Pages Navigation Menu

Amboy, Kelso and the Mojave National Preserve

Amboy, Kelso and the Mojave National Preserve

Exploring the desert, one can find  rich diversity and complexity.
I drove to Amboy early this week, wanting to explore the area for some time. I had driven through once before when coming home from Santa Fe and driving the back way into 29 Palms. Amboy, once a major stop along route 66, has since become something of a ghost town after Interstate 40 was built, deterring traffic away from the town.

In Amboy is Roy’s Motel, gas station and restaurant. Across the street is a church with a bent cross on top, a boarded up public school down the way from the motel, and up the road a bit are a couple of bushes populated by shoes and bras – a gift from those passing by. Looking at the shoes made me reflect on the waste. Many of the pairs were in good condition. Someone could certainly use them.

Roy’s, the diner, a place to set the stage for a thriller, mystery novel, or movie. The movie Beneath The Dark was filmed at Roy’s. The motel and the dinner, refurbished fifties style was almost empty except for a snarly, elder man servicing the cafe. I had a “Route” Beer 66, indulging my love of anything route 66.

Stopping in Amboy just long enough to get the drink and take pictures, I then drove on in search of the Kelso Depot Visitors Center. I passed the Kelso Sand Dunes on my way. I know from the visitors guide there is parking and restrooms, but I did not stop this time, instead went on to my desired destination in the Mojave Preserve.
A little history I read in the park guide: the dunes are the third highest and second largest in North America. Originating as eroded mountain sediment carried by the Mojave River for 100 miles from the San Bernardino Mountains. The sediment was deposited in the river’s natural sink at soda Dry Lake to the Northwest. The blowsand was bounced alone Devil’s Playground to the foot of the Granite Mountains. The sand accumulated there shaped by prevailing winds. Creosote is the most populated pant in this area along with Joshua trees.

I passed under the I-40 just before entering the Mojave National Preserve. To some, one desert may look like another, but not for me. I can’t tell you what the geographical differences are. I don’t know the names of the plants or the mountain ranges. It’s more of feeling, and the minute I drove into the preserve, I knew I was some place I hadn’t been before. There is a feeling that each individual place has, that is tangible for me. The desert areas in Twenty Nine Palms feels different than Joshua Tree. It’s the look, feel and the more subtly, the energy.

In Kelso, I found the train depot. The Kelso Depot Visitor Center built in 1924 and originally a dusty rail siding that has since evolved into a Spanish Mission Revival-styled structure.

The architectural movement started around 1890, drawing inspiration from the early Spanish missions.

What was distinct about the Depot was the light. On the day, I visited, the skies were clear, it was a comfortable 80 degrees, with a light wind and blue, blue skies. Small white puff clouds dotted the sky above the station. It was a Tuesday in the middle of the fall, and there were still a number of visitors. A couple in their fifties, taking pictures of the outside, said they came back to the Depot every year. The rangers were friendly and helpful.

Kelso Depot Visitor Center, a two-story Mission-style train station, built by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1924 and now renovated and preserved.

Information, exhibits, orientation film, art gallery, bookstore, restrooms, lunch counter, water, and picnic area. Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. phone (760) 252-6108

Location: From 1-15 exit at Kelbaker Rd. at Baker, Ca. Continue 35 miles southeast on Kelbaker Road to Kelso.

From I-40 Exit Kelbaker Rd. (about 29 miles east of Ludlow), continue 22 miles north on Kelbaker road to Kelso, Ca

From Joshua Tree and Twenty Nine Palms: Take Highway 62, turn left on Utah Trail, right on Amboy Rd., right on National Trails Highway, Left on Kelbaker Rd., past the I-40, approx. 22 miles into the Mohave National Preserve.

Basement gallery features rotating fine art collections by local artist, focusing on the cultural history and the natural splendors of the Mojave National Preserve.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *