Imperial Dam LTVA
What’s Important To Know
While there certainly are many other important things here at the Imperial Dam LTVA, this should help get you started. If you’re new to the area or considering a stay here, we recommend you also read the What’s Here and What’s Near pages. When you want to know where things are here, be sure to check out the Imperial Dam Interactive Map.
The Imperial Dam LTVA, the jewel in the crown of the BLM!
You can bet we made the decision to cross into Arizona for the rest of our journey here. We filled up for $2.29 per gallon at Quartzsite, and then in Yuma at the “high-priced” Chevron station for $2.15 per gallon.
So when you Google for directions to get here, we recommend you take any route outside of California unless you want to make a donation to California’s policies. We came here from just south of Tahoe. If it had not been for a winter snow storm, we would have come through Nevada to Arizona. We travel with a small motorhome and small box van (our garage). Our cost of gas was $504.02. If we had not been forced to a California Route, our costs would have been about $325. That’s $179.02 extra to support Governor “Moon Beam”. To put that in perspective, that is $0.98 cents shy of what an entire 7 months rent is here at Imperial Dam LTVA.
If you do have to come from Western California, fill up before you start heading into the high desert. Beware of what to expect when you start getting close to the Colorado River. We made the mistake of not filling up in Ludlow, CA at $3.79 per gallon as we thought it was a rip off, and ended up paying $4.09 in Needles, CA.
We generally stay at Federal Parks when we take trips. This is a luxury that is not available when you are traveling to a destination like Imperial Dam LTVA. We spent the first night at a commercial RV park in Madera, CA. We would give the park a “C” rating, nothing fancy. We never used the “full hookups”, but did fill up with water and dump in the sewer. We also had a great shower. For this we laid out $35. As we have spent thousands on our Solar System, which includes hot water panels, this seemed kind of like throwing money away. At least to people from our generation.
Here are a few tips on making boondocking as good as an RV park, and keeping safe.
- Look for rest areas when planning your trip.
- See if some of them offer a dump station and/or potable water. Use them and fill up with water whenever you can.
- When you pull in, look for a place to park near the facilities but away from the trucks, which come and go all night.
- Look for Walmart’s that welcome RVs overnight, also a good time to get supplies.
- Investigate large parking areas used by truckers at which RVs are also located (we did, for example, in Vidal, CA)
You should take the time to plan your boondocking stops as if you were choosing the campgrounds at which you would be staying. You should never boondock in isolated areas. If you plan your trip, stay at safe places, close enough to the truckers, but far enough so their comings and goings won’t let you sleep. A good solar, MiFi and heating system are also a requirement for us Seniors, and a DVD or TV is pretty valuable too!
So be safe and save big, and start planning for your boondocking adventure today.
- Finding the entrance: If you’re coming in via Route 95, keep your eyes open for the signs to the Yuma Proving Grounds. Less obvious are the signs (near the YPG signs) are the signs to the Imperial Dam LTVA. It really doesn’t matter as you will take the same road. You will pass through the Yuma Proving Grounds to get to the Imperial Dam LTVA campgrounds and registration area (“Contact Station”).
- Supplies & Gas: Head into Yuma if you need supplies, including a top-off of propane and gasoline.
- Cash for Registration: You will need ca$h if you decide to register inside Imperial Dam LTVA, so if you need to, while in Yuma, this is a good time to visit an ATM or Bank.
- Finding a campsite (with cell service): Don’t take it for granted you will be getting cell service at all of the campsites. Without expensive gear, Verizon is the only available service. You will need to check your phone’s signal meter to find a suitable spot if cell/MiFi service is important to you. Additional information available on this page below.
- Getting a CB Radio: If you want fast emergency assistance and/or want to keep track of local events and contact others out of cell range, you will want to purchase a decent CB radio and a long range antenna. Additional information available on this page below.
Services & Ammenities
When you entered Imperial Dam LTVA, you were on Senator Wash Road. Continue up until you see the sign for the Contact Station, about 1.5 miles. Take a left and you will be in the main amenities area. You will see water filling stations, dumpsters and dumping stations on the left. The Contact Station, where you register, is right after that. It’s easy to spot with its solar panels mounted on a utility trailer. Hours of operation are between 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM and is manned by either Hosts or Volunteers. We have always found them both friendly and informative, and happy to answer your questions.
Late Arrival: While not an official policy, if the office is closed, go and search for your new campsite and pull in for the night. Just be sure to register the following morning.
