The Desert Safari

Kirk’s and mine’s  last adventure was attending the Tierra del Sol four wheel drive club 50th Desert Safari  ( .  March 2-4.

This event took place in the Truckhaven Hills area of the North Ocotillo Wells ( What I found surprising was this huge area was part of theCaliforniaState park system.  I would have thought the environmental freaks would have closed down such a large off-road park from the public. I did find out that the park is under constant attack for closure. More the reason to “Tread lightly”

I filled up with 80 gallons of cheapEl Pasogas  at $3.49.  Yes 80 gallons; 40 in the tank and 40 in jerry cans.  With news reports of $5.00 a gallon gas inCaliforniathis seemed prudent.

We left El Paso  after our usual late start and made it toBenson,Az.And spent the night at a Hawaiian RV park .  Don’t ask.  It was here I noticed I forgot extension cords and water hoses.  Of course we went to Walmart to get what we forgot and I have another extension cord for my collection.

We made it toSaltonCityand the turnoff at about8PMand in a wind storm.  Camp was quickly set up and Kirk and I decide due to the wind we would look for something to eat at the AM/PM gas station.  Yuck.

The next morning we scouted out a better camp and set up.  The flag going up was the first order of business.

To say there were a lot of people would be an understatement. I’d say 1,000 people would be an easy estimate.  Of course with so many people there were a few A-holes. Some of them camped next to us and decided to start up the festivities atmidnightwith loud music, yelling, screaming and kids racing quads in circles around the area.

We did our own thing as there are miles of trails without running into people.  Saturday Jerry from Tembo Tusk ( joined us.  At the first Overland Expo (2009) Jerry was debuting his brand new fridge drop  slide.  I bought one onsite.  I received the first production slide and it sat in my garage until we finally installed it this Feb.

In addition to Jerry getting away, he was making a service call.  Jerry upgraded some parts and tweaked the slide. Well above the call of duty.

Monday  March 5th we broke camp and headed to Indio, Ca on our way to the Bradshaw Trail.  My A/C had gone out so we found an A/C shop to have a quick look. The first shop could not do anything as my 1985 Land Cruiser takes Freon .  Around the corner was another shop that took me in without question and got me charged up. No more dust inside! Next stop for fuel and head out.

After a hundred or so dollars of gas Kirk’s FJ Cruiser would not start just some smoke.   I towed him to an Auto Zone and we started troubleshooting. We found a  short to the starter that fried the battery.  As karma would have it Kirk had an Auto Zone battery and got a new one under warranty.  He taped up the cable re routed it and we were on our way.  We had hope to camp along the trail but due to our late start we headed to the Salton Sea.

The Salton Sea is a shallow, saline, endorheic rift lake located directly on the San Andreas Fault, predominantly in California’s Imperial Valley. The lake occupies the lowest elevations of the Salton Sink in the Colorado Desert of Imperial and Riverside counties in Southern California. Like Death Valley, it is below sea level. Currently, its surface is 226 ft (69 m) below sea level. The deepest area of the sea is 5 ft (1.5 m) higher than the lowest point of Death Valley. The sea is fed by the New, Whitewater, and Alamo rivers, as well as agricultural runoff drainage systems and creeks.

The Sea was created by a flood in 1905, in which water from the Colorado River flowed into the area. While it varies in dimensions and area with fluctuations in agricultural runoff and rainfall, the Salton Sea averages 15 mi (24 km) by 35 mi (56 km). With an average area of roughly 525 sq mi (1,360 km2), the Salton Sea is the largest lake in California. Average annual inflow is 1,360,000 acre·ft (1.68 km3), which is enough to maintain a maximum depth of 52 ft (16 m) and a total volume of about 7,500,000 acre·ft (9.3 km3).

