Mojave Road Adventure
April 4-7, 2019
Ever wanted to ride in a military truck on a historic backroad? Want to explore lava tubes, old forts, sand dunes, or the place behind the meaning of the “Zzyzx” sign on the 15 on the way to Vegas? Any interest in traversing the length of the Mojave National Preserve in four wheel drive vehicles? This is your chance!
From April 4-7, 2019, over Spring Break, we will be driving in a caravan of four-wheel drive vehicles over three days on the 140 mile-long Mojave Road, which runs from the Colorado River (where we will camp the first night) to Barstow through the Mojave National Preserve. Mr. Nylen will be bringing along his M923A2 military truck as well, which has troop seats and seat belts in the back. The tarp on back can be rolled up on the sides for an amazing view of the sites we will see. (We will only have Scouts ride in the back when driving slowly on the Mojave Road, not on the highway). Friday will be spent driving to the trailhead.
We will camp at established campgrounds along the road, and cook and camp as a group. Read on for more details if you are interested!
History and Importance of the Mojave Road
The Mojave Road is one of the best known and most diverse overland routes in the United States. Like most western tracks, it was established by Native Americans and used as a footpath for travel long before Europeans arrived to map it. In 1776 the first documented crossing was completed by Francisco Garcés, a missionary on Juan Bautista de Anza’s expedition to California. Over the coming centuries the road would transform into a supply route, making way for wagons, equipment, and rail lines heading to California.
Despite its similar history to other desert crossings, the Mojave Road is unique. Most classic routes were improved over the years or turned to pavement; the Mojave became lost in time when more efficient routes for railroads were discovered. Even today, very little maintenance or development has occurred, allowing drivers to not only enjoy the untouched desert, but do so on what is essentially the same road used over 150 years ago.
The original route begins 10 miles south of Bullhead City on the Colorado River and spans 140 miles through the heart of the Mojave Desert to Camp Cady. Though largely unmaintained, the terrain is mild enough to be crossed by “soft-roaders” with an experienced driver. Topography of the area is brilliantly varied and includes mountain passes, desert valleys, large lakes, and even volcanic cones. The route begins in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, but the majority of the traditional road is encompassed by the Mojave National Preserve in California.
Here is a link and guide to the route. There are many more available through a simple Google search.
Sights To See Along the Way
There is much to see along the route. For example:
We will stop by some amazing lava tubes (yes, this is Mrs. Nylen and Gram in the photo):
We will also check out the former site of the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa (here is a link to a great episode of Huell Howser’s California’s Gold about the site)
We may also choose to visit Kelso Dunes, a short drive off Mojave Road along the way:
If we decide to visit the dunes, we will also stop by the historic Kelso Depot, the headquarters of the Mojave National Preserve. The depot is a beautiful former Union Pacific Railroad Station, with a fantastic museum and gift shop inside.
We will also pass by and explore the ruins of many forts, mines, railroad lines, and other historic points of interest. And of course the drive itself will be beautiful and span the breadth of the Preserve.
We have a reservation at a Group Campground at River Island State Park just south of Lake Havasu for the night of April 4, 2019. Directions will be provided to drivers. Although we have a reservation at Black Canyon Group and Equestrian Campground for the first night on the road (April 5), that campground is a 10 mile detour off the road and we may decide just to camp on the route. This is the beauty of driving this route — there are many established campgrounds along the way, and you can camp anywhere that is available. We will camp at the Afton Canyon BLM Campground on the evening of April 6. All of these campgrounds have toilet facilities, campfire rings and shade structures.
We will travel with several four wheel drive vehicles, including a military transport truck, in which we can carry all of our group gear and as much personal gear as we need. The road is not a hardcore four-wheel-drive rock crawling experience, and is more of a jeep trail for most of its length. However 4WD is required for safety. We have several parents with 4WD vehicles and can accommodate up to 7 vehicles and/or 25 people total without a special use permit. All vehicles will be inspected for safety and must have a full-sized spare tire. We will have handheld Ham radios for communication, although cell coverage is available (on and off) much of the way.
Sign Up Now!
If you are interested in going, please sign up using this link. We hope you can join us!
Mr. Nylen and Mr. Toepper, trip organizers