Mojave National Preserve - Summary Page

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This page last updated on 02/06/2019
(Fig. 01)
(Fig. 02)
Directions: As you can see from the map in (Fig. 02), the preserve can be entered from a variety of roads leading from the I-15 on the northern boundary and the I-40 on the southern boundary. We entered using the Cima Road entry at Exit 272 off the I-15.

Preserve Description: The Mojave National Preserve is a United States National Preserve located in the Mojave Desert of San Bernardino County, California, USA, between Interstate 15 and Interstate 40. It was established October 31, 1994 with the passage of the California Desert Protection Act by the US Congress. At 1,600,000 acres, it is the third largest unit of the National Park System in the contiguous United States. A national preserve is similar to a national park but may allow certain activities prohibited in a national park, such as sport hunting and livestock grazing and mining. Its natural features include the Kelso Dunes, the Marl Mountains and the Cima Dome, as well as volcanic formations such as Hole-in-the-Wall and the Cinder Cone Lava Beds. The preserve also encloses the Providence Mountains State Recreation Area and Mitchell Caverns Natural Preserve, which are both managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

There are impressive Joshua tree forests found throughout parts of the preserve. The forest covering Cima Dome and the adjacent Shadow Valley is the largest and densest in the world. The defunct railroad depot now serves as the Visitor Center in the ghost town of Kelso. There are over 1,000 miles of dirt roads available, most only accessible by dirt roads and hiking trails! Some, such as the historic Mojave Road, require 4 wheel drive vehicles. There are outcrops of granite with junipers, Joshua trees, and other high desert plants along Cima Road. The granitic rocks in the vicinity are part of the Teutonia Batholith, a large intrusive complex of Jurassic and Cretaceous age in the eastern Mojave Desert region. There are spheroidal-weathering granitic boulders and junipers near Mid Hills Campground in the Providence Mountains. The age of this intrusive igneous bedrock has been dated to be about 97 million years (Cretaceous).

Plant and animal life varies by elevation. These areas contain a variety of abundant wildlife and over 300 different species of animals including desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyotes and desert tortoises. The desert ranges in elevation from less than 1000 feet to almost 8000 feet. Desert tortoises burrow in creosote bush flats, while the black and yellow Scott’s orioles nests in Joshua trees higher up the slopes. Mule deer and bighorn sheep roam among pinyon pine and juniper in the Preserve’s many mountain ranges.  Many birds live in the area. Golden eagles and several types of hawks can be seen soaring on the desert thermals. Quail, chukar and mourning doves, as well as many other smaller species of birds, live in the canyons and washes where they are able to find water, food and vegetation for cover.

The climate varies greatly. Summer temperatures average 90 °F, with highs exceeding 105 °F. Annual precipitation varies from 3.37 inches near Baker, to almost 9 inches in the mountains. At least 25% of precipitation comes from summer thunderstorms and snow is often found in the mountains during the winter.

12/14/2018 Trip NotesToday three of my hiking partners, Jim Herring, Bob Croke and Ron Ziance, decided to take a drive through the Mojave National Preserve on our way to visit the Providence Mountain State Recreation Area and a tour of the Mitchell Caverns. I'm sure most people view California’s Mojave Desert as a dead and uninviting land to endure. I think it can actually be quite scenic and full of life and history. We entered the preserve via Cima Road, refer to (Fig. 02), the paved road was flanked on both sides with thousands of some of the largest Joshua trees we ever encountered (Fig. 03). Only a few miles in, we came to a granite outcrop with a white cross on the top (Fig. 04). We pulled into the area and found that it was a memorial erected in honor of those who died in all wars (Fig. 05). There is not much to do at the cross-site, though there is a picnic table and has some campsites nearby (Fig. 06). The mountains in the background are the Ivanpah Mountains. As we drove along Cima Road we could see several dirt roads that led up to mines on the west side of the Ivanpah Mountains. Refer to the map in (Fig. 16) at the bottom of this page.
Side Note - The Mojave CrossThe Mojave Cross was erected in 1934 as a memory to those who were killed in action during World War 1 and others. It is here to represent the amazing sacrifice of those that fought for our country. Since that time, it has had many different caretakers that have maintained the memorial and preserved it for people who it stands to honor. During the recent litigation, brought up because the cross was located on government land (separation of church and state), the cross was boarded up as it was declared illegal. With more work though, the land was eventually transferred to the veterans group, allowing them to keep the cross and for the government to escape the lawsuits. After that, the cross was stolen, recovered 500 miles away, and then it was reintroduced in 2012 and replaced with a steel cross when the state granted them the land that it is on today. 

