Yuma’s population rests at about 93,000 people. But in October and November, a flock of affectionately-named snowbirds come to the area, nearly doubling the city’s population, according to Linda Morgan, executive director of the Yuma Visitors Bureau.
This year, Morgan estimated that an additional 80,000 people or so lived in Yuma during its winter season — slightly less than a typical year. The season runs from roughly the beginning of October to the end of March, or any time in between.
Many point to the poor Canadian dollar exchange rate for keeping many north-of-the-border visitors out of Yuma this year.
“We definitely saw a decrease in Canadian visitors due to the exchange rate,” Morgan said, adding that she thought this was to blame for a slower season at many RV parks.
Pam Loomis, manager of Blue Sky RV Resort, said her clientele is made up of about 50 percent U.S. citizens and 50 percent Canadian citizens. Despite an estimated 10 percent overall increase in business this year, she said there was about a 15 percent reduction in Canadian visitors.
Bill Evans, general manager at The Palms RV Resort, said his resort has a majority of Canadian visitors, usually around 75 percent. It had a majority this year, too, Evans said, estimating the Canadian population to be about 65 percent of park residents.
He said The Palms is a bit pricier, so residents are not as affected by a poor exchange rate because most can afford the difference. But the rate, Evans said, might have had an effect on the park’s participation rate in its concerts, dinners and other events, likely a cost-saving measure, he said.
Along with the Canadian dollar being low, John Courtis, executive director of the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce, pointed at a demographic change in Yuma’s seasonal residents.
Courtis differentiated “snowbirds” from “winter visitors,” saying snowbirds tend to have RVs and are more nomadic, and are usually 65 or younger. They might spend a month of the season in Yuma, Courtis said, but also spend time in Las Vegas, Lake Havasu City and other popular warm winter weather havens.
Winter visitors, on the other hand, tend to be 65 or older and own homes in Yuma, he said, adding that they are the ones spending half of the year in Yuma.
This generational gap could make for more of a transient population in the future, as more and more people want to stay active, Courtis said.
Loomis said Blue Sky RV Resort typically has about 70 percent of its population living in their community for the entire season, which for them is from about November to mid March. The rest is a constantly shifting population.
And there is always one thing that keeps people coming and going — weather.
“I think the fact that it got so warm so quickly didn’t do us any favors,” said Morgan, referring to visitors leaving Yuma a month or so earlier than normal this year.
With a much hotter February than usual, some visitors started leaving to seek more moderate temperatures, she said.
The more stable winter populous, however, tends not to leave so early to escape the heat.
“There are some people who are going to stay in Yuma no matter what,” Courtis said.
Country Roads RV Park has 400 year-round residents and 1,600 winter visitors, according to park manager Vanessa Harris. “It’s been a typical season for us,” she said. For them, the season lasts from roughly mid-October all the way to early May.
The population there fluctuates a bit if the weather is exceptionally warm at the beginning or end of the season, she said, which either draws visitors to Yuma or sends them north.
Weather in the area people are visiting from can also indicate when they come to Yuma, said Evans of The Palms RV Resort.
Heat normally chases them out of Yuma at the end of the season, but moderate weather at home could keep them there for longer at the start of the season. It could also push them to go back there sooner at the end of the season.
Evans also noticed that visitors often go back home to be with their families during Easter, which is March 27 this year.
Across the Colorado River, Rivers Edge RV Resort in Winterhaven, Calif., has been about 90 percent full all season, according to manager Tom Walker.
“Our location (on the river) is what keeps people coming back,” said Walker, acknowledging that many parks haven’t been as fortunate this year.
Rivers Edge starts getting RVs pulling in as early as September, although they don’t fill up until around Thanksgiving to Christmas, Walker said.
And, despite a smaller Canadian population in many RV parks this year, Walker said his park’s population is still roughly 50 percent Canadian, with visitors coming from as far as Nova Scotia — a 3,500 mile drive.
“I still think it was a decent year,” Morgan said. “We still got a great influx of winter visitors.”
As long as the sun is still shining, it appears that Yuma will remain a popular winter destination for its neighbors to the north.