The lake’s salinity, about 44 g/L, is greater than that of the waters of the Pacific Ocean (35 g/L), but less than that of the Great Salt Lake (which ranges from 50 to 270 g/L); the concentration is increasing by about 1 percent annually.[1]

It is estimated that for 3 million years, at least through all the years of the Pleistocene glacial age, the Colorado River worked to build its delta in the southern region of the Imperial Valley. Eventually, the delta had reached the western shore of the Gulf of California (the Sea of Cortez/Cortés), creating a massive dam that excluded the Salton Sea from the northern reaches of the Gulf. Were it not for this dam, the entire Salton Sink along with the Imperial Valley, including most of the area occupied by Anza-Borrego State park, would all be submerged, as the Gulf would extend as far north as Indio.[2]

As a result, the Salton Sink or SaltonBasinhas long been alternately a fresh water lake and a dry desert basin, depending on random river flows and the balance between inflow and evaporative loss. A lake would exist only when it was replenished by the river and rainfall, a cycle that repeated itself countless times over hundreds of thousands of years – most recently when the lake was recreated in 1905.[3]

There is evidence that the basin was occupied periodically by multiple lakes. Wave-cut shorelines at various elevations are still preserved on the hillsides of the east and west margins of the present lake, the Salton Sea, showing that the basin was occupied intermittently as recently as a few hundred years ago. The last of the Pleistocene lakes to occupy the basin was Lake Cahuilla, also periodically identified on older maps as Lake LeConte, and the Blake Sea, after American professor and geologist William Phipps Blake.

Once part of a vast inland sea that covered a large area of Southern California, the endorheic Salton Sink was the site of a major salt mining operation.[4] Throughout the Spanish period of California’s history the area was referred to as the “Colorado Desert” after the Rio Colorado (Colorado River). In the 1853/55 railroad survey, it was called “The Valley of the Ancient Lake”. On several old maps from the Library of Congress, it has been found labeled “Cahuilla Valley” (after the local Indian tribe) and “Cabazon Valley” (after a local Indian chief – Chief Cabazon). “Salt Creek” first appeared on a map in 1867 and “Salton Station” is on a railroad map from 1900, although this place had been there as a rail stop since the late 1870s.[5]

The creation of the Salton Sea of today started in 1905, when heavy rainfall and snowmelt caused the Colorado River to swell, overrunning a set of headgates for the Alamo Canal. The resulting flood poured down the canal and breached an Imperial Valley dike, eroding two watercourses, the New River in the west, and the Alamo River in the east, each about 60 miles (97 km) long.[6] Over a period of approximately two years these two newly created rivers sporadically carried the entire volume of the Colorado River into the Salton Sink.[7]

The Southern Pacific Railroad attempted to stop the flooding by dumping earth into the canal’s headgates area, but the effort was not fast enough, and as the river eroded deeper and deeper into the dry desert sand of the Imperial Valley, a massive waterfall was created that started to cut rapidly upstream along the path of the Alamo Canal that now was occupied by the Colorado. This waterfall was initially 15 feet (4.6 m) high but grew to a height of 80 feet (24 m) before the flow through the breach was finally stopped. It was originally feared that the waterfall would recede upstream to the true main path of the Colorado, attaining a height of up to 100 to 300 feet (30 to 91 m), from where it would be practically impossible to fix the problem. As the basin filled, the town of Salton, a Southern Pacific Railroad siding, and Torres-Martinez Indian land were submerged. The sudden influx of water and the lack of any drainage from the basin resulted in the formation of the Salton Sea.[8][9]

The continuing intermittent flooding of the Imperial Valley from the Colorado River led to the idea of the need for a dam on the Colorado River for flood control. Eventually, the federal government sponsored survey parties in 1922 that explored the Colorado River for a dam site, ultimately leading to the construction of Hoover Dam in Black Canyon, which was constructed beginning in 1929 and completed in 1935. The dam effectively put an end to the flooding episodes in the Imperial Valley.


