Our Fall RV Trip – Squaw Lake, S. Colorado River

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Squaw Lake from the edge of the paved campground with the boat Launch to the right

Squaw Lake is located about 15 miles north of Yuma, Arizona on the California side of the Colorado River. It is part of an irrigation reservoir system for the Yuma valley. Yuma grows over 90% of lettuce consumed by the US.

We arrived late afternoon, the sun was warm pushing the temperature to the upper 70’s. The area around Squaw lake allowed for nice views, although the dry camping spots were positioned side by side on pavement bordered by a concrete curb , if not for the lake it would very much resembled a mall parking lot.

The group seems to take this in stride with not much grumbling, although ‘H’ made it clear that this spot was not ideal.

11-10-15 Imperial Dam BLM (Senators Wash) (6)
Squaw lake paved campground with the lake in the background

Only a few spots were taken, so we picked 3 adjacent ones backing onto a large mesquite tree with a campfire ring adjacent. Unmovable concrete picnic tables were weirdly placed next to the curb, I’m not sure what the thought process was when placing these tables, or maybe the campground evolved around them, anyway they were not convenient.

The rigs were quickly set up, it was obvious we were getting our set up time down to a science, it seemed to take less time with each arrival, or maybe this time was the anticipation of happy hour, after all it was late afternoon?

The camp host and partner happened by and announced free fire wood and we could pay our camp fees in the morning. A couple of us headed directly to the wood pile for our share, the supply of firewood we had picked up in Napa was pretty much depleted.

11-10-15 Imperial Dam BLM (Senators Wash) (5)
Squaw Lake with the spill way from the hydro turbines on the right and the boat launch center

By the time set up was completed the sun had dipped to the horizon and the temperature began to drop as the first sparks from our usual evening campfire appeared. ‘H’ had thoughtfully brought his version of fire starter, a mixture of saw dust and diesel fuel.

Works great, fill a coffee can with sawdust and then add a cup or two of diesel fuel, it eliminates paper and kindling, place a couple of tablespoons of the mixture under the wood and light. Keep the lid on tight to prevent the diesel from evaporating.

‘H’ routinely took the honors of lighting the fire that one or all of us had made ready. The mesquite firewood quickly caught and before long we had a, “beautiful fire“, as ‘L’ would often say. Desert wood burns much nicer than wood from wetter regions, no sparks and more heat. Probably more dense from lack of moisture.

We settled into our usual debriefing session of the days travel with our favorite beverage. Happy hour was becoming a pleasantly anticipated daily group event. In fact, it is becoming such a success that it sometimes carries on for much more than the hour described by it’s name.

Once happy hours nears a close the women routinely prepare dinner either independently or as a group, depending on their plan. Our first night at Squaw lake we ate as a group enjoying cold rotisserie chicken ($2.50) from Walmart and potato salad prepared by my navigator.

While dinner was being prepared and as darkness fell the men went about locking the vehicles and securing everything flyable in case the wind picked up during the night . We quickly had become accustomed to the desert winds that can cause havoc at anytime.

After dinner more campfire chat and a night cap. The group was relaxing around the fire when Buddy let out a growl and began barking at something in the dark. We grabbed for our flashlights and sauntering towards us were a dozen or so donkeys.

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Our evening visitors, below munching on mesquite clippings, notice ‘H’s coffee can with fire starter.

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I quickly grabbed Buddy and hustled him off to the safety of our trailer, I have heard tales of donkeys attacking dogs and even killing one in this area. I guess they consider a dog to be a threat like a coyote.

I deposited Buddy in the trailer and grabbed my camera. Most of the donkeys wandered past while two brown colored animals stopped to check us out.

It was obvious they were looking for a hand out and showed no fear of us or the fire. After realizing no treats were to be had they wondered off into the night, not to be seen again during this stop.

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This guy was trying to eat my camera

Donkeys are a common sight in the desert, they where released by miners after they were no longer useful, but be careful some are very tame while others are very wild, and may attach a dog without provocation.

After the excitement of the donkeys the night turned quiet in the cool evening air. Soon the cold encouraged a mass retreat to the warmth of our rigs, the last remaining person assumed the chore of dowsing the campfire & securing the camp chairs. We are all early risers so retreating to the solitude of our rigs can happen anytime after dinner. Some read, or watch TV to wind down another fun day of retirement travel.

Some say it’s the fresh air and chores of camping that causes the early drowsiness, but I think it may have something to do with the extended happy hour and the night caps after dinner, but that is just a guess…………LOL.

As the trip wears on it’s becoming the custom that the day after traveling is vaguely voted to be a day of relaxation, although the women have adopted an exercise routine of a long walk after breakfast.

The next morning the wind had picked up again chasing  us behind our trailer for shelter. Several of us spent the first full day at our new destination reading while I explored the lake shore and attended to my solar system.

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Some of the group taking a break?
The Lake

Squaw Lake is more like an enlargement of the Colorado River caused by the Imperial Dam, which was built to hold back water for irrigating the crops of the Yuma valley. Other nearby lakes, Martinez Lake several miles up the river and Ferguson Lake another few miles are also a result of the Imperial Dam.

Squaw Lake is a beautiful contrast with it’s lush shore line vegetation and vivid blue water to the stark and barren surrounding desert. There are many picturesque trails through the hills bordering the lake and river, the women were happy to take advantage of these on their morning walks.

As our planned week stay wore on we decided a drive to Yuma and take in the Arizona Market, at 32nd st. and 41/2 ave, would be fun. Arizona has many flea market type shopping areas, probably to amuse the snowbirds with time to kill and money to spend.

The Arizona Market is typical of southern flea markets catering to RVers and snowbirds. RV products, discount tools, camping equipment, and outdoor furniture just to mention some items. There are many deals to be had if you are a shrewd shopper.

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Inside one of the isles of the Arizona Market

‘H’ & ’R’ found cheap LED replacement light bulbs for their rigs, ‘R’ also found director type camp chairs. I settled for $3 baseball caps, an $8 hurricane lantern, 2 D cell batteries for $1, and 10 tent pegs for $1 to hold down our RV mat.

As it happened the market became a destination for the next 3 days for various supplies. The days seemed to be cooling off with wind so some time in the shelter of the market was a nice respite.

Squaw lake is a scenic spot, but the close proximity to other campers with their generator noise soon became annoying, especially because we could move to the reservoir camping area on the same ticket. A vote was taken and the move was approved.

11-10-15 Imperial Dam BLM (Senators Wash) (7)

Our stay in the area was supposed to be a week before continuing on to Alamo Lake our next destination. The plan was to stay for 1 ½ weeks at Alamo, but we decided to stay longer at Senator’s Wash area and move to the reservoir.

The reservoir is a mile west of Squaw lake, the mile square lake is used for hydro electric production that can cause the water level to vary several feet a day. The water is pumped from the Colorado River into the elevated reservoir and then flows through turbines to create electrical power.

Dry Camping on the shoreline is available with level areas and charcoal BBQ s. Camping is always a more enjoyable experience next to a lake, water always provides a stage for all sorts of birds and critters.

While we were camped at Squaw Lake a near disaster, next article.

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Thanks for visiting.

Gord B.

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