Imperial Sand Dunes
Bureau of Land Management El Centro Field Office El Centro, CA 92243
Imperial Sand Dunes
ISDRA is open and accessible – Recreate Responsibly
Responsible outdoor recreation is a great way to keep your mind and body healthy during COVID. While the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (ISDRA) remains open, it is important visitors are responsible and protect themselves and others from the virus by observing safe mitigation measures.
When visiting ISDRA, remember to keep your distance – if you see a crowd, turn around. Always ride safe & prevent unnecessary hospital visits and remember to use hand sanitizer and a face covering – don’t leave camp without them.
Please see the frequently asked questions below for more information regarding COVID safety.
Remember, your COVID compliance helps keep ISDRA open!
Located in the southeast corner of California, the Imperial Sand Dunes are the largest mass of sand dunes in the state.
Formed by windblown sands of ancient Lake Cahuilla, the dune system extends for more than 40 miles in a band averaging 5 miles wide. Dunes often reach heights of 300 feet above the desert floor, providing outstanding opportunities for recreation. A favorite place for off-highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts, the dunes also offer fabulous scenery, opportunities for solitude, and a home to rare plants and animals.
With most of the off-road action taking place in the recreation area south of Highway 78, the open areas allow all types of vehicle recreation. Limited areas surround the dunes require vehicles to travel on designated routes. Closed areas prohibit motorized vehicle use entirely. Information and maps for all of these areas are available at the ranger stations.
The North Algodones Dunes Wilderness offers a tranquil alternative to the fast-paced action of the main dunes. This wilderness encompasses more than 26,000 acres, with the largest and tallest dunes located in the central area. Visitors are welcome to walk or ride horses in this remote area. The wilderness is closed to all vehicles and mechanized use.
Fees and Permits
Permits are required from October 1 through April 15 each year. Permits are $35 per week in advance and $50 per week if purchased onsite. Season permits are $150. Buy your weekly or season permits online.
Rules and Regulations
Visiting the Imperial Sand Dunes? Before you go, make sure you know the Rules and Regulations.
What is open at the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (ISDRA)?
ISDRA is currently open for responsible recreation and the BLM strives to keep your public lands open. The Center for Disease Control (CDC), BLM, state and county guidance all emphasize COVID mitigation through good hygiene, staying home when sick, and social distancing to include the wearing of face coverings. The BLM is committed to providing safe and responsible outdoor recreation opportunities. ISDRA visitors are asked to observe all CDC, BLM, state and county COVID mitigation measures. Before you leave home, make sure you know the ISDRA Rules and Regulations.
Are Oldsmobile and the other gathering spots open?
Yes, all of the ISDRA is currently open for responsible recreation and the BLM strives to keep your public lands open. To avoid future area closures in the ISDRA, all visitors are asked to voluntarily comply with the CDC, BLM, state and county COVID guidelines for good hygiene, staying home when sick, and social distancing to include the wearing of face coverings. The BLM is committed to providing safe and responsible outdoor recreation opportunities to include the implementation of emergency closures in high-risk areas due to crowding or other factors.
Why did BLM close Osborn and Gecko last season when outdoor recreation is supported by the CDC?
Gecko Road and Osborne Overlook are high visitation areas and were closed in the spring of 2020 to reduce the spread of COVID. To avoid similar closures in the future, all ISDRA visitors are asked to comply with the CDC, BLM, state and county COVID guidelines of good hygiene, staying home when sick, and social distancing to include the wearing of face coverings.
Will all of the ISDRA be open through the season?
BLM staff are working closely with Imperial County to monitor the local impacts of COVID and are meeting regularly with county representatives to review and discuss COVID updates and conditions. Should COVID related conditions change, BLM staff will remain flexible and will work with the county to address any resurgence of cases, or improvements in conditions, in the local area. This webpage is the latest ISDRA information is available, check back often as ISDRA and COVID related updates will be posted here.
Will permits be required if parts of the dunes are closed?
Yes, permits are required throughout the season because BLM services will continue to be provided to include road clearing, campground maintenance, trash collection, law enforcement, and emergency medical services despite any possible future partial closures. Permits are $35 per week in advance and $50 per week if purchased onsite. Season permits are available and are $150.
Will there be vendors?
Yes, BLM staff will work with vendors who comply with CDC, BLM, state and local COVID requirements. In addition to their normal operations plan, vendors this year will also be required to provide a COVID mitigation plan addressing safety measures the vendor will take to prevent the spread of COVID while interacting in ISDRA. COVID mitigation plans will be reviewed by BLM staff to ensure the prescribed measures meet the current requirements of the CDC, BLM, state, and county.
Will there be any impact to services (restrooms, trash, camping access, permit sales, law enforcement)?
The BLM anticipates no impacts to trash, camping access, permit sales or law enforcement. Beginning Friday, October 16, both Cahuilla and Buttercup Ranger Stations will be open and staffed from 9:00 – 5:30 Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The restrooms at ISDRA are closed due to additional COVID cleaning mitigation measures. Visitors are strongly encouraged to plan accordingly and bring hand sanitizer as restrooms do not have running water.
Could I get a ticket for not wearing a mask or not social distancing?
BLM law enforcement and Imperial County Sheriffs will support the laws and requirements regarding the wear of face coverings and social distancing. BLM strongly encourages safety and responsible recreation.
Additional COVID Resources:
Research and understand the risks associated with travel by referring to the CDC’s up-to-date travel guidelines.
Learn about BLM California COVID mitigation and related closures by visiting the BLM website.