Cars cannot swim

A view from the car as we sat stranded in the Mojave River in Afton Canyon.
A view from the car as we sat stranded in the Mojave River in Afton Canyon.

I went to Afton Canyon recently to shoot the Cliffside Mine and other parts of the canyon for the main part of this story.

My friend and I had made the initial Mojave River crossing dozens of times. This time the water looked deeper than usual and I wanted to get out and check it more thoroughly — I dunno, throw a rock or wade out with a stick or something.

She said, “Nah, we can make it through no problem.”

As she was plowing through, this giant bow wave built up in front of us. She yelled – “Look at the tidal wave!” while I yelled “Go Beth, go!” hoping we could make it to the other side. Never have I seen anything like that wave coming at us. Holy cow.

The car bogged down, stalling us in the middle of the bloody Mojave River. The cattail rushes on both sides of the road had pretty much stopped a good flow of water over the crossing making for a pond in the middle of the road. If I had been driving I think I would have turned chicken and said, “Hey, the amount of water here is too high.” And I have better clearance than she has in her Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Thank heavens for cell phones. Her brother and nephew (a member of the local Search and Rescue team) came to our rescue, hooked three tow straps and a chain together and got us out using a Toyota Tacoma. What a disaster.

In retrospect, always get out of the car to check the depth. She said she wasn’t worried about the depth but what might be under the water, like a big rock or something? I mean, it’s the Mojave River — usually a trickle.

We were not expecting the water to swamp the car — the water was almost to the top of the wheel rim and was over the lower edge of the doors. I don’t know if we had crept through, if it would have been better, but now one side of her car is up on blocks draining out the water. Hopefully the engine is not ruined.

Thank heavens it was warm, if it had been as chilly in that late afternoon, as it had been for the previous few days, we would have been cold with water over our feet. Over our ankles. I sat and photographed dragonflies out the window and the river in front of us.

First look by her mechanics: The engine is toast. Water in places where water is not supposed to go. Sigh.

The good news is we went back — I still had photos to shoot for my story— but in the Tacoma — and not over the big crossing. Warning, the crossing next to the second trestle is very deep too. Not sure I would try that in my little Tracker either.

Read the Afton Canyon story.

5 thoughts on “Cars cannot swim”

  1. Good stuff! Here we are in 2021 – what a world! Looking forward to exploring AC in and surroundings in late September in my little truck for a couple days after a bike race at Snow Summit in Big Bear. Digging your stories and pictures a decade+ later! Hope you are doing well.

    – A random desert, train, animal, plant, geology, fossil, history and 4×4 fan from SF.

  2. Randy;
    I too waited for the other two vehicles the first time, and one which had a 4 inch lift showed us the way. He waited on the other side with a winch and straps in case we got stalled. I have run the Mojave Road three times now, and every time, the crossing is different. so is the mud in the lake bed by the “Travelers Monument”!!

  3. I love places like this. Lots scenery,history,and geology. I wanna go someday soon but I will definitley not cross the river if it looks like that. You two must have been crazy.

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