Anza-Borrego Desert State Park California

Bow Willow Region and The Carrizo Badlands

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Bow Willow is the southernmost section of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, extending from the community of Canebrake south to the Mexican border. This 85,000 acres extends from a 300-foot elevation to 4,500 feet at Jacumba Peak. The Emigrant Trail passes through this region, which includes terrain as diverse as the eroded topography of the Vallecitos and Carrizo Badlands to the huge Piedras Grandes boulders strewn across the desert. The volcanic hills area is the only easily accessible lava flow in the park, an area that explodes with the yellow-flowered Brittlebush during wet years.

Bow Willow Canyon was the primary travel route of the Cahuilla Indians en route to their summer home in the Laguna Mountains. Evidence of their passage remains in the form of bed rock mortars scattered in the hills above Willow Campgrounds.

Trails to Mountain Palm Springs, Totote Bowl and Rockhouse Canyon Loop Trails also start at the Bow Willow campgrounds. The Bow Willow Primitive Camp is located off Hwy S2 about 30 miles south of Scissors Crossing. Small groups and $15 fee for use.A complex of 6 spring-fed oases in close proximity to the Tierra Blanca foothills provide a lush habitat for a variety of plant and animal species, including the California Fan Palm.

The geologically spectacular Canyon Sin Nombre is another popular hiking destination. This canyon cuts through the extremely old Coyote Mountain Ridge, revealing layers of buckled and contorted sedimentary layers, some of which were actually deposited by the ancient Colorado River.

One of the most fascinating points of interest in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park are the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves.  Arroyo Tapiado, translated from Spanish, means “walled wash.”  The Mud Caves are found along the walls of this wash canyon. More on the Mud Caves and the video

Another feature of this region of the park is the San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway which runs through scenicand rugged Carrizo Gorge. Financed by John D. Spreckels, this engineering marvel passes through 17 tunnels and dozens of wooden trestles, including the famous Goat Canyon Trestle -- 633 feet long and 185 feet tall -- one of the largest curved wooden trestles in North America.

Note The San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway is now a working railway

Because the rail line in the Gorge has been out of service for the past 20 years many have become accustomed to the Gorge being accessible along the railroad since it lies within the State Park. The right of way, however, is not park land and has been posted against trespass.

The number of persons hiking into the Gorge now presents a hazard. The 16 tunnels in the Gorge do not have escape pockets and anyone in the tunnel when a train passes places themselves at great risk. The Railroad's Police will start citing trespassers and they plan to prosecute criminally and civilly, anyone encountered along the right of way who is there without authorization.


With more than 600,000 acres, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, has 7 unique areas that you can explore.

 Anza /Visitor Center Area | Blair Valley Area | Borrego Badlands Area
Bow Willow Area
 | Fish Creek Area  | Santa Rosa Area | Tamarisk Grove Area

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