Mojave National Preserve

Mojave National Preserve

Mojave History & Activities

At 1.6 million acres, Mojave National Preserve is not only the third largest National Park Service area outside of Alaska, but also holds three of the four major North American deserts: the Mojave, Great Basin and Sonoran. 

Established in 1994 through the California Desert Protection Act, the preserve is located between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, providing serenity and solitude from the crowds of these major metropolitan areas.

At 1.6 million acres, Mojave National Preserve is not only the third largest National Park Service area outside of Alaska, but also holds three of the four major North American deserts: the Mojave, Great Basin and Sonoran. 

Established in 1994 through the California Desert Protection Act, the preserve is located between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, providing serenity and solitude from the crowds of these major metropolitan areas.

Though many areas of Mojave appear barren, signs of life abound. There are dozens of seeps and springs, cactus gardens, relict plant communities of white fir and chaparral and the densest, largest Joshua tree forest in the world. Sand dunes, canyons, mountains, volcanic cinder cones, great mesas, domes and lava flows define the preserve. Rocks as old as 2.5 billion years old have been discovered in the Clark Mountains which rise to 7,929 feet, reinforcing Mojave's reputation as a land of extremes. 

History

The Mojave Indian tribe, namesake of the preserve, called this desert home. By the time the Spanish arrived in the territory in the 16th Century, the Mojaves were the largest concentration of people in the Southwest.

The Mojave could be a fierce people willing to protect their land, and willing to venture far from it. They tattooed their faces with lines and dots—a cosmetic, fashionable practice—and they traveled to the Pacific Coast, becoming proficient traders. They exchanged crops with coastal tribes for goods such as shells, and made pots, bowls, ladles and dishes decorated with geometric designs from sedimentary clay and crushed sandstone. The material was coiled, dried, painted and fired in either open pits or rudimentary kilns. The women took the crafts further by making unique pottery dolls for the children, dressing and decorating them complete with human hair. 

The search for fortune brought the first white man, Fray Francisco Garces, to the land of the Mojave in 1775. His writings portrayed the Mojave as friendly and industrious. Trappers soon followed, but their interactions with the Mojaves were less peaceful and resulted in years of infighting, distrust and death. In 1865, almost a hundred years and a docket full of Indian wars later, the US government created the Colorado Indian Reservation near Parker, the southern range of the Mojave.

As western expansion marched forward, so did the railroads. In 1902 the Union Pacific made their presence known on the west coast with construction of the Salt Lake Route, between Salt Lake and Los Angeles. Construction began at the two endpoints and met in the middle in the Mojave Desert. The preserve's visitor center, Kelso Depot, was once an essential stop on the line. It received it's name when three warehousemen put their names into a hat, the winner was John Kelso.

 

Activities at Mojave National Preserve

At about 600 feet in height, Kelso Dunes in Mojave National Preserve are the third tallest in North America. When quantities of the sands move, they sometimes create a booming sound. Try running down the slopes to make the dunes boom. The preserve is great for backpacking, horseback riding, hiking, 4-wheeling and wildflower viewing.

Here are a few tips to consider when planning your trip. 

• Backpacking is allowed, but there is no registration system and no trails. Make sure you know how to use a map, and remember to camp at least 0.5 mile from any developed area or road and 200 yards from water sources.

• Three national park campgrounds are available inside the preserve: Hole-in-the Wall Campground, Mid Hills Campground and Black Canyon Equestrian & Group Campground, the only one that accepts reservations. Call (760) 928-2572. 

• 4-wheel drive routes are popular in the preserve. One of the most recommended is the Mojave Road, which runs across the entire park from east to west. Leaving the preserve's designated roads is prohibited.

• Horseback riding is welcome, but there are currently no rental horses—bring your own.

• Although there are few established hiking trails, abandoned dirt roads, washes and ridgelines offer an abundance of cross-country hiking opportunities. A map can be found online at www.nps.gov/moja/planyourvisit/ -hiking.htm.

For more information you can contact Mojave National Preserve at (760) 252-6100, or check out their website at www.nps.gov/moja.