NWNL Spotlight

NWNL Spotlight: California Drought, Expedition #3

Completed Itinerary: Mohave Desert, Colorado River, Route 66

August 13 to 18, 2015 — 980 miles
Team Members: Alison M. Jones (NWNL Director); Annette Alexander (NWNL Photographer); Bonnie Muench (NWNL Advisor)


8 Major Rivers: The Los Angeles, Arroyo Seco, Rio Hondo, San Gabriel, Santa Ana, Mohave, Colorado and Bill Williams Rivers

72 Washes (aka: arroyos or creeks) – identified by name

142 Washes – unnamed but significant enough to have infrastructure

9 Lakes: Santa Fe Dam, Troy (dry), Bristol (dry), Havasu, Goose, Danby (dry), Tamarisk, Emerson (dry), Baldwin, Big Bear

4 Oases: Newberry Springs, Helendale, Twenty-nine Palms, The Oasis of Mara

2 Deserts: The Mohave and Colorado/Sonoran, plus their transition zones

3 Dams: Parker Dam (on Colorado River), Santa Fe Dam (on San Gabriel River), Big Bear Lake Dam

2 Aqueducts: Colorado and California Aqueducts

14 National, State and Local Protected Areas:

In CA: Angeles National Forest
San Gabriel Mountains Nat’l Monument
San Bernardino National Forest
Arcadia Park (LA County)
Santa Fe Dam Regional Park (LA County)
Amboy Crater Nat’l Natural Landmark
Mojave Narrows Regional Park
Mojave National Preserve
East Mojave Indian Reservation

In AZ: Fort Mojave Indian Res.
Lake Havasu NWR
Havasu Wilderness Area
Cattail Cove State Park
Buckskin Mountain State Park

Thursday, Aug. 13: Los Angeles County to Victorville


Temperature:  82°F (28°C) at 10:15 am

Downtown Los Angeles

Los Angeles River

Pasadena: Route 66 and Figueroa Street Tunnels on the 1940 scenic Arroyo Seco Parkway (aka Pasadena Freeway, the first urban freeway west of the Mississippi River)

Arroyo Seco River (seasonal tributary to the Los Angeles River):

Angeles National Forest, San Gabriel Mountains Monument and San Bernardino National Forest, viewed from Huntington Dr. / Route 66

Temperature:  88°F (31°C) at 11:30 am

Arcadia (pop 56,364): Santa Anita Golf Course

Santa Fe Flood Control Basin (for Rio Hondo River and San Gabriel River)

Arcadia Reclamation Project and Peck Road Water Conservation Park

Temperature:  95°F (35°C) at 2:00 pm

Azusa: “The Canyon City” on Foothill Blvd/Route 66

Glendora, San Dimas, Claremont, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga


San Gabriel Mountains and San Bernardino Mountains (via Route 15 North)

Cajon Canyon: gateway from the East to Southern California for centuries

Horsethief Canyon via Cleghorn Road Exit for old highway paralleling railroad


California Aqueduct (just south of Hesperia)

Mojave River (at end of Kemper-Campbell Road)

OVERNIGHT: Victorville

Friday, August 14: Victorville to Barstow

VICTORVILLE: (also called “Mormon Crossing") originally site of the Huntington Railway Station, later renamed for railroad car repairman Jacob Nash Victor.

Mojave River: called “The Mojave Trickle” after the upstream dam was built. The most exposed portion is north and downstream from Victorville to Helendale. It naturally goes underground at Helendale and resurfaces before it returns underground at Baker.

NB: “Mojave” is an attempt to spell or pronounce the true name of the Pipa Aha Macave, the Native American tribe now called the Mojave, meaning “people who live along the water.” Mutavilya, the tribe’s spirit-mentor, created the Colorado River and educated the people.

Victorville Train Station, Rte. 66 Museum and Kemper-Campbell Ranch

Mojave Narrows Regional Park

Temperature in Victorville:  102°F (39°C) at 2:30 pm

NATIONAL TRAILS HIGHWAY: part of transcontinental National Old Trails Road, aka Ocean to Ocean Highway, and current name of this 1925 Victorville-Barstow alignment of Route 66.

Mojave River Truss Railroad Bridge from Rockview Nature Park, north of Victorville: the only place we saw water in Mojave River

Oro Grande

La Delta

Helendale: The nexus of unique geology and the Mojave River created this desert oasis.

OVERNIGHT: Lenwood (south of Barstow).

Saturday, August 15: Barstow to Needles

Temperature in Lenwood:  95°F (35°C) at 7:00 am

Lenwood: Agate Road, access to walk across the dry Mojave Riverbed

Barstow: important transportation hub (train depot and intersection of I-40 and I-15)

Temperature in Barstow:  93°F (34°C) at 10:00 am;  109°F (43°C) at 4:00 pm

National Trails Highway

Daggett: Desert Market (open since 1908), Stone Hotel (John Muir was a guest), RR depot, and blacksmith shop / garage for 20-mule team borax wagons in late 1800s.

– Marine Corps Supply Center (Yermo area), solar panel field, NRG Coolwater Station

– Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Route

Calico Mountains

Newberry Springs: Oasis on a Native American trade route linking coastal tribes to routes to northern AZ and western NM. Habitation was here for several thousand years.

Newberry Mountains

Troy Dry Lake

Pisgah Volcano

Cady Mountains

Ludlow: Rail depot buildings and trains

Klodike and Siberia: towns on detailed maps that are no longer evident

Bagdad: No trace remains today of this once-major shipping point for gold.

Amboy Volcanic Crater National Natural Landmark: 250 ft. high and 1,500 ft. wide, surrounded by 24 mi. of lava flows from 500 to 600 years ago.

Amboy: water tanks at Roy’s Cafe

“Heart of the Mojave:” Bristol and Clipper Mountains, East Mojave National Scenic Area, Fenner Valley, Piute Mountains

Goffs: town at the summit of the grade separating the Colorado River Valley from the Mohave Desert. Initially a Southern Pacific RR fuel and water stop in 1880s.

Goffs Butte and Piute Valley

Colorado River: border between Arizona and California

The Colorado River is the thread of life that connects people, wildlife and vegetation throughout magnificent desert canyons. The river has been a constant for thousands of years; but the influence of its many users on the surrounding lands has been an ever-changing story. — US Dept. of the Interior

Needles: an important railroad town on the Colorado River, founded in 1883

Temperature in Needles:  4 pm 118°F (48°C);  6:30 pm 115°F (46°C);  10 pm 105°F (41°C)


Sunday, August 16: Needles CA to Parker AZ, The Colorado River and Lake Havasu NWR

Mohave Valley AZ: River Terrace Estates on Colorado River eastern bank

Temperature:  8 am 95°F (35°C);  9:30 am 102°F (39°C);  1 pm 111°F (44°C);  10 pm 113°F (45°C)

Oatman-Topock Highway (Route 95, Arizona)

Chemehuevi Valley: BLM land; Chemehuevi Indian Reservation

Goose Lake / Topock Marsh:

Five Mile Landing – sign re Invasive Species: Zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil (aka, Spiked Water-milfoil; Myriophyllum spicatum)

Eurasian Watermilfoil is a submerged aquatic plant that grows in still or slow-moving water. It probably arrived in North America in the 1940s. It quickly spreads by growing off of broken stems, crowds out native plants and forms dense mats that interfere with recreational activity.

Fort Mojave Indian Reservation: 32,000 acres in CA, AZ, NV

Topock and Topock Gorge: recreational marina; Hwy & RR bridges over Colorado R.

Lake Havasu and Lake Havasu NWR: (45 mi. long; 29,390 acres; 619,400 acre-feet) fringed with coves and inlets; black and striped bass, crappie, bluegill, catfish and trout; over 2.5 million visitors annually

Lake Havasu City: Havasu Island, London Bridge, Split Rock Lighthouse

Cattail Cove State Park: view of Parker Dam intake pipes across Colorado River

OVERNIGHT: Parker Strip.