Please note that you have to enter the sewer dump stations through the rear or a Volunteer will be there to move you, nicely.
Here are our recommendations when making one of all of our favorite trips (yes, that was said with sarcasm).
- Pull in between the water stations and the dumpsters and turn right
- Pull into the dumping station and well, dump
- Pull out, take a right and pull into a water station and fill up
- Pull out, take a right to the dumpsters and throw out your trash
You are now headed in the right direction to get on the entry road and return to your campsite.
Vault toilets are also located in the Gravel Pit by the Pavilion.
Pay Showers: Located at the end of Senator Wash Road, you can get a great shower down at Squaw Lake campground for a buck. You need to purchase tokens for a shower that point out their showers last 7 minutes and not the normal 5 minutes. Having come from a generation where we celebrated our differences and laughed at them, (and the fact that I own this website and can be politically incorrect), here is the real fact: Men seem to have time left over from their showers, where the wives seem to need 2 tokens. 🙂
Verizon seems to work best from the hill-tops at the center of Imperial Dam LTVA. We design remote communications, power and water systems for the U.S. Forest Service so we have some equipment that is beyond our budget. We looked for a good place to camp, mainly based on the number of bars our Verizon MiFi displayed on its 4G LTE icon. Yes, we are kind of nerdy. We found a spot where we picked up between 2 – 3 bars (mostly 2). It has only dropped to 3G once during our stay thus far. That was enough to get me to put up our weBoost Connect 4G Cell Phone Booster Kit. We did get a steady 4 bars from 2 on our MiFi, and invited a neighbor over who had an AT&T account, and he was able to get one bar up using our system.
WiFi & Computer Cafe: The Christian Service Center does have a Computer Center with a few computers available for free use. You can also bring your own computer or device and use their WiFi for a nominal fee per kilobyte. They had to start charging as every time someone hooked up to their WiFi, generally after a significant period of time, their computers would immediately start downloading overdue updates which quickly overloaded their available bandwidth.
There is also an unauthorized but well known service provided near the Contact Station trailer where you can sign up for WiFi service near that location.
Our advice for those who need Internet and/or Cell Service is to get a Verizon account if you don’t already have one, find a hilltop location in the center of Imperial Dam LTVA, find a good cell signal using your device’s signal meter (bars) and camp there.
More information is available at the bottom of this page.
You will need to register with them to get mail and packages and some of their other offerings. But that’s half the fun because they’re such a friendly, welcoming bunch. Visit their page here.
Getting there: From the intersection of Highway S24 and Senator Wash Road, there are two routes you can take to get to Yuma. We’ll use the intersection of 4th Ave. and Highway 95 as our example destination. Route 1 is via Bard, CA and to get to our destination is about 20 miles. Route 2 is via Yuma Proving Grounds and to get to the example destination is about 29 miles. Which route you take depends on where in Yuma you want to go.
- Route 1: If you take a right on to S24, you pass through the town of Bard and lots of farm country. After about 17 miles, make a left onto business route 8 (at the 4-way stop). Follow business route 8 into Yuma and your destination.
- Route 2: If you take a left on to S24, you pass through the Yuma Proving Grounds. The S24 becomes the Laguna Dam Rd then the E. Imperial Dam Rd then intersects at Highway 95. Take a right on to Highway 95 (south) and follow it into Yuma. After about 13 miles, if you make a left on to Fortuna Rd, this will take you into The Fortuna Foothills which has its own wide range of shopping. It is about 20 miles total from our starting point.
Los Algodones, Mexico is a great place to find affordable prescription drugs, dental work and prescription glasses. It’s located about 10 miles west of Yuma. The best way to get there is to park on the US side and walk over the border. This way you avoid having to get Mexican auto insurance. You will need your passport to get back so don’t forget it!
Getting there: From the intersection of Highway S24 and Senator Wash Road, take a right on to Highway S24. Route 1 is via Highway S24 and back roads and Route 2 is via Highway S24 and Interstate 8.
- Route 1: Take S24 to Arnold Rd and make a right. Take Arnold Rd to Quick Rd and make a left. Take Quick Rd to Araz Rd (Highway S24) and make a right on to Araz. Follow on Araz Rd until it turns into the 186 Highway. Right before you cross the border, you will see parking on the right. Parking cost $6 so make sure you have your cash ready. Follow the road to park as close to the border walkway as possible.
