Mojave Trails National Monument
by Kristine Bonner
At a whopping 1.6 million acres (2,500 sq mi), the Mojave Trails National Monument dwarfs the other two national monuments created by decree of President Obama on February 12, 2016. This vast area links Joshua Tree National Park with the Mojave National Preserve, creating a land bridge of safety for migrating wildlife such as the desert bighorn sheep. Wilderness areas abut much of the new monument, increasing its value as a wildlife corridor. Its designation as a national monument will also limit large energy developments within its confines.
Mojave Trails contains a host of fascinating features, both geological and historical. Pisgah Crater is located on the western side of the monument, just south of I 40 and west of the town of Ludlow. It's the most accessible of the the Lavic Lake volcanic field's four cinder cone volcanoes in the area. It was once mined by the Mount Pisgah Volcanic Cinders Mine for pumice so the top is not as regularly shaped as Amboy Crater, also contained within the monument.
An undeveloped stretch of America's most classic and beloved highway, Route 66, connects to the I 40 near Ludlow and runs through the central part of the monument, providing access to 103 miles of scenic areas. Travelers can experience driving the iconic road that early 20th century travelers once relied upon as the main, and most direct route from east to west. Some of the old cafés that fed travelers are still standing, like Roy's Café. Some are even operational, like the Bagdad Café.
The Marble Mountains and Ship Mountains are located in Mojave Trails National Monument. The Marble Mountains' Mojave desert habitat hosts the desert tortoise and the golden eagle. There is a fossil bed collecting area famous for trilobytes as well as a rockhounding location where green epidote, dolomite, chrysocolla, chalcedony, serpentine, marble, garnet and specular hematite, iron and kenatite, chalcedony crystals, geodes and gold have been found. The Ship Mountains, so called because they look like a ship sailing across the flat desert surrounds, are known for pastel colored opalite. BLM's website says,
This area can be found by taking historic route 66 to the town site of Chambless then taking Cadiz Road approximately 4 miles south. At this point the road turns sharply to the left (east) You will see Cadiz Farms housing on the left side of the road. Continue on east for two miles and just before reaching the rail road crossing turn north on Route (Rt.) NS376 for .4 miles at the intersection with Rt. NS299 drive east for .2 miles. your final turn will be north on NS380 for .7 miles park here near the base of the mountain and hike west to east along the wash. Hiking up the mountain and looking down hill will allow you to see where others have excavated pits in the shale and help indicate where fossils have been found.
Over the years this site has been used heavily and it is recommended that only one trilobite per person be removed. Be aware that the collection of antiquities is protected by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979.
More information: http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/needles/rock.html
Not too far from the Marble Mountains lies the Cadiz Wilderness, the home of the Cadiz Dunes. These dunes are low and have been formed by formed by winds pushing sand from Cadiz Dry Lake. Borrego milkvetch grows in the dune area, and Mojave desert wildlife such as black-tailed jackrabbits, coyotes, rattlesnakes and roadrunners thrive there. BLM's website says,
Getting There: Travel 62 miles east of Twentynine Palms on State Highway 62. Turn north and follow the graveled Cadiz Road for 26 miles. The next 5 miles of the Cadiz Road forms the eastern boundary of the wilderness. Cadiz Road is passable by two-wheel drive vehicles, but the southern and northern bound routes require four-wheel drive vehicles.
More information: http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/needles/wilderness/cadiz_dunes.html
Remnants of World War II desert training centers, Camp Iron Mountain and Camp Ibis are contained in Mojave Trails. Facing the need to train soldiers for combat in North Africa, the Desert Training Center was set up in 1942 with General George S. Patton Jr. as its first commander. Camp Iron Mountain is said to be the best preserved. More information: /desert-people/patton.html and /dusablog/general-pattons-troops-at-roys-cafe.html
The heart of the monument, some feel, is Sleeping Beauty Valley. Situated between the Cady Mountains, and Kelso Dunes and Bristol Mountains Wildernesses, the valley is an almost untouched example of Mojave ecology and is probably the most scenic part of Mojave Trails. It contains an immense range of biological life as the western Mojave desert zone combines with the eastern Mojave in the valley. The valley is named for Sleeping Beauty Mountain, which has a ridge formation that looks like a sleeping woman. Broadwell Dry Lake, sometimes called Tonopah Lake, lies at the center of the valley. The Wildlife Conservancy says, "The valley provides critical linkage between northern and southern populations of desert tortoise, and it is also home to an unusual, and perhaps ancient, plant called the crucifixion thorn, a species believed by some scientists to live as long as 10,000 years. " To get there, the BLM says,
Broadwell Dry Lake - 6 miles north of Ludlow via Crucero Road; west to hilly area.
Other areas of interest in the monument are Ward Valley, considered sacred to the Colorado River Native Americans, the Sacramento Mountains and Bigelow Cholla Garden, with the densest population of its namesake cactus in California, and Lobeck's Pass, with its erie rock formations on US Hwy 95, just south of Needles.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and the Wildlife Conservancy were instrumental in the creation of the three monuments: the Mojave Trails National Monument, the Sand to Snow National Monument and the Castle Mountain National Monument. A quarter million acres of the Mojave Trails National Monument lands had been privately purchased by the Wildlife Conservancy and donated to the US Department of the Interior in anticipation of governmental action. Feinstein had long advocated for the protection of the desert lands, but had been unable to get legislation passed by Congress. She, and many others, requested Obama act to protect the lands. Feinstein had introduced the California Desert Protection Act of 1994 to Congress. The Act converted Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Monuments into their present designation as National Parks and the East Mojave National Scenic Area into the Mojave National Preserve. The monuments created in February of 2016 fulfill a vision of interconnected preserve areas to promote the well being of wildlife and ecosystems, and long term protection for California's desert wildernesses. This preserve is now the second largest desert preserve in the world; only the enormous Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia is larger at 19,216 sq mi. (12,298,240 acres)
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