Passmore Gas, and one street is named, well, No Name Street. Camel references abound and you should know the story of them and of Quartzsite’s most famous citizen before you visit.
In 1857 the War Department directed Edward Beale to pioneer a wagon trail from New Mexico to California. In his company were about 75 camels purchased from North Africa and the Middle East. This constituted a great experiment as to the worthiness of camels as pack animals in the great Southwest. Questions were many, such as, could camels swim the Colorado River? On this journey as packer and guide was one Phillip Tedro, born in present day Turkey and later a Syrian countryman. After converting to Islam, Tedro called himself Hadji Ali. The men in Beale’s company had difficulty pronouncing the name, however, and instead called him Hi Jolly.
After completing the journey, which Beale said went “without an accident of any kind whatsoever”, the troupe of camels were disbanded. (It Happened in Arizonaby James Crutchfield. Falcon Press, 1994) Speculation has it that the camel’s sensitive hooves, although perfectly suited to loose soft sand, could not endure the Sonoran Desert’s often rocky surface. A travel guide adds this, “The camels adapted well to their new environment but were never used successfully, partly because the sight of them caused horses, mules and cattle to stampede.” (AAA Arizona and New Mexico Tour Book, 2014)
Hadji bought a few camels from the company and returned with them to Arizona, where he engaged in various pursuits, including mining and acting as a government scout. He became an American citizen, married in Tucson and finally settled in Quartzsite. At a certain point he released his camels to the desert. He died in 1902 and is buried in Quartzsite’s cemetery. In 1935 the State of Arizona built the pyramidal Hi Jolly monument which you see today. According to the 2017 Quartzsite Visitor Guide , it is the town’s most visited spot. The legacy of camels echoes throughout Quartzsite in postcards, sculptures, and as ornaments in maps and guidebooks.
At any booth you’ll find miners who found and worked up material from their own property or claim. It is this direct connection that makes buying more personable than purchasing a rock through eBay or another second hand source. Two talks with vendors were memorable.
Karen Britton of Britton Apache Turquoise has been mining and working variscite and turquoise for 29 years in central Nevada in Lander County. Her late husband, Lee Britton, had even earlier ties to turquoise and turquoise like rocks. He first staked a Lander County claim in 1974. Their most famous property was the Apache Turquoise Mine. Karen mentioned a Rock&Gem article done by Mark Hatch where he described how he produced a stunning necklace starting from Apache Mine rough. (“Make an Apache Turquoise Necklace” by Mark Hatch Rock&Gem January, 1971). I read the piece later and it was indeed a tribute to the black included stones Britton regularly mines. I bought a cabochon from Karen, partly as a collectible, partly to support her continuing efforts.
After the show I read up on the Apache Mine. Two writers wrote that Apache Mine material once thought turquoise has now been identified as variscite. (Minerals of Nevada, Stephen B. Castor and Gregory Ferdock. Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Special Publication 31, 2004.) What impressed me on that Wednesday, however, was Karen’s dedication to her beautiful rocks. She soldiers on with no web presence, appearing only at shows like those in Quartzsite. Besides talking to this veteran, I was also struck by a young couple just making their presence known in the rock business.
John Keady and Chelsea Thompson operate Rockchuck Gem and Mineral Gallery in tiny Schurz, Nevada. It’s just north of Walker Lake in Mineral County on I-95. The pair create cabs and jewelry, notably using turquoise and variscite from different Nevada locales. They also mine their own Hellsfire agate. Keady is by training a stone mason. I didn’t know all this until I came across their booth. I vaguely recalled a rock shop sign near Schurz but I never investigated it. And now, here were the owners. The shop had come to me. There’s more.
The last time I passed Walker Lake I stopped to read different information signs. They were installed on impressive monuments made of local stone. It turns out Keady built one. What were the odds I’d meet the builder of something I noted on a lonely road to Reno? And what were the chances I’d run into two such young and creative people almost six hundred miles from their home? As I said before, Quartzsite is a gathering and meeting place. For people you’ve already met. And for the people you will.
Some Quartzsite Tips
Many sellers and restaurants take only cash so be prepared. The only bank in town is the Horizon Community Bank. Take a notebook to keep track of purchases, vendors, and details. Bring sunscreen and a cap. A raincoat and a heavier coat for rain and wind that may well happen. Don’t forget your loupe and a camera. Remember, too, that Arizona is on Mountain Standard Time. Most things get going around 10:00 a.m. And look out for pedestrians while driving at night. They are everywhere and all dressed in black. One more thing. Bring your patience — you’re among friends.
Essential and mostly free publications to pick up around town:
Quartzsite, Arizona Visitor Guide
Quartzsite EZ-Guide (a map of vendor spaces for the four major shows)
QIA PowWow Gem and Mineral Show Guide (available at the PowWow)
The Quartzsite Nugget and Winter Visitors Guide
Where IZZAT Business Map (Absolutely vital for navigating Quartzsite. $2.00)
Desert Messenger News (Community paper)
Most publications won’t be available until the end of the year. Until then, keep abreast of Quartzsite happenings with the excellent Desert Messenger. Read it here:
Stagecoach Restaurant and Motel (928) 927-8161 904 West Main Street
No true web presence. Call.