At the end of Cima Road is the old ghost town of Cima. At an elevation of 4,175 feet. It was established in 1906 and originally served as water stop for trains going up the long Kelso Valley grade. Later if functioned as a shipping center for mines and ranches in the area. Today there is nothing left but a couple of old abandoned buildings. At this intersection, the road continues south as the Kelso Cima Road. At about 4.6 miles you come to the intersection of the 4WD Mojave Road. The road to the left is also called Cedar Canyon Road.
Side Note - The Mojave Road: This is an east-west route that enters the park near Piute Spring on the east side and on Soda Dry Lake near Zzyzx on the west. This 147 mile dirt road contains every terrain possible in the Mojave and has a rich history and numerous geological wonders all wrapped into one trip. Some sections are rough and sandy; 4x4 is recommended. It was used by Indians to transport goods from the southwest to trade with the Chumash and other coastal tribes. This route later served the cause of westward expansion. Military forts were established along the route to protect key water sources and provide assistance for travelers. Today it is a popular four-wheel drive road (Fig. 02a).
(Fig. 02a)

After turning left onto Cedar Canyon Road, travel about 6 miles and turn right onto Black Canyon Road. This road runs due south 19 miles to Essex Road (Right) to Mitchell Caverns (refer to Fig. 02). Along the way we passed several windmills (Fig. 07) and some cattle (Figs. 08&09). At Hole-in-the-Wall we pulled into the camping park and visitor center. The visitor center was closed. The Hole-in-the-Wall Campground is located at 4,400 feet elevation. Over millions of years, eruptions spewed layers of lava and ash over this area. Uneven cooling and gases captured during the eruption, formed "holes " in the rock. Over ensuing years natural erosion has enlarged these holes to create spectacular caverns. The oxidation of iron in this volcanic matter lends a contrasting reddish color to the gray background (Figs.10 thru 12). Tafoni-style weathering creates the holes in the volcanic rock, rhyolite tuff. From here we drove to Essex Road and turned right and headed west toward the Providence Mountain State Recreation Area. (Notes Continued below)

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(Fig. 05)
(Fig. 06)
(Fig. 07)
(Fig. 08)
(Fig. 09)
(Fig. 10)
(Fig. 11)

(Fig. 12)
Notes Continued: The Providence Mountains State Recreation Area is a 5,900 acre state park. The park is also home to the beautiful Mitchell Caverns, a diverse habitat full of limestone cave formations and unique wildlife.  Its spectacular and intricate limestone formations found include stalagmites, stalactites, helictites, lily pads, draperies, curtains and popcorn. I had so many pictures of this area I decided to create a separate page. Click here for pictures and a description of our visit to the ... Providence Mountain State Recreation Area.

After touring the Mitchell Caverns we pretty much took the same route home with the following changes. When we got to the Hole-in-the-Wall area, we took a left onto Wild Horse Canyon Road. This graded dirt road, also known as Wild Horse Road, forms a 11.5-mile semi-circle off the west side of Black Canyon Road. The dirt road winds around and over a series of hills as it descends 1000 feet, with sharp peaks of the Providence Mountains in the distance. During and after a storm the road may be impassable, even with a four-wheel-drive vehicle and can easily get muddy if it rains making it challenging to get through. The road generally is well maintained and passable in sedans, but the road is subject to washouts. Hoodoos (rocky pillars) of basaltic tuff and other volcanic rocks in this vicinity are deposits of volcanic material ejected from the nearby Woods Mountain volcanic center that formed in Middle Miocene time, around 16 million years ago. Pinyon Pine, Yucca and cactus (cholla, prickly-pear, and barrel) can be found on the basalt covered talus slopes along Wild Horse Canyon Road. In particular, in the section from about 8-1/2 to 9-1/2 miles out, the road runs in a sandy wash. The geology surrounding the southern portion of the road is worth getting out and hiking for some pictures, but due to the dismal overcast, I didn't take many pictures. The Providence Mountains boarder the west side of the road. We passed several windmills and saw some cattle roaming about the area. The pictures in (Figs. 13 & 14) were taken about halfway out. From the beginning at Hole-in-the-Wall the elevation is around 4,400 feet. Towards the northern end it climbs to over 5,400 feet at the Mid Hills Campground. Much of this area is charred from the Hackberry Complex Fire of June 22-25, 2005, that burned much of Round Valley as well as a good portion of Pinto Mountain. The Mid Hills Campground sits along the ridge of the Mid Hills in a Pinyon-Juniper Woodland. The primary rock type here is granite. This must have been one of the most scenic campgrounds in the preserve before the fire (Fig. 15). When we got back to Cima we took Morning Star Mine Road headed north to Nipton Road. The Ivanpah Mountains on the east side of the road is dotted with mines and prospects (Fig. 16). Though none of the mines are close to the side of the road, we could see dirt roads leading to many of them, beckoning for a future visit and exploration. I'm looking forward to going back to do some mine exploring. See trip notes below.

(Fig. 13)
(Fig. 14)
(Fig. 15)
(Fig. 16)
Other trips to the Mojave National Preserve

01/03/2019 Trip Notes: On this date, Bob Croke, Ron Ziance and myself decided to go mine exploring. We visited two major mines in the Ivanpah Mountains and off Cima Road. Off Morning Star Mine Road we visited the Morning Star Mine. Off Cima road we visited the Death Valley Mine and the Evening Star Mine. Click here for pictures and a description of this trip ... Mines in the Mojave National Preserve.

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Note: Every attempt is made to provide accurate information, but occasionally depictions are inaccurate by error of mapping, navigation or cataloging. The information on this site is provided without any warranty, express or implied, and is for informational and historical purposes only.