A gaseous mud volcano

In the 1920s, the Salton Sea developed into a tourist attraction, because of its water recreation, and waterfowl attracted to the area.[citation needed]

The Salton Sea has had some success as a resort area, with Salton City, Salton Sea Beach, and Desert Shores on the western shore and Desert Beach, North Shore, and Bombay Beach built on the eastern shore in the 1950s. The town of Niland is located 2 miles (3 km) southeast of the Sea as well. The evidence of geothermal activity is also visible. There are mud pots and mud volcanoes on the eastern side of the Salton Sea.[10]

Avian population

The Salton Sea has been termed a “crown jewel of avian biodiversity” (Dr. Milt Friend, Salton Sea Science Office). Over 400 species have been documented at the Salton Sea. The Salton Sea supports 30% of the remaining population of the American white pelican.[11] The Salton Sea is also a major resting stop on the Pacific Flyway. On 18 November 2006, a Ross’s gull, a high Arctic bird, was sighted and photographed there.[12]

The New River passes from Mexicali, Baja California to the Imperial Valley, and on to the Salton Sea

The lack of an outflow means that the Salton Sea is a system of accelerated change. Variations in agricultural runoff cause fluctuations in water level (and flooding of surrounding communities in the 1950s and 1960s), and the relatively high salinity of the inflow feeding the Sea has resulted in ever increasing salinity. By the 1960s it was apparent that the salinity of the Salton Sea was rising, jeopardizing some of the species in it. The Salton Sea currently has a salinity exceeding 4.0% w/v (saltier than seawater) and many species of fish are no longer able to survive. It is believed that once the salinity surpasses 4.4% w/v, only the tilapia will survive. Fertilizer runoffs combined with the increasing salinity have resulted in large algal blooms and elevated bacteria levels


We found a nice shoreline campsite with latrines and showers.  After a ice cold shower and a shave we hit the road.

From the Salton Sea we headed out to the Bradshaw Trail . This trail is 70 miles of off road driving. Not too hard but very scenic.  We did luck upon a desert tortoise so that was a plus.

Along the trail were practice bombs from the adjacent Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range as well abandoned vehicles and most strangely a half built sailboat .  We located three Geocaches  along the  route.  The following is from the  BLM website.


The western end of this 65-mile BLM back country byway begins about 35 miles southeast of Indio, California. The trail’s eastern end is about 15 miles southwest of Blythe, California.


The first road through Riverside County was blazed by William Bradshaw in 1862, as an overland stage route beginning in San Bernardino, California, and ending in La Paz (now Ehrenberg), Arizona. The trail was used extensively between 1862 and 1877 to transport miners and other passengers to the gold fields at La Paz. The trail is now a graded dirt road that traverses mostly public land between the Chuckwalla Mountains and the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range.


From Indio, take Interstate 10 east to the State Highway 86 Expressway and travel about 10 miles to Avenue 66. Turn left and proceed for about 0.5 mile, and then turn right onto State Highway 111. Then proceed about 18 miles south on State Highway 111 to the Salton Sea State Recreation Area. (Or follow State Highway 111 from downtown Indio directly to the recreation area.) Across from park headquarters is Parkview Drive. Go east on Parkview Drive for about 1.7 miles, then left on Desert Aire for about 0.5 mile to Canal Road. Follow Canal Road east for about 10 miles to Drop 24 and the beginning of the Bradshaw Trail.

Or, from Blythe, take Interstate 10 west for about 3 miles to the State Highway 78 exit. Go south on State Highway 78 for about 12 miles to the eastern end of the trail. Look for the Bradshaw Trail sign on the right about5 miles past the community of Ripley.

Visitor Activities

Four-wheel driving, wildlife viewing, plant viewing, birdwatching, scenic drives, rockhounding, and hiking.

Special Features

The trail offers spectacular views of the Chuckwalla Bench, Orocopia Mountains, Chuckwalla Mountains, and the Palo Verde Valley. The Salton Sea, near the trail’s western end, is one of the largest salt lakes on earth. Wildlife in the area includes wild burros, mule deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes, kit foxes, other small mammals, and birds.

