Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Marl Springs

Thanks to all the talented people who are sharing their stories and photos online these days, you no longer have to get in your vehicle to visit many of the sights along the Mojave Road (although we still encourage you to see them in person too!).  Our latest find is on the DZRTGRLS Web site.  They have provided an informative write-up and great photos of a visit to Marl Springs.  Be sure to click the link to view all of the photos and captions.

Thank you, Niki and Jamie, for allowing us to share your adventure here.

Happy travels!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mojave Desert by Jeep and by Foot 2010

We just ran across some outstanding photos of a trip over part of the Mojave Road in April. The photos include Afton Canyon, Spooky Canyon, Kelso Dunes, the Lava Tube, a desert tortoise, and wildflowers.

We received permission to share the link here, so you can enjoy them too.

Thank you, Eddie at JK-Forum.com, for sharing your trip with all of us!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Canyon is only place to see Mojave River year-round

GREAT VIEW: Afton Canyon is the one place you can see the Mojave River above ground all year long.

May 10, 2010
by the Bureau of Land Management
Victorville Daily Press

Some know it as “The Grand Canyon of the Mojave.” Others simply call it Afton Canyon. And it’s the only place where the Mojave River flows above ground all year long.

The canyon’s surface water makes it unique in the Southern California desert. Known for its dramatic geological formations, Afton is an ideal location for bird and wildlife viewing.

The area is also popular for hiking, hunting, camping, rock hounding, horseback riding and vehicle touring.

Wildlife viewing is best during early morning and evening hours. In the canyon, birds tend to gather in thick vegetation. Along washes and streams, vegetation is critical for wildlife food and shelter. Many routes in Afton Canyon have been closed to vehicle travel to protect these wildlife habitats.

Early Western explorers passing through this area included Jedediah Smith, Kit Carson and John Charles Fremont.

The route following this road, known as the Mojave Road, is a rugged four-wheel-drive scenic tour running from Fort Mojave on the Colorado River near Needles to Camp Cady near Harvard Road.

Afton Canyon Natural Area is located 37 miles northeast of Barstow along Interstate 15 between the Afton Road and Basin Road exits.

Afton Canyon is designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern to protect plant and wildlife habitat and to preserve scenic values of the riparian area within the canyon.

Within this Area of Critical Environmental Concern, routes are posted with “Open Route” markers.

Routes have been selected to allow access to the area and to the Mojave Road while preserving stream-side environments. Use of all vehicles is permitted only on designated open routes. Thunderstorms can result in flash floods in canyons and washes.

Tell a friend or neighbor where you are going and when to expect your return.

Bring sufficient water, food, clothing, tools and first aid supplies for your activity.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mojave Road Guide: New Edition Available

The Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association (MDHCA) is releasing the fourth edition of the Mojave Road Guide on April 17, 2010.  This significantly revised, expanded edition includes new maps and GPS coordinates.  The road log has been updated to reflect changes that have occurred in the decade since the last edition.

This is the original guide written and revised by historian Dennis Casebier and volunteers devoted to preserving the history of the Mojave Desert.  Mr. Casebier rediscovered the historic wagon road over thirty years ago and organized the Friends of the Mojave Road to develop it as a recreational 4WD trail in the early 1980s.

You can purchase a copy of the new Guide directly from the Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association by mail order. Click here, select the book, print the order form, and mail it with your check. Proceeds support the ongoing nonprofit activities of the MDHCA, including publication of this Guide.

If you prefer to purchase it online, the Web site DesertUSA also has copies available in their bookstore.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Wildflowers expected to put on a show at Mojave National Preserve

Joshua tree bloom in the Cinder Cone National Natural Landmark area 
of the Mojave National Preserve on 20 March 2010

April 4, 2010
Margo Bartlett Pesek
Las Vegas Review-Journal

April annually produces the widest variety of wildflowers in the Mojave National Preserve. In a good year of plentiful rainfall, most of the 250 flowering plants of the region produce blossoms in profusion to the delight of visitors to the vast preserve located south of the Nevada-California border. Even in years of scant rainfall, a few dependable varieties still show up. Head for the Mojave National Preserve soon to enjoy the best of whatever show nature provides.

