Desert Access Guide - Points of Interest
THE PLANK ROAD
Located in the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, off Grays Well Road, is a small surviving remnant of the unique "floating" wooden road. The Plank Road was constructed across the dunes in 1916. Used for ten years, it was replaced by a more reliable paved highway in 1926. A plank road brochure can be obtained at the site. Please help preserve this historic road by keeping vehicles outside the protective fence. The Plank Road lies within the Plank Road Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).
IMPERIAL SAND DUNES RECREATION AREA
This 40-mile-long dune system is one of the largest in the United States. Formed by windblown beach sands of ancient Lake Cahuilla, some crests reach heights of over 300 feet. These expansive dune formations offer picturesque scenery, opportunities for solitude, a chance to view rare plants and animals, and a playground for OHVs. From the Grays Well road exit on Interstate 8, travelers can access; Buttercup Campground, Midway Campground, and the Plank Road. The campgrounds along Grays Well Road offer hard surface parking, vault toilets, and trash facilities. Other portions of the Imperial Sand Dunes, including Mammoth Wash and the Gecko/Glamis area, extend beyond this map to the north and are depicted on the Salton Sea and El Centro Desert Access Guides. Visit the Imperial Sand Dunes Home Page .
COLORADO RIVER RECREATION SITES
North of Winterhaven on both sides of the Colorado River, developed recreation sites managed by BLM can be found. These areas offer regular campgrounds with a fourteen-day stay limit, in addition to a large Long Term Visitation Area (LTVA). Camping, swimming, fishing, and boating are popular activities. More information may be obtained from the BLM Yuma Field Office at (928) 317-3200.
Located off Ogilby Road, approximately 8 miles north of Interstate 8 is the abandoned gold mining town of Tumco. Originally called Hedges, this town was renamed Tumco in 1910 for the Trumble United Mines Company. With a peak population of over 3,000, it boasted the largest stamp mill in the country with 100 stamps, capable of crushing 167 tons of ore per day. When the richest ore deposits were depleted in 1914, the mines closed. Little remains of this once bustling community, except for crumbling foundations, a reservoir, and a cemetery. The town site is closed to camping and vehicle travel. Brochures are available at the site entrance to supplement a self-guided walking tour of the area. Beware of open mine shafts and weak support timbers. Entering mines is very dangerous. The Cargo Muchacho Mountains are now crisscrossed with modern mining claims.
PICACHO PEAK AREA
Twenty miles north of Winterhaven on Picacho Road. Picacho Peak is a 1500-foot high volcanic outcrop which dominates the southernmost end of the Chocolate Mountains. This region offers excellent camping, hiking, rock hounding, and photographic opportunities, but respect posted private property signs east of Picacho Peak. Nearby Picacho State Recreation Area, a unit of the California State Park System, offers a developed campground as well as boating and fishing on the Colorado River.
INDIAN PASS ROAD
East of Ogilby Road, Indian Pass Road provides numerous opportunities for recreation. The road extends east, dropping into Gavilan Wash. Following the wash east, leads to Picacho State Recreation Area. Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended in Gavilan Wash. Indian Pass Wilderness and Picacho Peak Wilderness border Indian Pass Road and Gavilan Wash to the north and south. The Indian Pass area has been designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).
IMPERIAL DAM LONG TERM VISITATION AREA (LTVA)
The Imperial Dam LTVA provides long term camping opportunities for thousands of visitors each winter. The LTVA is open September 15 through April 15. Winter visitors who wish to stay must purchase either a long-term or a short-term permit. Both permits are valid in any of the seven LTVAs in California and Arizona. During the summer months (April 15- September 15) camping is free, although limited to 14 days in a 28 day period. Services available are trash facilities, dump station, drinking water, and showers.
IMPERIAL NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Adjacent to Picacho State Recreation Area, Imperial Wildlife Refuge was established in 1941 to protect and preserve all forms of plant and animal life found in the lower Colorado River region. A variety of plants and animals are found within the refuge. Recreational opportunities include hiking, boating, fishing, and hunting. Camping is not permitted on the refuge. For more information contact Imperial National Wildlife Refuge at (928) 783-3371.
BETTY'S KITCHEN WATCHABLE WILDLIFE AND INTERPRETIVE AREA
Located at the south end of Mittry Lake, this site is named after a cafe which stood on the shore of the lake during the 1930s. Although the area was wiped out by flooding in 1983, the site now provides a scenic 1/2 mile interpretive trail which describes the natural and human history of the Colorado River Corridor. Handicapped accessible picnic tables, shade ramadas, fire grills, rest rooms, and a fishing pier make Betty's Kitchen a popular day use area. For more information contact BLM's Yuma Field Office at (928) 317-3200.
Located north of Yuma, Mittry Lake is a popular site known for its wildlife viewing, camping, fishing, and hunting. Camping is limited to ten nights per calendar year, per party. Amenities include ten fishing piers, one of which is handicapped accessible, restrooms, and two boat ramps. For more information contact BLM Yuma Field Office at (928) 317-3200 or the Yuma Office of Arizona Department of Game and Fish at (928) 342-0091.
