The National Old Trails Highway
Part 1: Amboy, CA
Update 02/14/18: Portions of Historic Route 66 are temporarily closed for repairs.
- National Trails Highway is now open from Kelbaker Road to Cadiz Road.
- National Trails Highway (Route 66) is closed from Goffs Rd. to Mountain Springs Rd. on 09/08/14 @ 5:00 PM due to bridge damage from flooding. No anticipated time for reopening.
- National Trails Highway (Route 66), Amboy – closed on 03/06/17 due to bridge replacement from Cadiz Rd. to Essex Rd.
In California, the original Route 66 is known as The National Old Trails Highway. It runs from the Colorado River west of Needles, CA through Goffs, Essex, Danby, Chambless, Amboy, Ludlow, then on to Barstow before reaching Los Angeles.
After my first day trip to Amboy, my research turned up some interesting points of interest further down Route 66. I decided to plan a second day trip out to the small town of Goffs, CA, located on the edge of the Mojave National Preserve.
My journey began from Palm Springs, CA and took approximately 2.5 hours one way. I once again passed through Amboy on Route 66 and continued northeast, crossing the Needles Freeway (40) before reaching the small town of Goffs.
A little history …
Goffs prospered until late 1931 when U. S. Highway 66 was realigned, missing Goffs by six miles. Today there are no permanent Santa Fe employees in Goffs. The former extensive complex of buildings and other improvements have been removed except a huge water tank, small pump house, and tool shed. The Mojave Desert Heritage & Cultural Association has restored the old schoolhouse at Goffs and it is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The main point of interest in Goffs is the restored Schoolhouse and outdoor museum. I had called ahead for a private tour, since my trip took place during the week. The Goffs Schoolhouse is usually open on Saturday, Sunday and Monday to the public Oct. 1 – June 30th. If you plan a trip on other dates, you need to call ahead to arrange a private tour.
Dennis Casebier was my tour guide. After spending a few minutes with Dennis I learned that he was an expert on the history of Goffs and the nearby Mojave Rd. He had been collecting historical photos and documents of the area since 1954.
Dennis and his wife Jo Ann donated the land where the schoolhouse is located to the Desert Heritage & Cultural Association. Dennis told me that they donated the land to the Association so that the property could be authentically restored. They later donated the surrounding 75 acres to the Association so the land and resources could be preserved and shared in perpetuity.
The newest building at Goffs was the library and research center. Dennis was excited to show me the extensive archives that included his own personal collection and several other important collections that were donated or purchased by the Association.
The library building was a replica of the the old Goffs Railway Depot, which was completed in May 2008. It is called the Dennis G. Casebier Library. The library contains the research collections of the Mojave Desert Archives including 6,000 volumes of published works, tens of thousands of pages of news clip files, over 50,000 historical photographs, 1,0000 oral histories, more than 5,000 maps and other federal records from the National Archives.
I asked Dennis what brought him to the Mojave Desert. He first discovered his passion for the desert when he was stationed in Twentynine Palms from 1954-1956. He explored the area during that time and then again on subsequent trips. Dennis felt like he was home when he first visited the Mojave Desert. He loved the rich history of the area. It was during these trips that Dennis learned about the “Old Government Road” which peaked his curiosity and led to more research on the area. Between 1960 and 1970 he spent his time studying the region and exploring all of the trails in the area. Dennis has travelled every inch of the 130 mile road, which is now titled “The Mojave Road.” He has authored numerous books about the region including the Mojave Road Guide.
Today the Mojave Road is a historic route and a popular recreational trail for 4WD enthusiasts. It passes through the Mojave National Preserve and takes several days to explore. See links below for more details about the Mojave Road.
After the tour, Dennis gave me a booklet that took me on a self-guided tour through the outdoor museum at Goffs. It was fun to see relics and artifacts that told me more about the history of area and the Mojave Desert region. The booklet provided a history of each point of interest along the trail. It was a walk through history and a fun way to learn about Goffs.
I thanked Dennis for the tour and information about the area. His passion for Goffs and the Mojave Desert has been instrumental in the preservation of it’s history and resources. It is rare to find individuals like Dennis and his wife Jo Ann, who cherish a place so much they go through great expense to find a way to preserve and share it with future generations. A special thanks to Dennis for sharing Goffs with us!
The Goffs Schoolhouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is open to the public on select weekends. Appointments can also be made to tour the facility by calling 760-733-4482. Visit the Mojave Desert Heritage & Cultural Association website for more details.
Related resources on DesertUSA.com: