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The MOJAVE RIVER Trail

Perhaps the best treasure in eastern California's Mojave National Preserve is a pair of tracks that cross the middle of it. This famous trail is the Mojave Road, one of the early routes that brought American pioneers to California. This trail is unique in that for most of this 138 mile stretch it is in much the same condition as the pioneers would have found it, and a lot of the trail passes through country that is virtually unchanged since prehistoric times.

As the population of California grew in the 1850s and 60s, the Mojave Trail became a main southern freight route across California to Arizona. The trail became a mail route, and that was when the military forts were established to keep the lines of communication open. These forts began at Fort Mohave, located on the Colorado River near present-day Bullhead City, and ranged to Camp Cady, just outside Barstow.

When the Americans began pushing westward, Jedediah Smith, Kit Carson, John Fremont and others came this way to reach the pueblos on the coast. When gold was discovered in '49, most of the 'Niners took the northern route, but thousands followed the southern route and took the Mojave Road.

Fort Mohave was established to suppress the Mohave Indians, whose warriors had come to resent the intrusions of the Americans traveling through their lands. The Mohaves were agrarians, growing corn and other crops along the Colorado River, and traders who traveled frequently to the coast. They were hostages to their farms, however, and with the establishment of an army fort on their land, their warrior days were over.

Traveling the Mojave Road isn't a picnic. It's a 2- or 3-day excursion, best made in convoy with other 4-wheelers. The trip begins on the shore of the Colorado River, at an elevation of 500 feet; at mile 54.8 you'll be at the head of Cedar Canyon at an elevation of 5,167 feet. During the winter you could hit a snowstorm. In summer it could be 120 degrees, or a summer thunderstorm could bring heavy rain, hail and lightning. Any time of the year, you're a long way from help and city comforts.

The first step in traveling the Mojave Trail is to get a copy of Dennis Casebier's Mojave Road Guide. It's indispensable. Casebier spent decades traveling the trail and has an insatiable appetite for history and geology. His book is the culmination of his research and effort to preserve the trail. Mile by mile, he guides us over the passes and through the valleys, 138.8 miles of 4-wheeling over 3 days.

There are few signs, and none on the trail itself. Casebier and his group, the Friends of the Mojave Road, have erected rock cairns at most intersections to show the way. Casebier's book provides a mile-by-mile tour of the road, starting at the Colorado River and traveling the 138 miles westward to Camp Cady.

Rather than cover the entire trail at once -- a 3-day wilderness adventure during which you'll find no services, no stores, no motels nor perhaps a single other person -- portions of the trail can be traveled in shorter excursions. There are areas to avoid, unless you're in it for the challenge; but frankly, crossing the sandy expanse where the Mojave River becomes a floodplain, or Soda Lake, doesn't appeal. I've been stuck in sand and am not anxious to repeat it.

At times the trail is 2 or 3 feet below the surface of the surrounding land due to erosion of the trail, and the road is powder sand that grabs your wheels and tries to pull you in. Off the sides of the road were random signs of people: an old bus that may have been someone's home at some time in the distant past; a trailer or motor home parked off in the distance; a cabin built of rock; and an Omni navigation station used by aircraft. These things are remarkable only because we had seen almost nothing else to remind us of civilization, and we had traveled a good 30 miles.

 

 

 

 


 
 
 Rasor Clean Up

First Rasor Road desert clean up.

 
 
 
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Fallen Friends

Don - Keeper of the Rasor Ranch

 

 

 
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 Historic Points

Rasor Road Mega-phone / the Mojave desert mystery

Desert grave of Delores Holland at Rasor Road, Near the old RR town of Crucero

Mystery jet fighter fuel tank found at Rasor Road

Old wells at Rasor Road

Soda Dry Lake off of Zzyzx Road at Rasor Road California Desert. The Mojave Road crosses though it.