Monday, August 17: Parker AZ to Twenty-Nine Palms CA

Bill Williams River and The Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge (AZ)

Buckskin Mountain State Park (AZ): Desert and Colorado River riparian habitat with migratory and resident birds, butterflies, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles

Parker Strip to Parker AZ: Bridge crossing Colorado River to Earp CA

Temperature:  103°F (39°C) at 10:30 am, with heavy haze in all directions

Parker Dam: A concrete hydropower dam built 1934–1938 by Bureau of Reclamation, forming Lake Havasu. Meeting irrigation needs and municipal use, it is one of the world’s deepest dams. CA’s Metropolitan Water District financed it and uses 50% of the power it generates to pump water to CA urban areas.

Parker Dam Road: The “Thread of Life” Back Country Byway: 11 miles below the dam with interpretive pullouts re history and nature along the Colorado River

“It can likely be safely assumed that this area will never be returned to a natural state even if there were no man-made structures, as long as the dam is intact. That is the trade-off for the human presence here, and why the re-vegetation effort of various groups is so important.”On the Road – Needles to Blythe

Big River: on the Colorado River, 1,200 population, 57 miles south of Needles. Its population increased by over 80% during the 1990s.

Colorado Aqueduct: near Vidal Junction for Parker Dam’s Colorado River water diversion westward via the Copper Basin and Whipple Mountain tunnels

Rice Valley: parallels the Colorado Aqueduct, railroad and Turtle Mountains

Danby Dry Lake: Granite Mountains; Iron Mountains; Palen Valley; Chuckwalla Valley

Lake Tamarisk near Desert Center: created for golf village

Lower Joshua Tree National Park: Colorado Desert (part of Sonoran Desert), Cottonwood Mountains, Cottonwood Canyon, Cottonwood Pass, Pinto Basin, Turkey Flats
Dominant species: creosote bush, ocotillo, ironwood, palo verde, chuparosa, smoke trees

Upper Joshua Tree National Park: Mohave Desert, Hexie Mountains, Pinto Mountains
Dominant species: Joshua Trees (a kind of yucca)

What Makes Joshua Tree National Park Significant?” (taken from a JTNP Newsletter)

– Joshua Trees (Yucca brevifolia brevifolia) – an integral part of the Mojave Desert ecosystem.

– A transition between two deserts: The Mojave and Colorado converge offering a biologically rich inter-twining of plant and animal life: Joshua tree forests, native palm oases, creosote scrub

– Desert Wilderness Close to Major Urban Areas, still burgeoning.

– History and Cultural Traditions – prehistoric, historic and contemporary integration between deserts, land & water usage and human cultures.

– Where the Pacific Plate Meets the North American Plate – San Andreas Fault

– Scientific Study: research of arid land ecosystems and processes, species adaptations to desert life, sustainability, and climate change effects.

– Bouldered landscape – Monzo-granite jumbo rocks (85 million years old)

– Beautiful landscapes: indicating geology, climate and ecological processes.

OVERNIGHT: Twenty-nine Palms.

Tuesday August 18: Joshua Tree to Big Bear Lake

Joshua Tree Visitor Center: at Twenty-nine Palms

Joshua Tree National Park: at Indian Cove

Yucca, Homestead, Johnson and Lucerne Valleys
Mitsubishi Cement Plant, powered by Pacific Gas and Electric

San Bernardino Mountains: via “Rim of the World Highway”/ Route 18

Lakeview Summit: elevation 7,112 ft.

Baldwin Lake (dry)

Big Bear Lake

Temperature at Big Bear Lake:  116°F (47°C) at 7 pm, with sign:
“Stay off lake ice. No sleigh riding. No tobogganing.”

Grout Bay Dam on Big Bear Lake, at Fawnskin Junction

Route 330 south to San Bernardino; I-10 west to Pacific Ocean

End of Expedition