Be sure to stop at any of the kiosks and get a public use regulation brochure and map. Groups using the refuge will need a free Special Use Permit (SUP). Call for more information (928) 783-7861. Camping is limited to 14 days in any calendar year, no long term. If you want a fire bring wood, it is scares. Wilderness and leave no trace practices are required. Pack-it-in, pack-it-out.
The refuge is more restrictive than the surrounding BLM lands.
This site is not operated by BLM. It is within the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS). Call them at (928) 783-7861. It is dispersed so first come first serve. Road from Hwy 95 is rough and not recommended for small cars. 14 day stay within the calendar year. No long term and no facilities. Oct. thur March is best time. The area is the only location to collect anything on Kofa. No tools allowed, hands only. 10 specimens or ten pounds which ever comes first is the collection limit per calendar year. Get a brochure at the kiosk when you enter the Kofa, it has the public use regulations and a map.
Only keep your limit and pictures and memories. Wilderness values and leave no trace practices are best way to be.
When we passed through this area we were really excited to have actually found a place for camping in a tent, a lot of the area is surrounded by places which are designed for RV travelers, which makes it a little hard to enjoy the Yuma area.
Our excitement of the site however was a little short lived in some aspects. The port-a-potty provided was a bit deceiving, it wasn't really something you would ever want to use and look like it had been abused and possibly even dumped on its side at some point (GROSS). For that reason I had to mark this dispersed site down considerably. I would have probably rated it higher had it not even had one rather than a false ideal of having something and it being in poor shape.
We settled into the dispersed site and had amazing views and enjoyed some dry camping here following a fun day of historic sites in Yuma. Great place to get some sky photography for those which enjoy that as a hobby!
Check out the Yuma tours in town, you can get a map of the historic sites at the Territorial Prison and find out where the other places of interest are. It is the Wild West in a commercial way, but you can do the self tour without paying a guide.
Bring all your supplies to this campsite because the closest store is a ways away. You can have campfires if you choose but there are no proper rings if you choose to do so and limited firewood.
go with someone familiar with the area, as heading off into the dunes can be dangerous: you can get lost super easy!.. on a holiday weekend this isnt a concern cuz it’s ridiculously packed and loud.
rv’s are parallel parked, several deep. mostly dunes vs washes.
no trees( as Its in the desert) nor any rv hookups. beautiful dunes for miles.
must purchase imperial dunes pass
I always come back to this area because it's so laid back and open. Since we camp here with a canoe we have fun setting up right along the water. Some spots you can canoe out to with your gear and camp! I have had some critters get into my gear here, but all in all it's a quiet, laid back boat launch site with nice, large sites and showers too.
It's a great spot to set out with canoes and kayaks, and I'd recommend adventuring over to Hidden Shores and all around in the hidden water trails to explore the area, hop out for a picnic, or hop in to cool off!
There are endless camping possibilities in Kofa. Primitive, dispersed real wilderness camping. No water. No toilets, no hookups, generators… and you have to have a 4x4 to get there! Just my kind of spot. I've explored all over this area by jeep, and by foot and never get bored going off on some new abandoned mine trail. There are hidden caves all around and great hikes to get there!
I'll just share my two favorite hidden gems in the area: Signal Peak is a must, and if you do, I recommend camping around Skull Rock. For a scenic offroad trail + neat cabin stay head to Kofa Mine Cabin!
For Signal Peak and the Skull Rock stay, you can park regular cars along Palm Canyon Road where the Kofa Natl Wildlife Refuge Brochures and info are and hop into a 4x4 for the rest of the drive. You'll need it. Don't attempt get to skull rock in any regular, vehicle, or anything without high clearance.
**NOTE: I have left a car in this lot with no issues while camping up in the canyon over night, but of course, do so at your own risk.
From that parking lot you head up to Kofa Queen Canyon and pick your spots for camping. There are plenty of good spots for tent on ledges, or on cots down near skull rock. Here you can grill and have general campfire fun.
The road to Skull Rock is undeveloped, needs high clearance and is a tight squeeze for wider vehicles. It will not accommodate campers or trailers. Tent camping only (aside from maybe your serious bug out vehicle!)
Skull rock camp spot is about a one hour and 45 minute drive from Yuma. From HWY 95 turn (east) onto Palm Canyon Road (not too far past the Border Patrol Checkpoint. Drive east 3.2 miles to Kofa Queen Canyon (KQC) Road on the left (north now). Follow KQC Road northeast about 7.5 miles into the Canyon to where a subsidiary Canyon opens up to your right (south). Passenger cars won't manage this last road. You'll need high clearance and preferably 4wd. The road inside the canyon is alternately rocky and sandy, and braids in and out with the wash. Just follow the 'better-looking' route if unsure at a junction. Enough people come up here you should be able to see lots of tire tracks.
*NOTE: There is no cell service at the campsite.
From here we drive down the trail bit further to get to Signal Peak (roughly 4,800ft), it's Kofa's highest peak. This is a strenuous hike with steep slopes and some scrambling, and should only be done by experienced hikers in good physical conditions with proper hiking boots. The beautiful view from from the top is absolutely worth the hike.
Dogs: Although I know of people who have brought dogs up here, it is a very rocky hike and could be very hot or treacherous for your pup. You may consider bringing a dog only if he is an avid hiker and has very strong paw pads (or hiking boots), and can physically handle the demands of this hike. Also, dogs as per Kofa National Wildlife Refuge Rules - are required to be on a leash at all times.