- Route 2: Take S24 and make a left onto business route 8 (at the 4-way stop). The I8 west freeway entrance will be on your right. Take the I8 until the Highway 186 off ramp. Make a left on to Highway 186. Right before you cross the border, you will see parking on the right. Parking cost $6 so make sure you have your cash ready. Follow the road to park as close to the border walkway as possible.
Either a California or Arizona fishing license is valid here. The only way we could, in good conscience, ask anyone to consider a California License, is if they already had one. I guess there are some folks who love Governor “Moon Beam” and his give-away policies. If you do, a California license will set you back $47.01 for residents and $126.36 for non-residents. An Arizona License will cost $37 for residents and $55 for non-residents. Your choice. You can buy your fishing license online: Arizona License or California License. Check out the Arizona Fish & Wildlife and California Fish & Wildlife websites for more information.
Here is a good resource to find out the best Fishing Times to help with that fish-fry you’ll be having.
Swimming, boating and water skiing are favorite water activities at the Imperial Dam LTVA. Senator Wash has a Boat Ramp and Day Use Area and smaller watercraft, like jet skis, can be launched right from the beach. The Day Use Area also has a buoyed swimming area.
Squaw Lake has two Boat Launches as well as the added attraction of direct access to the Colorado River. Legal boat speed in Squaw Lake is 5 mph, no wake, however this limitation ends at the Colorado River. Squaw Lake has two buoyed swimming areas.
The Imperial Dam LTVA is a big place filled with desert arroyos and plateaus just waiting to be explored. The landscape tends to be rocky so sturdy shoes are recommended. As far as official “trails”, it appears that anywhere that’s accessible by foot can be a hiking trail. Leashed pets are welcome.
Since the desert can be a harsh place, it’s wise to bring adequate water, a hat and sunscreen. Also, as when going out into any wilderness, go with someone or at least let someone know when and where you are going. Since cell phone reception is spotty, if you have a walkie-talkie, it’s not a bad idea to stay in radio contact. And since many people have CB Radios, a hand-held CB would probably keep you in contact with someone monitoring the radio.
For biking, as far as we were able to find out, bicycles must stay on designated roads and trails that are shared with motorized vehicles. Since the area is fairly hilly, it can be challenging for a bike. We talked to one old-timer who rides his bike from the Contact Station to the Christian Service Center, who said he uses a “power assist” front wheel to help him up the hills. Not a bad idea!
The Christian Service Center Church services are every Sunday at 10 AM and 6:30 PM. Bible Study is at 6:30 PM Wednesdays. The Church is air-conditioned.
The Yuma Proving Grounds Army Base is open to worshipers (requires a day pass) and has Catholic Mass is at 9:30 AM and Protestant Services at 11 AM.
- Aerobics with Maxi: Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9AM – 10AM.
- Yoga with Karen: Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 10AM – 11AM.
- Music Jams: Sundays at 1:30PM, weather permitting.
- Horseshoes: Mondays at 10AM or anytime you like.
2015-2016: These are some of the tours, group hikes and Radio Controlled cars, trucks and plane activities, happening here at Imperial Dam LTVA.
- Emergency Response Team Meeting: Tuesday at 8AM in the small trailer behind the restroom.
- Jaws 4×4 Jaunts: Wednesdays at 8:30AM, meet at the end of Gravel Pit Road.
- Cadillac Rides: On Request. Contact Slobberjaws in Skunk Hollow.
- Hikes with the Lost Canuck: Tuesdays at 9AM. meet at the 2nd Restroom.
- Ladies Mountain Hikes: On the 2nd & 4th Saturday each month at 10AM. Meet at Skunk Hollow.
- Traxxas RC Car & Truck Races: 1st & 3rd Saturday of each month at 10AM. Meet at Skunk Hollow.
- Flying RC Airplanes: Anytime West of 5 Corners. Or contact Taurus at North Rim South Mesa.
- Golf at Imperial Dam LTVA: Golf Courses located at Coyote Ridge or Above the Gravel Pit. Tee Time; Anytime.
CB Radio: Emergencies & More
If you do not have a CB radio, check with your neighbors and ask if you can call on them to radio for you in an emergency.
It’s important to know your location and we have a new kid on the block for emergencies: interactive maps. The maps break Imperial Dam LTVA into neighborhoods making it easier to identify your location. You will also be able to register your location with the ERT (Emergency Response Team) on their new website, ert.imperialdam.com, in order to facilitate getting you emergency help if and when you need it.
