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Borrego Valley

Desert Access Guide - Points of Interest

Anza Borrego is the largest unit of the California State Park System, and shares approximately 150 miles of boundary with BLM public land in San Diego and Imperial Counties. The park offers developed and primitive campsites, a visitor center in Borrego Springs, and outstanding opportunities for hiking, backpacking, nature study, and vehicle touring. Vehicles must remain on established roads. Significant winter rains will often bring blooms of colorful wildflowers in the spring. Visitors venture from far and near to see the wildflowers. Access is by County Highway S2, State Highway 78, and the Borrego Salton Seaway (County Highway S22).  For more information on Anza Borrego State Park contact (760) 767-5311.

A popular vista in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Font's Point encompasses views of Baja California, the Salton Sea, and Borrego Valley. The sculptured Borrego Badlands reveal remnants of the ancient Colorado River delta and flood plains. Font's Point is located east of Borrego Springs on County Highway S22.

You can reach the oasis by foot or off-highway vehicle. The hike to Seventeen Palms Oasis can be started from the Arroyo Salado Primitive Camping Area. Surrounded by a dramatic badlands moonscape, the palms are relics of a time when mammoths and camels grazed the Borrego Valley. Underlying clays and faults bring water close to the surface here. Due to the presence of water and shade, palm oases are rich in human and natural history.

More than 500 years ago, the Colorado River changed its course from the Gulf of California toward the Salton Sink. This formed a 100-mile long lake that inundated much of the Imperial Valley. When the river again changed southward, Lake Cahuilla began to dry. At Travertine Point near the Imperial/Riverside County Line, the ancient waterline is clearly visible as a deposit of light-colored mineral material on the dark mountainside. At other areas just east and west of the modern Imperial Valley agricultural lands, the shoreline is visible. It can be seen as a sandy terrace or bench separating the valley bottom from slightly higher desert lands. The old beach line is an important modern source of sand and gravel.

Occupying a portion of land that was once part of ancient Lake Cahuilla, the Salton Sea is the largest inland body of water in California. Summer storms in 1905 and 1907 caused heavy flooding of the Colorado River and diverted water into this below sea-level sink. The resulting body of water is approximately 40 miles long, 10 to 15 miles wide, and about 50 feet deep at its deepest point. Today, several washes and canals drain into the Salton Sea. Recreationalists visit the Salton Sea year-round for bird watching, boating, hiking, and fishing. Both the Salton Sea State Recreation Area and Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge offer these recreation opportunities.  For more information contact the Salton Sea SRA at (760) 393-3059 or Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR at (760) 348-5278

Ocotillo Wells SVRA is a desert landscape consisting of mudhills, washes, and sand dunes. Elevations run from sea level to 260' above sea level. These areas can challenge the best of riders or give the new rider an introduction to off-roading. Ocotillo Wells SVRA has 41,000 acres of open desert riding. No fees are collected for camping or day use. Open camping is permitted throughout the unit for up to 30 days per calendar year. Chemical toilets, shade ramadas, picnic tables, and fire rings are located in the Quarry, Main Street, and Holmes Camp areas. A coin operated shower building is located on Quarry Trail, a waste disposal station is located on Ranger Station Road. Ocotillo Wells SVRA is located on State Highway 78 at the town of Ocotillo Wells.  For more information contact Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area at (760) 767-5391.

This wilderness area resembles a plateau rising as a great wall above the desert basin. From a distance, few dramatic peaks are visible. However, on closer examination, a rugged land of jagged ridges and peaks appears above twisting canyons and small valleys, creating a pristine natural environment. The steep mountain slopes contain limestone outcrops that have resisted erosion. A portion of the ancient Lake Cahuilla shoreline is visible within this wilderness. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park borders the wilderness to the southwest, while Carrizo Wash creates the southeastern boundary. An extensive gypsum mining operation in the western mountains provides raw material for the plant at Plaster City. Use caution when near the railroad tracks. Access this wilderness from Split Mountain Road, which is off State Highway 78.

The Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument embraces the rugged grandeur of Southern California's Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains. This magnificent 200,000 acre natural area provides the world renowned scenic backdrop to Palm Springs and the desert communities of the Coachella Valley. The National Monument contains the ancestral lands of the Cahuilla people, the realm of the Peninsular bighorn sheep and is home to a variety of plant and animal life. From palms to pines, rising steeply form the desert floor, these mountains provide some of the most beautiful and rewarding trail experiences in the United States.  For more information contact the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center at (760) 862-9984.

This is part of the Southern Emigrant Trail, the route used by Kit Carson, the Mormon Battalion, the forces of General Kearney, and thousands of gold seekers in the mid-1800s. You can still see the wagon ruts, and traces from the work of the Mormon Battalion. The Battalion used axes and crowbars to carve out the walls of the canyon so that wagons could get through. Box Canyon is located on County Highway S2, 7 miles south of the Scissors Crossing intersection of County Highway S2 and State Highway 78.

Bordering Ocotillo Wells SVRA, the Arroyo Salada Open Area contains approximately 7200 acres of rolling and open desert terrain. Due to the proximity of Ocotillo Wells SVRA, this area is popular for OHV recreation. Public lands in the area are interspersed with private property. While the lands administered by the BLM are open to cross-country OHV travel, permission must be obtained from private landowners before operating vehicles on their property.

The Agua Tibia Wilderness encompasses 15,934 acres with elevations that range from 1,700 feet to 5,000 feet. Visitors will find chaparral at lower elevations, changing to oak, then pine and fir forest at the higher elevations. The area has 25 miles of developed trails. The Dripping Springs Campground on State Highway 79, 11 miles east of Temecula is the gateway to the Agua Tibia Wilderness. This 34 unit campground is open year-round on a "first come, first served" basis. This campground has nine equestrian sites. For more information contact the Cleveland National Forest at (858) 673-6180.

Located about one mile south of Santa Ysabel on State Highway 78/79 is the Inaja Memorial Picnic Ground and Nature Trail. The picnic ground is a memorial to 11 firefighters from the San Diego Honor Camp who died fighting the Inaja Fire on November 26, 1956. A trail guide is available at the trailhead for this short (1/2 mile) hike through various types of chaparral.

The isolated jewel of 1900 acres near Palomar Mountain Observatory in the Cleveland National Forest is small in size but rich in natural beauty. You can reserve the thirty-one family campsites as well as three small groups camps provide a getaway in this 5000 foot elevation wonderland. Fishing is available at Doane Pond, and trails meander through the quiet pine and cedar covered slopes affording outstanding opportunities for nature study. Winter storms often bring snow to the park. Access is by State Highway 76 to East Grade (S7) or to S6 until it intersects with State Park Road. Follow State Park Road to the park entrance. For more information contact Palomar Mountain State Park at (760) 742-3462 .

Certain lands managed by the BLM, have been designated ACECs. ACECs are areas that contain significant natural, archeological, or historical resources. Please respect all signs regarding ACECs and their management.