dunes, volcanic cinder cones, Joshua tree forests, and mile-high
mountains are all part of the scene at Mojave National Preserve.
Located in the heart of the Mojave Desert, this new park was
established in 1994 through the California Desert Protection Act.
The Preserve encompasses 1.6 million acres of mountains, jumble
rocks, desert washes, and dry lakes; outdoor enthusiasts appreciate
the opportunity for solitude here not easily found at other southern
Plant and animal
life varies by elevation. Desert tortoises burrow in creosote bush
flats, while the black and yellow Scott's oriole nests in Joshua
trees higher up the slopes. Mule deer and bighorn sheep roam among
pinyon pine and juniper in the Preserve's many mountain ranges.
experiences change with the seasons. Infrequent winter snows sparkle
on the mountains. With enough moisture, spring wildflowers carpet
the desert with vivid colors. Summers are hot; hikers and campers
explore the higher elevations such as Mid-Hills and the New York
Mountains. The cooler temperatures of fall mark hunting season. A
network of dirt roads offers year round opportunities to explore by
4-wheel drive vehicle.
transportation routes have long crossed the Mojave Desert. The
Mojave Road refers to a particular corridor used to traverse this
dry expanse. Originally used by Native Americans, and later by
Spanish and American explorers and travelers, the road was named by
the U.S. Military when it established several outposts along the
militarily protected road.
Water is the
primary determinant of travel in the desert. It is relatively
plentiful along the California coast and at the Colorado River, so
the trick is to find water in between. There are a string of
watering holes or springs - Piute, Rock, Marl, and Soda - that move
into the Mojave River system and make for a natural travel route
across this region. This would be the route later called the Mojave
often thought of as a phenomenon of the nineteenth century, but in
the desert - one of America's last frontiers - homesteading
continued well into the twentieth century. The prospective
homesteader could gain title to government land for a fee, provided
they made certain "improvements" to the land. Various
homesteading laws required different improvements, but usually
included building a dwelling and often provided for clearing land
and/or planting crops. Around 29 Palms, California small shacks
still dot the landscape, built in the years after World War II to
satisfy claims for a homestead.
National Preserve homesteading began in 1910 in the Lanfair Valley,
and continued to the middle of this century. Here land originally
went in 160 acre parcels, although later laws allowed this to expand
to 320 acres and then 640 acres. In addition to building a house,
the homesteader had to clear a certain amount of land and plant
crops. Once they had satisfied these legal requirements, the land
through Mojave National Preserve are often surprised to find the
substantial Kelso Depot. It seems out of place sitting alone in the
desert. The question is asked - why here?
Kelso Depot did
service the small town of Kelso, which at various times in its
history had as many as several hundred people. But this does not not
explain the size of this railroad station. In fact, Kelso Depot was
far more than a depot, for here the Los Angeles and Salt Lake
Railroad (later the Union Pacific) combined in a single building a
depot, an employees boarding and rooming house, and a restaurant
which served both employees and as a meal stop for passenger trains.