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The Mojave Road, California

Updated on December 12, 2011

Centuries ago, when the area’s Native American inhabitants blazed a trade route between villages on Arizona’s Colorado River and California’s Pacific Coast, they had no idea that their path eventually would become the Mojave Road, one of the most popular and heavily used 4X4 trails in California. Mountain man Jedediah Smith is said to have ben the first white traveler over this trail. He was followed by military troops, settlers, cowpokes, and eventually by herds of four-wheelers eager to sample the scenery and tradition of this route.

Begin your trip over the Mojave Road from the parking lot of the Avi Casino on State Route 95 between Needles, California, and Laughlin, Nevada. From the casino, follow the Aha Macav Parkway north and look for a dirt road that turns right 3/10-mile past mile marker 4. Follow that road 8/10-mile to the banks of the Colorado River. Right across the river is the former site of old Fort Mojave. Using Dennis Casebier’s excellent book Mojave Road Guide, and following cairns erected by a group known as The Friends of the Mojave Road, follow the Mojave Road to mile 23.2, and the site of Fort Piute. Piute Creek’s thick vegetation and the road’s deterioration have closed this section, so you’ll back-track to continue via an adjacent powerline road.

At about mile 39 you will reach what many consider to be the roughest section of the Mojave Road. This section has eroded into a deep, narrow ditch. At about mile 43.5 the El Dorado Canyon Road takes off to the northeast. In the 1860's, the road’s travelers took this path if they were headed toward Utah. About 6 miles further, the Mojave Road drops into Watson Wash. The wash leads to Rock Spring Camp at mile 50, a great place to stop for a break.

Continuing westward, at about mile 52 you’ll come to the water tanks at Government Holes, where in 1925 a dispute erupted into one of the last gun fights to take place in the Old West.

You’ll eventually reach Soda Lake at about mile 97. This is a salt-encrusted pan that is closed to vehicles, so do not leave the Mojave Road, which provides the only route across Soda Lake. Don’t attempt to cross the lake on any other route. At about mile 103 you’ll reach the Rasor OHV Area, and by mile 115 you’ll have reached the mouth of scenic Afton Canyon, the last stretch of the Mojave Road that is still passable. There’s deep sand in Afton Canyon, so air down your rig’s tires. Follow the road through Afton Canyon to the site of Camp Cady, a post-Civil War army post. A few foundations still remain. Just beyond, you’ll find access to Interstate 15 and civilization, with Barstow, California, a few miles to the west, and Baker, a few miles to the east.

Be sure to take plenty of water, your copy of Mojave Road Guide, and a map of the Mojave National Preserve, available from the Automobile Club of Southern California, which shows the Mojave Road. And above all, remember to Tread Lightly!

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