DesertUSA

Southwest Adventure, Living & Travel


Mojave National Preserve

Kelso Depot

General Info | Maps | DescriptionThings to Do | Camping/Lodging | Nearby


Kelso Depot Information Center

Built in 1924 by the Union Pacific Railroad, the Kelso Depot has been transformed into Mojave National Preserve’s principal information center, with museum exhibits, historically furnished rooms, a theater, and bookstore. Click here for video

35 miles south of Baker, California.

From I-15, exit at Kelbaker Road and drive south 35 miles to Kelso.
From I-40, exit at Kelbaker Road and drive north 22 miles to Kelso.
Wednesday through Sunday, 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.
Closed Monday & Tuesday.

The Kelso Depot will be open every day starting in March, 2006.
Restrooms and water are available at Kelso Depot.
Drinks and limited snacks are available at Cima, 19 miles northeast of Kelso on Kelso-Cima Road.

Gasoline is available on I-15 at Baker and at the Cima Road exit, and on
I-40 at Ludlow and Fenner.
Weekdays, call 760-252-6101.
Weekends, call 760 928-2572.


The town of Kelso was founded in 1906 when the railroad was completed across the Mojave Desert. The town was named for a warehouse worker, John H. Kelso. He and two others wrote their names on pieces of paper and put them into a hat. Kelso's name was drawn.

The town quickly grew after the Union Pacific Railroad realized more than just a simple small-framed building was needed to provide water for the steam locomotives. A full station was needed that would allow crews to be changed and provide extra engines so that the trains could make it up the steep Cima grade. The steam locomotives took on water before starting the grueling climb from Kelso to the top of Cima Summit, an elevation gain of 2,000 feet in just 18 miles.

The Union Pacific Railroad built Kelso Depot in 1924. The elegant, two-story building had two small rooms upstairs and a central bath for railroad employees, a telegraph office and a waiting room for passengers.

The town boomed in the 1940s when nearly 2,000 people lived in and around Kelso. The Kaiser Steel Mill opened the Vulcan Mine in 1942 to provide iron needed for World War II. The mine was located nine miles south of Kelso, and trains were rolling through carrying more than 2,500 tons of ore a day to the mill in Fontana, California.

Kaiser closed the Vulcan Mine after the war because the ore contained too much sulfur. Diesel locomotives replaced the steam engines and Kelso Depot was no longer needed to water the steam locomotives. By the 1950s, the once thriving town of Kelso was declining.

In the 1970s, the Depot again became a gathering place. Groups like the Audubon Society, the California Native Plant Society and the Sierra Club often took trips to Kelso. The reliable water that had been drawing a card for the railroad now drew outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors enjoyed relaxing by the tracks as trains chugged their way past. Some came just to watch the many birds drawn by the water.

Subsidizing Kelso Depot was not economical for the Union Pacific Railroad. In 1985 the depot was closed and plans made to demolish it. Local citizens, managers of East Mojave National Scenic Area, as well as Congressman Jerry Lewis, spoke out strongly against moving the structure, much less tearing it down.

In June of 1985, Congressman Lewis articulated what Kelso Depot had become when he wrote to Union Pacific's Chair of the Board, "This history of our country, and its western expansion, is linked with the history of your railroad... I am sure you share my belief that the beauty of that area is enhanced and enriched by such historical edifices and sites as the Kelso train depot."

Indeed, the depot at Kelso has become a symbol of the West and much more than just a watering hole for the railroad. Visit Mojave National Preserve and the Kelso Depot to see a bit of the history that made the West what it is today. In 1992 t,he Bureau of Land Management (BLM) purchased the depot and an adjacent lot for one dollar. With support from local citizens, the BLM was able to start the structure's stabilization by adding Plexiglas coverings over windows and removing hazardous asbestos from the structure's interior. With the 1994 passage of the California Desert Protection Act, the responsibility of continuing to save this structure was passed to the National Park Service.

 

For a Book and Map of the area see our
Mojave National Preserve Introductory Package

 


General Info| Maps | DescriptionThings to Do | Camping/Lodging | Nearby

Other locations to visit in Mojave Desert

 Amboy Crater
 Bristol Dry Lake
 Cinder Cones
 Goffs School
 Hole in the Wall
Kelso Depot
 Kelso Dunes
 Mitchell Caverns

 

 


DesertUSA Newsletter -- We send articles on hiking, camping and places to explore, as well as animals, wildflower reports, plant information and much more. Sign up now (It's Free).


THE DESERT ENVIRONMENT
The North American Deserts
 Chihuahuan Desert Great Basin Desert  Mojave Desert  Sonoran Desert
 Glossary of Desert & Geological Terms

Animals - Wildlife | Wildflowers-Plants | Minerals - Geology | Desert People

 

SEARCH THIS SITE









 


Joshua Tree National Park - Black Eagle Mine Road Video - Beginning 6.5 miles north of the Cottonwood Visitor Center, this dead-end dirt road runs along the edge of Pinto Basin, crosses several dry washes, and then winds up through canyons in the Eagle Mountains. The first 9 + miles of the road are within the park boundary. Beyond that point is BLM land. Several old mines are located near this road.

Randsburg, Living Ghost Town Video
Randsburg, California is located southwest of Ridgecrest, just off of Highway 395. Gold was first discovered here in 1895 at the Yellow Aster Mine. The mines of the area have produced over one million ounces of gold. Today the gold mining activities have been replaced by tourists shopping for antiques, part-time prospectors, and off-roaders looking for food and a rest stop.

Road Trips Videos

Exploring Route 66 - Historic Mohave Desert Sites Amboy Road at Sheeps Hole Pass looks into the big basin of Bristol Dry Lake, which was covered by the sea about four million years ago. Across the salt lake, Amboy Dry Crater rises in the distance. The town of Amboy dates back to 1858; it became a critical gas and rest stop on Route 66 after World War II. When I-40 bypassed it in 1972, Amboy almost became a ghost town. Follow the DesertUSA team as they revisit old Route 66 in the Mohave and take a look at some historic sites along the way.

Titus Canyon, drive through Red Pass


Hot temperatures in the desertAre you interested in the temperatures in the desert?

Click here to see current desert temperatures!

DesertUSA is a comprehensive resource about the North American deserts and Southwest destinations. Learn about desert biomes while you discover how desert plants and animals learn to adapt to the harsh desert environment. Find travel information about national parks, state parks, BLM land, and Southwest cities and towns located in or near the desert regions of the United States. Access maps and information about the Sonoran Desert, Mojave Desert, Great Basin Desert, and Chihuahuan Desert.



 
   
 
   
Copyright © 1996-2014 DesertUSA.com and Digital West Media, Inc.