For you online folks, you can place a free classified ad at classifieds.rvhobo.net. Think of it as a boondocker’s “Craigs List”. Any Imperial Dam LTVA resident who places a free classified ad, will have that ad automatically forwarded to the Swap Shop.
Now, in addition to News and Events, Roll Call, Swap Shop and just chatting with neighbors, CB Channel 12 is monitored 24 hours a day by the Emergency Response Team (ERT). They have an impressive response time of approximately 7 minutes. And now with the new interactive maps, divided into neighborhoods, residents can register their location to make sure help gets to them as quickly as possible.
If you are locked into a long-term contract with AT&T or Sprint (who provides service to a bunch of other carriers), check out our information below on the Version MiFi and Skype for an affordable way to get phone and Internet services while you’re here.
If you’re locked into a long-term contract with these providers, there is a cost effective way for you to have reliable MiFi and phone service here at Imperial Dam LTVA. Check out our information on Verizon MiFi & VOIP below.
- Do I have Verizon service?
- Is my campsite on a hill and/or do I have reliable cell service?
- Can I wait for someone to respond from Yuma, AZ (over 25 miles away) or El Centro, CA (over 40 miles away)?
- Will someone not familiar with Imperial Dam LTVA (like an ambulance driver) be able to locate my campsite?
If you’re not a Verizon customer and need reliable phone and Internet service without refinancing your Rig, here are a few alternatives. The first thing you need to answer is if Imperial Dam LTVA is the only place you will use your Verizon MiFi, or if you will want to use it at other remote locations that may not have 4G service as is available here. You see, if you buy the current MiFi box from Verizon directly, it will only support 4G, which is not available at many remote locations. If Imperial Dam LTVA is it, go to a Verizon store and get their latest WiFi box. If you want to be able to use it from places that only have Verizon 3G or less available, you will need to go online and purchase a Verizon 5510L (around $50) or a Verizon 6620L (about $200). The Verizon 6620L can be equipped with an external antenna and amplifier and has a few other nice features as well.
We are assuming that you don’t want to enter into a long term contract with Verizon and will want to take advantage of their buy what you need, pay as you go plans. $30 currently will get you 3GB that must be used within 30 days, good for most boondockers, or $90 for one month, $100 for two months to use 10GB of data. As plans change often, you will need to keep an eye on them, which you can do through your MiFi Box.
VOIP: If you want to enjoy phone and texting service, we recommend Skype for telephone and Pinger for texting. While you can use Pinger for both phone and texting, we have had a Skype incoming phone number for years ($30 annually) and take advantage of their talk anywhere in North America plan (to cell & landline phones) for $2.95 per month. They also have cheap rates to Europe (to most country’s landlines, 2.3 cents per minute and cell phones, 10 cents per minute). However, Skype charges exorbitant fees for texting (12.9 cents per text), hence our Pinger account. So get online and sign up for the services that best fit your needs. And don’t forget to let your friends and family know about your new phone numbers. Whether you choose Skype or Pinger for voice service, you will receive a bunch of free features like voice mail.
Apps: We are taking for granted that you do have a “smart” cell phone and as such, you will need to go to your phone’s App Store and install the Skype and/or Pinger Apps. If you don’t have a cell phone, you can install either of these Apps on your computer or tablet. You can even get Skype phones that use Blue Tooth or a USB cable. Whatever your choice[s], you will need an App and/or device to be able to make and receive calls and texts.
Last, will be activation, which only comes when you buy a data plan for your new MiFi box. As you will need to find the box that best fits your needs, don’t delay and buy the box when you find a good deal. However, don’t activate (buy bandwidth) until you’re ready to leave on your trip as you only have one or two months, depending on the plan you choose, to use the bandwidth. Buying it too early can cause you to lose it. And don’t forget the Apps.
For more information on this and satellite phones, see the very popular, Save BIG with your existing cellphone technology, on the RVHobo Network.
If you’re a Dish or DirecTV customer, there is a clear view of the southern sky, so unless you park in front of a cliff, you will have service.
We use a computer TV tuner here, at Imperial Dam LTVA, that allows us to not only watch over-the-air (free) TV, but also to record up to two shows at a time, letting us zip through commercials and watch our favorite shows (which come on long past our bedtime) whenever we want to. It works great and we don’t get those $100 monthly bills from Dish or DirecTV.
The important thing to remember here is, that you don’t point it toward Yuma, as there are no broadcast antennas there.