Weekend Trip: Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

Weekend Trip: Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

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Summer’s here and that means it’s a great time to pack up the family and hit the road for a weekend trip! There’s always something to explore in Arizona. This season is a great time to check out the summer recreation outside the city on an adventure-filled loop to the south and west.

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

The Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is a vast desert wilderness that was established to protect vulnerable desert species. The Arizona Boy Scouts led a 2-year campaign in the 1930s specifically to set aside Kofa for the populations of desert bighorn sheep that live on the land. The Kofa Wilderness is also home to the Sonoran Pronghorn, the fastest land mammal in North America.

In the summer, the best way to take in the Kofa Wilderness is by packing plenty of water and heading out on an OHV trail. One way to enjoy the wilderness trails of Kofa is taking a sunset or sunrise hike. Several trails can take you to rustic homesteader cabins with incredible views of the land. The cabins are available for overnight stays on a first-come basis. When using remote cabins in the Refuge, anything you bring to the site must be taken out with you, including trash.

Rock Hounds On Duty

The quirky burg of Quartzsite is heavily reliant on its seasonal snow bird population of RVers who turn the one-horse town into a months-long winter swap meet and gem and mineral market. Hitting Quartzsite in the off season is a much less hectic affair, but it is still a great stop to check out the gem and mineral businesses that run year-round and offer exceptional deals for the rock collector in your family.

Quartzite is also home to Reader’s Oasis, one of the most unique used bookstores in the entire southwest. Not an experience for the modest, Paul Winer greets customers in his barely-covered birthday suit and invites them to peruse his vast selection of rare and used stock, including a great selection of regional and western titles.

Yuma Proving Ground

For those with an interest in military history, Yuma Proving Ground at the southwestern side of the Kofa Wildlife Refuge will be of special interest. This active U.S. Army proving ground is amongst the largest military installations in the entire world. While access to the Proving Ground is, of course, restricted to military personnel, visitors can stop at the Yuma Proving Ground Open Air Museum to view a collection of tanks and other equipment tested at the military site. The Open Air Museum is free and always open but visitors should take note that climbing on the exhibits is not allowed. 

Castle Dome Mine Museum

Round out your weekend trip with a visit to the Castle Dome Mine Museum, located in a real ghost town in the Kofa Refuge. The Mine Museum features a detailed history of the mining boom in the region, wild west history and lore and even a wall of fluorescent minerals within the incredible Hull Mine. The Castle Dome Mine Museum is built around an entire mining boom town with many standing buildings and over 300 mines in the surrounding landscape. Summer visits to the Castle Dome Mine Museum need to be arranged in advance to coordinate with their seasonal hours.

Parker Dam

On the way back home, stop to spend an afternoon at Parker Dam and take a break from the heat. Perfect for fishing, grilling and picnics, boating and swimming, Parker Dam is a great recreational end to a road trip weekend. Parker Dam offers family fun, relaxation and sport on the Colorado River, with plenty of nearby camping, RV sites with hotel and restaurant options in nearby Parker.

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