Permits, Fees, Limitations

All commercial and competitive activities require a land-use or special recreation permit from BLM. The Bradshaw Trail is within a “limited use area,” which means vehicles are restricted to approved routes. Wilderness areas adjacent to the trail are posted as closed to all motorized vehicles.


Wheelchair-accessible restrooms are available at Wiley’s Well and Coon Hollow Campgrounds within the Mule Mountains Long-Term Visitor Area.

Camping and Lodging

The Mule Mountain Long-Term Visitor Area (LTVA), located at theintersection of the Bradshaw Trail and Wiley’s Well Road, is available for camping stays up to 7 months from mid-September–mid-April. Two developed campgrounds are part of the LTVA. Wiley’s Well Campground is located at the intersection of Wiley’s Well Road and the Bradshaw Trail; Coon Hollow Campground is located about 4 miles farther south on Wiley’s Well Road. (From Blythe, take Interstate 10 west for about 17 miles to the Wiley’s Well Road exit. Go south on Wiley’s Well Road for about 8 miles to Wiley’s Well Campground, or 12 miles to Coon Hollow Campground.) The campgrounds provide campsites with picnic tables, shade ramadas, and grills. Other campgrounds are available at Lake Cahuilla (4 miles southeast of La Quinta on Avenue 58), Joshua Tree National Park (about 25 miles east of Indio and north of Interstate 10), and Corn Springs (about 38 miles west of Blythe and 8 miles south of Interstate 10 on Corn Springs Road). Primitive vehicular camping is allowed within 100 feet of the trail except in designated wilderness areas. Use of previously disturbed areas is encouraged. Fourteen-day camping restrictions apply. The cities of Indio and Blythe offer complete accommodations.

Food and Supplies

Food, supplies, and gasoline are available in Indio, Blythe, Chiriaco Summit (about 30 miles east of Indio on Interstate 10), and Desert Center (48 miles west of Blythe on Interstate 10).

First Aid

There is no first aid available along the Bradshaw Trail. Hospitals are located in Indio and Blythe.

Additional Information

The trail is a dirt road periodically graded by the Riverside County Transportation Department. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended because of stretches of soft sand and dry wash conditions. The Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range is located immediately south of the trail. This is a live bombing range that is closed to all public entry. VISITORS SHOULD NOT ENTER THE BOMBING RANGE. Summers can be extremely hot. Visitors should carry plenty of water, always tell someone of their plans, and stick to their itinerary. GPS units and cell phones are highly recommended, although cell phones may not work in some locations along the trail.

From there we quickly hit the Arizona border and started on our way home.  The weather was windy and getting cold .

We had to stop at Quarztsite to look at rocks at one of the many rock shops.

Due to the weather we thought it might be best to try to find a better sheltered camping area that the free sites out in the open desert.  We found a RV park way off the Interstate and got there in darkness.  This was the second creepy RV park we stayed at on this trip.  We met a couple of very strange people.  The up side was there was a washer/dryer and I was able to wash some clothing.

We got up early and headed toward Phoenix and to the outdoor mecca Cabelas.   From there we headed south to Amado and a campground in the Coronado National Forest. We gained a bit elevation and it was cold. We had a good dinner and got inside out tents early.  The low temp was 25 during the night.  We quickly got going again and hit the Walmart for a small resupply and headed south to the border.

The phone rings and it is my Dr’s office calling about my upcoming appointment that Monday and they had not received my lab work.  It is Thursday and I forgot to get my blood drawn. I get on the radio and say to Kirk that he is going to kill me but I have to be back in El Paso today.

We quickly change our route and head east to El Paso.  Once I got to I-10 the winds were terrible and I told Kirk to just get ahead of me and I made my way back home at 50mph.   I have decided to have a V8 conversion done on my 60.

1 Comment

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One response to “The Desert Safari

  1. Great adventure, keep them coming!


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