Mojave National Preserve
Mojave National Preserve's vast expanse of desert lands include elements of three of the four major North American Deserts: the Mojave, Great Basin, and Sonoran. The Preserve's unique ecology is attributed to its remarkable geology. The desert is a land of old mountain ranges, sand dunes, great mesas and volcanic features such as cinder cones, domes, and lava flows; these features contribute to the remarkable beauty of the landscape. The most ancient rocks in the preserve, found in the Clark Mountains, are 2.5 billion years old.
Flora and fauna
Changes in elevation and soil type, combined with dozens of seeps and springs, many in sheltered canyons, create a wide range of microhabitats that support a rich diversity of plants and animals. Some species are only found in this area. Notable plant assemblages include one of the largest and most dense Joshua tree forests, cactus gardens, and relect plant communities of white fir and chaparral.
Signs of animal life are subtle and easily overlooked. Birds and lizards are seen most frequently, but time of day, weather, and season all play a role in determining which animals are active. A large percentage of desert animals are nocturnal: being active at night rather than during daylight hours allows them to avoid both high daytime temperatures and predators. Typical nocturnal animals include most desert rodents, bats, owls, mountain lion, skunks, and foxes. Other animals are crepuscular, active at dawn and dusk, and include coyotes, bighorn sheep and jackrabbits. Diurnal animals, those active during the day, are the most dynamic in that their activity periods will change based on temperature and season.
The weather is generally most comfortable in the spring and fall. Temperatures vary greatly by elevation. At low elevations, daytime highs are in the 70s in March; lows are in the 40s. Highs over 100 typically begin in May and can last into October. In the mountains, daytime highs are in the 70s in May; lows are in the 50s. Winters can bring freezing temperatures and occasional snows, with daytime highs in the 50s and 60s.
Annual precipitation ranges from 3.5 inches at lower elevations to nearly 10 inches in the mountains. Most rain falls between November and April; summer thunderstorms may bring sudden, heavy rainfall. The driest months are May and June. Winds are a prominent feature of Mojave Desert weather. Strong winds occur in fall, late winter, and early spring months.
Baker, the northwest entrance to the Preserve, is served by Amtrak's bus service, providing connections to Amtrak trains.
There are no entrance fees to the preserve, but some of the preserve's campgrounds do charge a usage fee for overnight camping. Permits are also required for groups of 7 or more vehicles, or 15 or more people.
Road conditions vary from paved, two-lane highways to rugged 4-wheel drive roads. Access is possible on foot, on bike, on horse, or by vehicle.
A lunch counter at the Kelso Depot opens daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no other restaurant in Mojave National Preserve. Restaurants are available in Baker, California. A café at Nipton, on the northern edge of the Preserve, provides home-cooked food six days a week.
Car camping is available both in developed campgrounds or along roads in sites that have traditionally been used for that purpose. Do not camp along paved roads, and never camp within 200 yards of water sources.
Much of the Preserve is federally designated wilderness, where mechanized travel by car or bicycle is prohibited. Only travel by horse or foot is allowed in these areas. A network of backcountry roads, often suitable only for four-wheel-drive vehicles or, sometimes, well-equipped mountain bikes, provides access to many of these areas.
Campsites are often found sporadically along backcountry roads in the Preserve.
Carry lots of water. There is very little water available in the Preserve. Bottled water can be purchased at the lunch counter in the Kelso Depot Visitor Center, along I-15 in Baker and at the gas station/store at I-15/Cima Road, at the general store in Nipton, at the Cima store (which isn't always open), and at the gas station in Fenner near the junction of I-40 and old Route 66 on the south side of the Preserve.
Public drinking water is available at the Mid Hills and Hole in the Wall campgrounds, at Mitchell Caverns campground (Providence Mountains State Recreation Area), and from water fountains at Kelso Depot visitor center washrooms (open 24 hours a day) or inside Kelso Depot during open hours.
In the backcountry, water is often available from the cistern at Marl Springs along the old Mojave Road (needs to be filtered/treated). Numerous small springs with varying (and sometimes non-existent) quantities of water exist throughout the Preserve for folks with water filters, such as Butcher Knife Spring. Research prior to travel relying on such springs is required. For example, a tiny stream of filterable water was available during one camper's visit at Indian Springs off Kelbaker Road a day after after Xmas 2007.