Mojave Road Drive

Barstow, California

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1 Review
4 out of 5
There is a lot to this long, remote road. It passes through a region where evidence abounds of prehistoric as well as historic inhabitants and travelers, from Mojave Indians to 19th-century soldiers who endured one of the West’s most inhospitable postings. Once known as the Government Road, the mostly single-lane road follows an ancient route that links a series of desert springs between the Colorado and Mojave rivers. The old Mojave Trail was used first by American Indians, then by Spanish padre Francisco Garcés in 1776, followed by trapper-explorer Jedediah Strong Smith in 1826 and a government surveying party in 1854 that was searching for an east-west railroad route. With the establishment of Fort Mojave later that decade, the old trail evolved into a road for freight wagons, the military and stagecoaches. Small military outposts, such as Fort Piute, were located at springs along the way. But with the arrival of the railroads in the 1880s, much of the Government Road fell into disuse and was forgotten. Mojave Road historian Dennis G. Casebier, author of the definitive history and driving guide Mojave Road Guide: An Adventure Through Time, and the group Friends of the Mojave Road have, however, revived interest in the old trail. Natural features include such rare desert wildlife as the disappearing desert tortoise, basin-and-range-type panoramas, vast forests of Joshua trees, assorted cacti, perennial springs, a dry (one hopes) ancient lakebed, and the year-round Mojave River. Topographic anomalies include Kelso Dunes; Cima Dome, a 75mile-square-mile blister in the earth’s surface; and the 300-foot-high walls of Afton Canyon, thought to have been created when Pleistocene Manix Lake drained through a rift in the earth caused by an earthquake 15,000 years ago. Human history is recalled at numerous prehistoric rock-art sites, abandoned homesteads, the crumbling remains of Fort Piute, and rustic Kelso Depot, an old railroad station that today serves as MNP’s visitor center. If you have time for a detour, you can visit Mitchell Caverns State Natural Preserve as well.
California Desert Byways

DESCRIPTION FROM:

California Desert Byways

by Tony Huegel (Wilderness Press)

There is a lot to this long, remote road. It passes through a region where evidence abounds of prehistoric as well as historic inhabitants and travelers, from Mojave Indians to 19th-century soldiers who endured one of the West’s most inhospitable postings. Once known as the Government Road, the mostly single-lane road follows an ancient route that links a series of desert springs between the Colorado and Mojave rivers. The old Mojave Trail was used first by American Indians, then by Spanish padre Francisco Garcés in 1776, followed by trapper-explorer Jedediah Strong Smith in 1826 and a government surveying party in 1854 that was searching for an east-west railroad route. With the establishment of Fort Mojave later that decade, the old trail evolved into a road for freight wagons, the military and stagecoaches. Small military outposts, such as Fort Piute, were located at springs along the way. But with the arrival of the railroads in the 1880s, much of the Government Road fell into disuse and was forgotten. Mojave Road historian Dennis G. Casebier, author of the definitive history and driving guide Mojave Road Guide: An Adventure Through Time, and the group Friends of the Mojave Road have, however, revived interest in the old trail. Natural features include such rare desert wildlife as the disappearing desert tortoise, basin-and-range-type panoramas, vast forests of Joshua trees, assorted cacti, perennial springs, a dry (one hopes) ancient lakebed, and the year-round Mojave River. Topographic anomalies include Kelso Dunes; Cima Dome, a 75mile-square-mile blister in the earth’s surface; and the 300-foot-high walls of Afton Canyon, thought to have been created when Pleistocene Manix Lake drained through a rift in the earth caused by an earthquake 15,000 years ago. Human history is recalled at numerous prehistoric rock-art sites, abandoned homesteads, the crumbling remains of Fort Piute, and rustic Kelso Depot, an old railroad station that today serves as MNP’s visitor center. If you have time for a detour, you can visit Mitchell Caverns State Natural Preserve as well.

©  Tony Huegel/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.

Activity Type: Off-Highway Drives
Nearby City: Barstow
Distance: 138
Trail Type: Shuttle
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Duration: 2-3 days
Season: Best fall through spring; check local conditions
Local Contacts: Mojave National Preserve
Local Maps: BLM's Davis Dam, Ivanpah, Soda Mountains, Newberry Springs; National Geographic/Trails Illustrated’s Mojave National Preserve, CRRA
Topo Map: Mojave Road Drive Topographic Map
Guide Book: California Desert Byways Guide Book
Driving Directions: View Directions
Trail Directions: View Guide

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Recent Trail Reviews

4/5/2006

The first day from the western bank of the Colorado opposite Fort Mojave to Fort Piute was a fairly easy trip. Lots of soft sand as promised so we started right off in 4 wheel drive. Never did need to go to low, or engage lockers. Pictures can be accessed at http://druch.photosite.com/. We arrived at Fort Piute about 6 p.m. and set up our tent. Having only put in 23.3 miles the first day, we got up early Thursday and hit the trail. We arrived at Government Holes about 1 p.m. so decided to press on, since that was only at total of 52 miles and we still had plenty of daylight. Leaving Government Holes you soon encounter Cedar Canyon Road and follow it. It's not paved but it is very flat and 20 mph is not out of the question. You follow this all the way to the Kelso-Cima road crossing. From here to Marl Springs was fairly easy, lots of rollercoaster roads. Not much left at Marl Springs. We didn't want to continue on across Soda Lake that late in the day, so we camped just east of it. So far 95.5 miles into the trip. The next morning about 8 a.m. we set out for the last leg of the trip. As soon as we hit the lake edge we knew we had better not stop. There were little water pockets filling various tire tracks, but it was obvious there was water under the surface all along. We crossed at about 20 mph, not always forward, sometimes sideways, over correcting to the other sideways, but made it across without incident. After crossing Soda Lake and Rasor Road you enter the Rasor OHV Area. We totally lost the trail here due to the enormous amount of cross trails because it is free roaming in this area. Lots of very deep sand. We didn't pick up the trail again until Afton Canyon. All in all a great trip. Be prepared, and DON'T ATTEMPT IT ALONE.

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