People also stay in Ehrenberg, AZ or Blythe, CA, about 18 miles and 22 miles away, respectively. Parker, AZ is about forty miles north on I-95 but the road crosses many washes and could be cut off in a rainstorm. Still, I like the drive and often stay at the Hampton Inn in Parker.
Quartzsite comes alive in winter. January sees a gathering of rock, gem, and mineral collectors and sellers from all over the world. I’ve written about this extensively at my blog, https://southwestrockhounding.com. See you there in January.
Quartzsite Museum aka the Tyson’s Well Stage Station
161 West Main St Quartzsite, AZ 85346 928-927-5229
Mining artifacts and assay office. Seasonal hours. The Tyson’s Well Museum is a must-stop. It is free and enthusiastic volunteers explain the history of Quartzsite as a stage station and a supply depot for nearby mines.
The Quartzsite Roadrunner Gem and Mineral Club is one of the largest and most organized rock clubs in the country. Extremely active, especially October through March. Field trips go every Tuesday through that time and twice a day during the QIA’s PowWow. Non-members pay $2 a trip. Roadrunners may go to find, among other things, bacon rock, desert roses, geodes, apache tears, and green banded rhyolite. Major shop facilities and classes.
566 North Central Blvd Quartzsite, AZ 85346 Messaging through their website
33°40.538′ N 114°13.033′ W
Miners Depot is desert prospecting store and a clearing house for gold information in the Quartzsite area. Detectors, tools, screens, lots of screens, the place to stop before heading out. Generally open six days a week during the main prospecting season, from about November through mid-March.
Mailing Address PO Box 3102 Quartzsite, AZ 85359-3102 928-927-7150 Meeting address (Miners Depot) 566 North Central Blvd Quartzsite, AZ 85346 33°40.538′ N 114°13.033′ W
A club of coin shooters and gold prospectors. Membership is a terrific bargain at $20 a person. This lets you in on the club’s 14 claims encompassing 280 acres of gold bearing ground. The club is most active November through the middle of March, however, you are free to work in summer if you can stand the 118 degree heat. If you are a coin shooter, you can participate in their many winter season hunts. $20 for each hunt.
Of special note, they do not mail memberships. Sign up and pay dues at their club meetings, coin hunts, their table at the PowWow in January, and at Miners Depot. Really, though, get out to Miners Depot. It is well worth your visit.
Quartzsite is a small town in the Arizona desert that each year plays host to rock and gem enthusiasts from all over the world. These rockhounds, prospectors, and lapidary people come to meet hundreds of vendors selling everything rock and jewelry related. Others come, too.
In the desert around Quartzite, thousands of temporary winter visitors, called Snowbirds, make themselves a home for a few weeks or months. These are mainly RV folks, often retired, who roam the States seeking warm climates and interesting events. They certainly find both in Quartzsite.
Besides rocks, dozens of venues host flea market goods, with everything from car parts to comic books to antiques. You’ll never know what you’ll find in Quartzsite. In addition to seasonal selling sites, permanent buildings in town include a unique bookstore, a great local history museum, and a bead shop that has a terrific rock and gem museum.
The most prominent rock event each winter is the QIA PowWow:
QIA stands for the Quartzsite Improvement Association, a non-profit that uses proceeds from the event to benefit various concerns around the city. The PowWow runs from Wednesday, January 16th, to Sunday, January, 20th. Free parking and free admission, with a shuttle service to ferry people back and forth from the parking lot.
The local gem club hosts two field trips each day during the PowWow, off to a different collecting sites each time. I won’t be able to participate in any digs due to my recent surgery, but I will be in town Wednesday and Thursday. I’ll take photographs for my book, interview people, and pass out business cards.
Winter weather can be iffy in the desert. Currently, a slight chance of rain is in the forecast. Heavy rain and wind can play havoc with the vendors, most of whom have outside booths. While that weather can happen, Quartzsite usually offers shirt-sleeve weather by noon.
Bring plenty of water if you go walking around the PowWow. Humidity is low in the desert, even in winter, and people dry out. Comfortable shoes! And something to carry all your goods back to your vehicle. For bigger material, like petrified wood stumps, try the Desert Gardens venue. And pick up the free Quartzsite show guides which are placed all over town.
Lastly, bring plenty of cash in small bills. While many vendors accept plastic, don’t assume that all will. And don’t try to make a dealer break a fifty or a one hundred dollar bill. When I go, I take an envelope of five and tens. There are no Big Bank ATMs in town, so get your cash stash beforehand. Remember, all sellers are small business owners who deserve the courtesy they will undoubtedly extend to you.
Rock&Gem has an excellent, current introduction to Quartzsite at their site:
I wrote an article two years ago on Quartzsite for Rock&Gem. Unfortunately, the content is behind a paywall. But I’ll be sharing a few photographs and notes when I get on the road this week. I am still tired from my operation but there is little pain from the wound area. Generally. Unable to run for the next two weeks, I am listless and impatient to get back to my routine. Quartzsite will be a welcome distraction. Perhaps I will see you there. I’ll be the one with all the bandages on his face. 🙂