To reach the preserve, head south from Las Vegas on Interstate 15. Drive through Primm and over the state line to the Nipton-Searchlight Cutoff, Highway 164. Watch for the Ivanpah Road exit and turn there. Go a short distance to the Morningstar Mine Road, which leads to a crossroads at Cima. Follow the signs south to Kelso, once a major watering stop on the railroad. Visitors from Southern Nevada can also reach the preserve from I-15 by taking Cima Road or Kelbaker Road, which cover different parts of the preserve. Cedar Canyon Road between Cima and Kelso connects with other major routes through the interior of the preserve.

The handsome Mission-style Kelso Depot built in 1924 served railroad travelers and employees for decades before falling into disrepair. An ambitious restoration gave the depot new purpose. It serves now as the main visitor center for the Mojave National Preserve and headquarters for National Park Service personnel. Open daily except Christmas Day, the building houses informational exhibits and displays, a bookstore and a basement art gallery. On the main floor, a cafe called The Beanery serves meals Fridays through Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Inquire at the depot about where to look for current wildflower displays.

Predicting a sensational wildflower season would challenge a Vegas odds-maker. The goal of the players is to produce plenty of flowers and seeds for future seasons. Many variables change the game. A perfect season begins with an inch of rain in late autumn, followed by scattered rains and no desiccating winds in winter and early spring.

This year, the rains came late, promising greenery, but delaying the flowers. Occasional heavy winds did not help. Late bloomers risk all against the oncoming summer heat. If summer comes early, they lose. If it holds off even a few days, they could play a winning game.

In the Mojave National Preserve, flowers show up first in the lowest elevations along roadsides and on south-facing slopes. Varieties change with the terrain. For instance, look for the showy pale blossoms of dune primrose only around sand as at Kelso Dunes or in sandy spots along roadsides. Often you'll find a sand-loving pink verbena in the same area. Join a ranger for a walk among the dunes any Saturday at 11 a.m. The dunes lie seven miles south of the depot, then three miles west on a graded road.

Soon after the earliest blossoms fade, different flowers take over and the show sweeps into higher elevations. By May, many early annuals are done, but several kinds of cactuses are then at their showiest. Nearly everything takes a summer hiatus, but a few kinds of flowers put on a nice autumn show if the monsoon rains deliver late summer moisture.

Springtime in the Mojave National Preserve invites visitors to explore this largely undiscovered recreational treasure. In addition to paved routes, the preserve contains about 1,000 miles of primitive roads ideal for four-wheeling or horseback exploration. For a small overnight fee, campers use two nice campgrounds at different elevations along Cedar Canyon Road and Black Canyon Road. Self-contained RV users or primitive campers may also camp where others have traditionally done so, free of charge. Several trails and hiking routes probe interesting canyons, historical routes and geological points of interest.

Visitors do well to remember that springtime draws reptilian residents out of winter dens.

The Mojave is home to several species of rattlesnakes, the most dangerous being the Mojave green, whose strong toxin attacks the respiratory system. Watch where you step or put your hands and listen for that warning buzz.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mojave National Preserve - Beyond The Mojave Road

There are many easy and interesting side trips just off the Mojave Road.  Here's an article from 4 Wheel Drive & Sport Utility Magazine about a trip up Carruthers Canyon.  (Note that the correct spelling is with two r's, after homesteader George Carruthers. Map makers continually label it incorrectly.)

Mojave National Preserve - Beyond The Mojave Road
Less-Beaten Paths In The Mojave National Preserve

May 2010
By Kevin Blumer
Photography by Kevin Blumer

The Mojave Road bisects the Mojave National Preserve on its way from Afton Canyon to the Colorado River. Perusing a map of the Mojave National Preserve, it's easy to come up with a one-word description of what's beyond the Mojave Road: plenty.

Maps and guidebooks in hand, we packed up the 4Runner to see the preserve firsthand. It's impossible to talk about the Mojave National Preserve without some background information about how the preserve came to be.

The Mojave National Preserve was created in 1994 after many years of controversy and legal wrangling. The political ball was set in motion during the 1980s by the late Senator Alan Cranston, who proposed making the area into Mojave National Park, along with re-designating Death Valley National Monument and Joshua Tree National Monument as National Parks. When first penned by Cranston, giant swaths of what was then called the East Mojave National Scenic Area were slated to become federal wilderness areas, which we'll refer to as "Wilderness" for the balance of this story. This legislation was called the California Desert Protection Act.

