Mohave National Preserve

Going south from Shoshone we decided to explore Mojave National Preserve. We have visited many National Parks over the years, but not many, (if any), National Preserves. I wondered what the difference was. As close as I could find, National Parks are protected due to their scenic, inspirational, education and recreational value. A national Preserve shares those characteristics but certain activities such as  fishing, hunting, mining, and oil/gas exploration are permitted.

Mohave National Preserve is found in southern California in the Mojave Desert. It is a 1.6 million acre park! We went in from Baker, CA up the Kelbaker road towards Kelso.

The first items of interest were the cinder cones! There are dozens of them seen from the road. These relatively benign lava flows happened as long ago as 7.6 million years, with the more recent ones being (only) 10,000 years ago!


Further up the road we arrived at Kelso. Kelso Depot once provided food, recreation and accommodations for Union Pacific Railroad employees.

Construction of the Union Pacific rail line began at 2 ends, and by 1905 this railway track stretched from the west coast all the way to Salt Lake City, opening up markets in Southern California. The first depot opened in 1905, followed by a post office, engine house, and eating house.

Competition with the Santa Fe Railway was tight and rail passengers had become accustomed to their famously stylish Harvey House train stations. Therefore, railroad managers chose to design the new buildings on the Salt Lake Route in the Spanish Mission Revival style.

This gorgeous old building, opened in 1924.


The restaurant and telegraph office each had three shifts, operating around the clock. This continued through the boom years of the 1940s, when Kaiser’s Vulcan mine caused Kelso’s population to grow to nearly 2,000. The closing of the mine coupled with diesel engines replacing steam resulted in the UP moving jobs and families out of Kelso. The depots function ended in 1962, although the restaurant and boarding rooms were still in use.


The advancement of diesel technology led to fewer and fewer crew members needing to eat or stay overnight, so in 1985 the UP decided to close the Kelso Depot entirely.

There was a threat of demolition but luckily local residents and others worked hard to try and save the building. The Bureau of Land Management already managed much of the land around Kelso as the East Mojave National Scenic Area, so it made sense for the BLM to gain ownership of the Depot. With the passage of the California Desert Protection Act of 1994, the East Mojave National Scenic Area become Mojave National Preserve and the Depot passed into the hands of the National Park Service. Renovation of the Kelso Depot began in 2002.

The building reopened to the public as the new visitor center for Mojave National Preserve in October, 2005.

The last passenger train crossed the tracks in 1997, but freight is still transported.

The next stop up the road are the Kelso Dunes.


The huge steep sand mounds are known for making ‘singing’ sounds! They are the largest field of eolian sand deposits in the Mojave Desert. The tallest dunes rise up 650ft!



We stayed at the Hole in the Wall campground. It had such interesting rock formations surrounding it!



We really enjoyed watching all the Jack Rabbits around the campground!


Another highlight of this beautiful area are the Lava Beds. Lava flowed from the cinder cones millions of years ago, some flowed quickly, some types more slowly, developing areas where the lava hardened quickly on the surface but kept running underneath, creating tunnels or ‘tubes’ We had never been inside a lava tube before and found it very interesting and beautiful!



The park is huge, as I said, so we drove around large areas of it, the scenery is magnificent and quite different around every corner, from forests of Joshua Trees, to views of snow capped mountains!



Thanks for traveling along!

Until next time…….

















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