One of the unfinished items on our checklist from last winter’s trip to this area, was a visit to Patagonia Lake State Park. We were invited by Carl and Sandy, who volunteer there as they did last year. They are full time RV’ers who noticed that we were in the area, because they listen to our podcast RV Navigator
. The main feature of the park is the lake and taking a boat tour of the lake was a beautiful way to spend a warm day like today, but the date we made last year was cold and windy and we decided to cancel.
Patagonia Lake is just a few miles north of the Mexican border and a special spot in the hundreds of square miles of arid land around it. The manmade lake was formed by a dam across a creek and took almost ten years to fill. It’s a spot that’s special to the people who come there to camp, fish and boat and to the animal life who also enjoy its waters. Birders love to come to Patagonia. While the lake was filling, developers looked longingly at the bright blue waters and wanted to build some custom homes on its shores. Miraculously the state resisted the lure of their deep pockets and the entire lake is surrounded by wilderness. The main campground was a typical state park with spacious site surrounded by vegetation. The park also has sites that you can only reach by boat. One was on an island; a special spot to spend the weekend. There were a few cattle grazing on the shore. It wasn't clear where they had come from, but they all came together.
When we arrived we were surprised that the campground was full. We had forgotten that this is a holiday weekend. For us every day is a holiday weekend. Carl and Sandy are here for two months and lead bird walks and give boat tours in exchange for a free campsite. As full timers, they have made volunteering a key component of their retirement plan, and will move on from here to volunteer at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. While they are here in the winter the park offers educational programs, but once the weather gets hot, all the volunteers leave and the the park takes on a more raucous image according to what Carl and Sandy have heard. Arizonans desperate to get out of the heat, flock there to party and plunge into the cool water. Learning about birds is not a high priority. At the Tetons they will be on animal patrol; facilitating animal encounters that don’t endanger the animals or the people who flock to see them. They are lucky to be able to select volunteer positions that involve doing things they love to do on their own. Some campers end up cleaning toilets and doing drudgery.
We enjoyed our the boat tour at Patagonia, but must admit that if the lake were in a less arid setting, it would be an ordinary little puddle. Location, location, location.