Imperial Dam LTVA

The Desert

The Sonoran Desert

Imperial Dam LTVA - Sonoran Desert Map

Sonoran Desert Map

The Imperial Dam LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) is located in the Sonoran Desert. This desert extends into California, Arizona and Mexico. According to Wikipedia, it is the hottest desert in North America. It covers 100,000 square miles, making its area more than the state of Oregon which covers 98,381 square miles.

The Average High/Low (F) temperatures for Imperial Dam (the data is from year 2000 to 2012) according to are: 

January 71/48 July 107/82
February 73/49 August 106/82
March 80/54 September 103/77
April 86/59 October 90/66
May 97/67 November 77/53
June 105/76 December 69/46

The desert can be a beautiful place. It can also be quite harsh. When walking, hiking, biking or driving in the desert, remember to bring adequate water for your trip. It’s also a good idea to bring a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and sturdy shoes. This might seem obvious but sometimes even grizzled desert rats need to be reminded.

Imperial Dam LTVA - Desert Lily

Desert Lily

The Sonoran Desert is the home of the Saguaro Cactus, where according to Wikipedia, it grows in the wild, the only place in the world that can make this claim. The desert is also home to many flowering plants. At the Imperial Dam LTVA, starting as early as February, it’s always a contest to see who can spot the first desert lily, a beautiful white flower.

Imperial Dam LTVA - Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear

The purple cactus flower, the Prickly Pear, is also very pretty. Other common varieties of flowering plant life are the Desert Marigold, the Brittlebush and the Ocotillo.

Plant Life

Animal Life

Animal life abounds in the Sonoran Desert. At the Imperial Dam LTVA there is an abundance of water with Senator Wash Reservoir, Squaw Lake and of course the Colorado River and all its connecting canals and waterways, making it an attractive place for wildlife. Some of the more common animals you’re likely to see are coyotes, wild donkeys (burros), rattlesnakes, scorpions, desert iguanas, kangaroo rats and rabbits.

Imperial Dam LTVA - Desert Iguana

Desert Iguana

There are also many varieties of birds and the marshland driving into the Yuma Proving Grounds is an excellent place from which to do some bird-watching. Another favorite bird-watching locale is the day-use area at Squaw Lake. That’s a fun place to bring your picnic and binoculars and spend the day.

Although rattlesnakes (see our Rattlesnakes story in the Boondocker Chatter) are likely to be more afraid of you than you of them, it never hurts to be cautions. And although burros may seem as cute and tame as horses, beware of how protective a mother can be of her young!

Imperial Dam LTVA - Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Owls are also common in the desert. Since owls are nocturnal, you’re more likely to hear them rather than see them, as they hoot back and forth to each other during the night.

Getting There

From Imperial Dam Road (S24), head North on Senator Wash Road for about 3 miles.

  • For the North Shore, turn left on to Mesa Drive. The sign will indicate Contact Station. Proceed straight on Mesa Drive until reaching signs (affectionately known as “5 Corners”) which will provide directions to North Shore.
  • For the South Shore,  turn left on to Mesa Drive. The sign will indicate Contact Station. Proceed approximately 200 yards and enter the access road on the right which leads to the reservoir and the South Shore.
  • For Senator Wash Boat Ramp And Day Use Area, drive past Mesa Drive and the Contact Station and turn left about 300 yards beyond the Contact Station. There is a sign for Senator Wash Boat Ramp and Day Use Area.
Head North on Senator Wash Road for about 3 miles, to the Contact Station and Mesa Drive on the left. Pass the Contact Station and  in less than a quarter of a mile, on your left, you will see the sign for the Senator Wash Recreation Area. Keep going past that, the road will bear right and you will go over a bridge with rough pavement. Keep heading North, the road ahead will be closed, and you will see the sign for the “Squaw Lake Recreation Area” on your right. You will take a right, circling right, down the hill. Squaw Lake and the Campground will be on your left. 

Go through the stop sign and stay to your right. You will curve to the left as you skirt the outside of the parking lot. On your left you will see a sign to the two boat ramps available. If you head to the boat ramp near the lower showers (and the end of the road), you can park in the lot. There you will see picnic tables, the day-use area, near the water.