Friday, December 9, 2022


Quechan Tribal lands: Great boondocking close to Old Mex


Need your teeth worked on? How about a pair of glasses? Some inexpensive liquor? If you’re an Arizona snowbird, one of the most popular border crossing spots into Mexico for prescription drugs, liquor, and shrimp tacos is at Los Algodones, just west of Yuma. The little town has more dentists per capita than there are lobbyists in D.C. But the hang up is, where do you stay with your RV? Yuma’s tight-fisted city ordinances prohibit “blacktop boondocking.” Yes, you can stay in one of the myriad of RV parks, but if you’re a nature lover, or just want to camp for a little less, stick around.

Just north of the border crossing into Mexico the lands are under the control of the Quechan tribe, and those sandy dunes with their mesquite dotted shady spots are available for boondocking–although in some cases, for a price. If you’ve crossed the All American Canal, you’ve no doubt seen plenty of rigs up on the bluff overlooking that short stretch of highway that leads to Old Mex. Yep, that’s Quechan land, and so is the road running along the south side of the All American Canal. On the canal side of the road, “No Parking” signs are there for a purpose–the American government who controls that side of the road doesn’t want you there. Period.

On the south side of that road, particularly farther back on the west end, you’ll find folks boondocking alongside the road, and down in the lowlands. Years back, if you decided to “put in,” you could be sure to meet up with Rick, the Mayor of the All American Canal. His honor came by the title by right of longevity. Rick had been seasonally staying on here for seeming ages, hunkered down in a older, modest RV. On one visit, he stopped by our rig, ostensibly on his way to a meal-time gathering of other RVers, but in reality, to make sure we weren’t–as he describes them–“riff-raff and drug users.”

A tall, slender man, who traveled alone and espoused healthy diets and right living, Mayor Rick could easily talk your leg off. At a couple of points other “locals” stopped by to see if we needed rescuing. “Don’t believe a word he says!” warned one man. Our “savior” and the mayor exchanged friendly barbs. The Mayor summered in the cooler climate afforded by New Mexico, but spent months down by the canal, in “walking distance” to Los Algodones. Walking distance? Perhaps this said something about Mayor Rick’s health–it’s a pretty long stroll to Old Mexico, even from here.

It’s been a long spell since we’ve seen the Mayor – it may well be that he’s off the scene. But you can still camp on the lands that the Mayor called his own. Here’s a couple of notes though: The Quechan Tribe oversees their lands diligently and ask you pay for a permit to stay there. Short-timers, you’ll pay $10 a day, per person. If you’d rather stay long-term, you can obtain a permit good for a fiscal year (which starts July 1) for $80, and not only allows camping, but also provides fishing rights. You can get a permit in nearby Winterhaven at the Hub Liquor store, or close to the Old Mex border at the Sleepy Hollow Campground.

Since a dump station and fresh water aren’t available here, it may seem a bit steep a price, but as is said, it’s one of the few boondocking places within striking distance of Yuma, and certainly handy to the less expensive medicine and dental services of Old Mexico. But if you’re riff-raff or a into drugs, be aware: The Mayor doesn’t want you here.

Catch Russ and Tiña’s new audio podcast, Your RV Podcast, a weekly feature. Visit to see program notes and a link to the audio feed. 

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7 years ago

We went across the border here for dental work for the first time last year and were thrilled with the service and price. A crown back in Michigan cost me $900. When a crown broke while in Yuma I contacted which is a clearing or referral agency for reputable dentists world wide and got an appt. with Castle Dental just a block across the border. Great service and only $200 for a crown. And they wouldn't let me go until I was completely satisfied with the fit. Since a crown takes 2 trips about 3-4 days apart, boondocking near the border makes sense. We were staying at Imperial Dam BLM area north of Yuma so we just went to the dentist each week when we went into Yuma for groceries.

walt kaiser
7 years ago

yes there is, the casino, Quechan Casino that is, recently redid the parking area to actually accommodate RV's. We stop there for a day or 2 each time we come out of Mexico. We winter near San Felipe and offer a site on our lot. We supply water and sewer, bring your own electricity. BTW We are right on the beach.

7 years ago

I heard that there was some free camping at the local casino?