Cranston's legislation outlived his political career. Cranston was caught accepting $1 million in campaign contributions from a savings and loan that wanted a "problem solved." Cranston left office in 1991. His successor, Dianne Feinstein, chose to carry the bill through Congress. When the California Desert Protection Act passed, mining, ranching, and off-roading became even more restricted in the Mojave. It pains this author's hands to even type the names of those who ramrodded this legislation down our collective throats. If there's a silver lining, it's that the intended Mojave National Park was instead designated the Mojave National Preserve, a designation that allows certain economic and recreational activities that would be banned within a National Park.

Another silver lining is the vehicular corridors that pass among the newly created Wilderness Areas. These corridors are previously established routes that were left open and intact. In the desert, the sheer distances combined with a general lack of water make it impractical to explore very far on foot. Vast Wilderness designations in the desert without vehicular access amount to nothing more than a land grab. The vehicular corridors are the key to discovering what's out there. For those who like to hike (of which the author is one), the vehicular corridors are the key to getting close enough to the trailheads to have the time and energy to see what’s inside the Wilderness.

With the ugly political stuff dispensed with, let's talk trails.

The Mojave National Preserve is big at 1.6 million acres. It's crisscrossed by dirt routes, some of which are more challenging than others. If you're after hardcore rock-crawling trails, this isn't the place. If you're after discovery and solitude it's a great place to be. Don't get complacent: deep sand, jagged rocks, errant tree stumps, and cholla cactus are in healthy supply, and they aren't forgiving. The big distances in the preserve mean that it's essential to show up with a well-prepared vehicle that carries the same spare parts and tools you'd carry anywhere else. Carry all the water you'll need, and then some. Vehicles must be street-registered to drive on the dirt routes in the preserve.

We had two guidelines during our visit: avoid the pavement, and avoid the Mojave Road.

Our first jaunt took us to the defunct railroad stop at Ivanpah, where we saw the weathered ruins of a loading dock, a cottage, and some holding pens. Shortly after, Ivanpah Road's pavement disappeared and we shifted into 4-Hi for better traction and stability as the dirt surface changed moods. Our goal was Caruthers Canyon and the Giant Ledge Mine. The canyon lies in the New York Mountains.

Caruthers Canyon was first prospected in the 1860s, and mining continued well after the turn of the 20th century. Beyond mining relics, the plant life and geology of the New York Mountains also draws you in. Tall peaks dot the range, the highest of which is New York Peak at 7,529 feet above sea level. Instead of creosote bushes, you'll see pinyon pines and juniper here. There's also manzanita and other plants seen more often in a coastal sage plant community. Scientists say these floras developed during a wetter period of the earth's natural history, and then was left isolated high in the mountains when the surrounding terrain became more arid. The New York Mountains are a sort of island unto themselves. The climate is cooler up there, too, and snow isn't uncommon during the winter.

These days, the road into Caruthers Canyon is still legally open because it's not in a designated Wilderness Area. On the way to the Giant Ledge mine you'll drive until you can't drive any further, park your rig, and hike the rest of the way to the mine. There are several pullouts along the Caruthers Canyon trail. You are allowed to have fires in already established fire rings, and camping is allowed in already established campsites.

What's beyond the Mojave Road? Plenty. Follow along and we'll show you what we mean.

Click here to see the rest of the story with accompanying photos.

Here's the link to the entire story on the 4 Wheel Drive & Sport Utility Magazine Web site:  http://www.4wdandsportutility.com/adventures/west/1005_4wd_mojave_national_preserve/index.html

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wildflower Season

Spring officially begins on Saturday, and wildflowers are starting to appear. For photographers and others thinking about heading out to see the blooms, we thought we'd offer some resources for finding the best places to go:

DesertUSA's Wildflower Reports 2010

Theodore Payne Foundation Wildflower Hotline

Carol Leigh's Wildflower Hotsheet

BLM Wildflowers page

If you have wildflower reports or photos you'd like to share, please feel free to leave comments or contact us directly.