For the Kofa Mine Section, head on your way out to the Kofa Mine Museum and then just past it take the turn to Big Eye Mine - 15 mile offroad trail where a real, high clearance truck/jeep 4x4 is needed. There are at least 2 hairy sections that I even got a jeep stuck in for a minute. All of this area is full of mines and great open camping spaces.
Kofa was established in 1939 to be managed: “…as a representative area of lower Sonoran Desert habitat with a maximum diversity and abundance of native plants and animals and to protect and preserve the desert bighorn sheep and its habitat…” Since 1955, over 560 desert bighorn sheep have been trapped on Kofa and transplanted to other areas in Arizona, as well as to the states of New Mexico, California, Colorado, Texas and Nevada, to re-establish herds extirpated from habitat loss, development and over-hunting.
Unless you are a skilled Arizona adventurer, I'd advise against hiking or even offloading (in case something goes wrong) during the hot summer months when temperatures can rise to over 115 degrees F.
if you like to drive offroad, this is the place for you! even if you dont,its fun to sled down the dunes. small pit toilets that seem to be cleaned often but still smell, no water available and there are always beer cans thrown in the bathrooms. very popular with OHV and is pretty empty in the summer due to the extreme heat.
we adventured out to mittry lake in Arizona and boy was it beautiful. we brought our paddle boards to use on the lake and it was peaceful. not too many people were camping but during the day it was loud with people driving by with their boats. at night… the mosquitos came out and ate us alive. being from southern california, we haven't experienced mosquitos in a very long time. so make sure to be prepared.
Small parking area with spaces for RVs. You go inside the casino/store to pay. This is a no hook up parking area at one side of the large lot. The area is quiet and the casino and restaurants are within easy walking distance. There are bathrooms inside the casino which is open 24 hrs. We had ATT coverage and satellite service. There is an area to walk your four legged camper. The sites are level and the nights were quiet with the exception of car race night (there is a track across the street).
The casino parking lot is huge and we boondocked on one short visit to the area.
This is a safe spot to spend a night or two when traveling from coast to coast.
I stopped here for one night after driving from California. this is a cool place to Boondock. I was right on the pond and had no problems with anybody else. the bugs were not too bad. the sunrise was amazing. there are no facilities here. make sure you use the restroom before you come and bring what you need. it is also likely that you will not be able to have a fire.
March 23, 2018
North of Yuma, AZ
This was a quick, overnight stop on the way to somewhere after taking care of some business in Yuma. The lake is part of a system of small reservoirs on the lower Colorado River backed up by Martinez Dam and is heavily used winter visitors (snowbirds) in RV’s.
The RV’s are necessary since the camping area, while free of charge and worth it, is not overloaded with amenities. The lake has dumpsters and boat ramps but not much else besides a place to park. Parking is first come, first served and I would expect at the height of winter in the East this place gets very full since it was well-populated when I arrived.
Mostly it is a place to spend time on the cheap or the locals to drop a boat in the water for slow-speed recreation. Tried fishing from the shore and while fishing is always good, the catching is variable, in this case, nuttin.
If you are camping with an RV, Mittry Lake would be a lovely place to spend a few days between October and April, not so much in summer.
A little introduction may be in order. My name is Randy Mahannah, aka Randoo, I am 67 years old, accompanied by my dog and I’ve been on the road since February 23, 2018, as of this writing just over 3 months. I have been in 5 states, 4 Motel 6’s and 10 different campgrounds over 6300 miles and stops at friends and family. I am on the road and I’m enjoying it. Let’s start with a bucket list item.
There is a place in the far western and southern desert of Arizona called the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. At first glance, one might question the possibility of wildlife even remotely living in such a harsh desert environment but live there these creatures do, most amazingly, desert bighorn sheep. But it isn’t just the critters, it’s the desert, some of the most rugged, badass, beautiful desert in America, the border of the Sonora and the Mojave deserts and amazing country.
Oh yeah, campground rating, uuhhh, no campground unless you consider the entire refuge as your campground because that’s what it is, primitive camping at its best. At Kofa there are no facilities, no restrooms, no designated campsites, no water, no nuttin’, just a bare spot in the dirt and a place to dig your privy. So in terms of a best-of-five something rating probably zip. In terms of desert lonesome awesomeness, 5 +.
Take lots of water, you’ll need it, at least two five gallon containers and if you are so foolhardy as to visit Kofa between May and September, take a fiver for each day you will be there, just in case. I was there in March and was quite comfortable, day and night. Winters will be mild daytime, chilly to cold at night, summers, oppressively hot daytime and dance-naked-under –the-moon beautiful at night with more stars than you have ever seen unless you’ve been to Machu Pichu under a new moon.
As for things to do, desert hiking both flatland and in the mountains is what is offered. Take a camera and try to get a sheep shot. If that doesn’t work the native palms in Palm Canyon that stand still and won’t run away from you and the landscapes under a changing desert sun are wonderful.
I spent three nights there and was enchanted by a desert landscape I’ve wanted to visit since I was draft eligible. It’s all about timing and tolerance but if you find yourself in the neighborhood of Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, 23 miles south of Quartzite, 60+ miles north of Yuma, Arizona, allow yourself a night or two. Might pleasantly surprise you.
I camped here for a few weeks in January. It is beautiful and quiet even though I had quite a few neighbors. I found being by the lake brought more mosquitos so I camped on the raised portion just south of the lake. There are lots of birds! Also a few trails around the area through rocky hills. I thoroughly enjoyed my time staying here, and it was just a few minutes from town. It is just far enough outside of town to not have cell service. There are well maintained facilities. My dog loved getting to swim everyday! Overall i cant reccomend this place enough. I loved it and the convinience of it.