DescriptionMore than 1.6 million acres between I-15 and I-40 in southeastern California, Mojave National Preserve was established in 1994 to protect the prehistoric, historic and natural resources found at this convergence of ecosystems.
The preserve ranges in elevation from less than 1,000 feet to almost 8,000 feet. The diverse landscape encompasses mountains, mesas, volcanic spires, cinder cones and sand dunes. Since summer daytime temperatures typically exceed 100 F at lower elevations, the best months for visiting are October through May. Although yearly rainfall averages between 3 and 10 inches, summer storms sometimes cause flash floods, and occasional winter storms bring rain and even snow to the higher mountains.
Though not always visible, wildlife is abundant. Some of the nearly 300 species of animals living in this area include bighorn sheep, mule deer and mountain lions in the mountains; coyotes, kit foxes, jack rabbits, desert tortoises and antelope ground squirrels inhabit lower elevations.
To survive the desert climate, many plants have small leaves to minimize moisture loss. Cacti store water in their tissues, and mesquites send roots as deep as 100 feet. Common plants include creosote bush, yucca, sage, rabbitbrush and the spindly Joshua tree. Wildflower displays are colorful in April and May if there has been sufficient rainfall during the year.
Mojave National Preserve is rich in archeological and historical features that are protected by law. The many examples of Native American rock art include petroglyphs more than 10,000 years old. More recent are the abandoned mines and desert camps, evidence of the mining operations that once flourished. Cattle ranching, also important during the 1800s, continues at a ranch in the southern part of the preserve.
Developed campgrounds are open all year at Mid Hills and Hole-in-the-Wall; the fee at both is $12 per night. Primitive camping is permitted at other designated sites. Hiking, backpacking and horseback riding are permitted, but horses are not allowed at developed campsites. Equestrian camping facilities are available at Black Canyon Equestrian & Group Campground. Camping or parking within a quarter-mile of a watering spot is not allowed. Bird-watching, photography and star tracking also are popular pastimes.
Several paved roads and hundreds of miles of gravel and dirt roads lace the area. Vehicles must stay on designated roads; there are no off-road vehicle areas. Because gasoline availability is unpredictable, you should fill your tank at Needles, Ludlow or Baker before entering the region and check ahead for weather and road conditions.
The preserve is open daily 24 hours. The office is open Mon.-Fri. 8-4:30. For further information contact the Mojave National Preserve, 2701 Barstow Rd., Barstow, CA 92311; phone the Kelso Depot Visitor Center at (760) 252-6108 daily 9-5 or (760) 252-6100.
The adjacent Castle Mountains National Monument, designated as such by President Obama in February 2016, encompasses about 21,000 acres. Visiting requires careful planning as it is remote and requires driving on dirt roads. The Mojave National Preserve can offer information.
Things to SeeCedar Canyon Road