SENATOR WASH RESERVOIR
25 miles north of Yuma, Senator Wash Reservoir is a water storage reservoir that also provides recreational opportunities such as fishing and water play. During the summer months, this site is a favorite of jet skiers and small boats. Lake shore camping is communal on the south shore of the lake while the north shore offers many small coves and bays. Summer visitation is limited to 14 days in a 28 day period. For more information contact BLM Yuma Field Office at (928) 317-3200.
Located east of Senator Wash Reservoir, Squaw Lake is the Yuma Field Office's premier developed recreation site. The lake is a popular day use and camping area, with holiday weekends attracting large crowds. Camping is limited to 14 days in a 28 day period and costs $15.00 per night per vehicle. Amenities include handicapped accessible restrooms, outdoor showers, fire rings, potable water, trash removal, and two boat ramps. For more information contact the BLM Yuma Field Office at (928) 317-3200.
Located at the east end of Imperial Dam is Hidden Shores. A BLM concession, Hidden Shores provides public recreational opportunities through private sector investment. Popular activities center around the Colorado River. Amenities include RV hookups, boat launch, showers, store, handicapped accessible restrooms, and fuel sales. Maximum length of stay is 150 days per year. For more information contact the BLM Yuma Field Office at (928) 317-3200.
LITTLE PICACHO PEAK WILDERNESS
North of Winterhaven, the Little Picacho Peak Wilderness can be reached from Picacho Road or Ferguson Lake Road. Encompassing the southern portion of the Chocolate Mountains, the Little Picacho Peak Wilderness contains approximately 33,600 acres. The topography, characterized by jutting spires and steep ridges, is quite dramatic and offers several recreational opportunities. Located near Little Picacho Wilderness is Picacho State Recreation Area and Imperial National Wildlife Refuge .
MUGGINS MOUNTAINS WILDERNESS
Rugged peaks, rolling hills, and wash drainages are typical in this wilderness. Elevations range from 200 feet in the south, to 1,666 feet at Klothos Temple in the northern end. The wilderness provides suitable habitat for a variety of plants and wildlife. Use caution when traveling in the wilderness. Do not stray into the military testing area adjacent to the northern wilderness boundary. The wilderness is located approximately 25 miles east of Yuma. More information may be obtained from the BLM Yuma Field Office at (928) 317-3200.
South of Interstate 8 near Sidewinder Road, stands Pilot Knob . The area in and around Pilot Knob is rich in both human and natural history. At one time, Patton's troops trained here in preparation for desert fighting in World War II. A State of California Historic Marker lies on the site of Patton's camp. The marker is located just north of Interstate 8 on Sidewinder Road. The Fort Yuma Indian Reservation borders public lands near Pilot Knob. Please observe all posted signs. A portion of the Pilot Knob area has been designated an ACEC. Pilot Knob LTVA is located south of Interstate 8 on Sidewinder Road. The LTVA is a popular camping spot. Since only minimum camping facilities are available, only self- contained camping units are allowed. The LTVA camping area is open September 15 through April 15. Winter visitors who wish to stay must purchase either a long-term or a short-term permit. Both permits are valid in any of the eight LTVAs in California and Arizona.
YUMA PROVING GROUND
The Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) is a military testing reservation located north of Yuma. Although several roads cross YPG, the Proving Ground is not open to the public. Do not turn off or stray from these roads. Obey all road signs. Although closed to the public, YPG allows hunting on limited portions of the installation. Arizona State Fish and Game laws apply to hunting on the Proving Ground. For more information on the hunting permit system, contact the YPG Wildlife Biologist at (928)328-2148.
BARRY M. GOLDWATER RANGE
Covering approximately 2.25 million acres, the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range is an excellent example of near pristine Sonoran Desert. Within the Goldwater Range are three ACECs, the Tinajas Altas, Gran Desierto, and Mohawk Sand Dunes. Permits are required for public access. Vehicle travel is restricted to established routes; cross country travel is prohibited. Please obey all posted signs. Entering the range without permission is dangerous and illegal. For more information, contact the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma at (928) 341- 3402 or BLM Yuma Field Office at (928) 317-3200.
KOFA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE (NWR)
North of Yuma on Highway 95, near the town of Quartzite, lies the Kofa NWR. Established in 1939, the refuge encompasses 665,400 acres of pristine desert land. Approximately 78% of the Kofa Refuge is designated as wilderness. Two extremely rugged mountain ranges dominate the refuge. These ranges and surrounding desert plains provide ideal habitat for a variety of wildlife, including bighorn sheep. Hiking, sightseeing, photography, wildlife viewing, and nature study are popular activities on the refuge. You must obtain refuge regulations before entering the refuge. While camping is permitted on the refuge, there are no campgrounds and certain rules and regulations must be followed. Please remember that all vehicle traffic is limited to designated roads and off-road vehicle travel is prohibited. For special regulations and more information contact Kofa National Wildlife Refuge at (928) 783-7861.
AREAS OF CRITICAL ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN (ACECs)
Certain lands managed by the BLM, have been designated ACECs. ACECs are areas that contain significant natural, archaeological, or historical resources. Please respect all posted signs regarding the management of these areas. For more information on ACECs, contact the El Centro Field Office of the BLM.
Although recreational opportunities exist throughout the entire desert, use caution when in proximity to the United States-Mexico border. Both U.S. and Mexican authorities patrol the border area. Do not under any circumstances cross the border without using a port of entry. Entering the U.S. or Mexico without using a port of entry is dangerous and illegal.