Weekend Storms Close Park Roads in Joshua Tree, Mojave Preserve

Pinto Basin Road washed out in Joshua Tree National Park | Photo: NPS | Lacy Ditto

Torrential rains that pushed into the California desert over the weekend washed out a number of main roads in Mojave National Preserve, as well as a major thoroughfare connecting the east and west sections of Joshua Tree National Park.

The storms, which dumped as much as 7 or 8 inches of rain in some parts of the desert on Sunday, washed out Pinto Basin Road in Joshua Tree National Park on Sunday. That road is closed for at least two weeks, as are the Cottonwood Campground and nearby visitor center that are accessible only by way of the closed road.

Farther north in the Mojave Preserve, which has been getting hit hard by rain over the last few days, a Sunday thunderstorm badly damaged the roads to the Preserve's formal campgrounds. Essex and Black Canyon roads, which are the only paved routes to the Preserve's popular Hole In The Wall Campground, are both closed.

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Veteran preserve visitors who might be tempted to reach Hole In The Wall or the nearby Mid Hills Campground the back way, via the dirt section of Black Canyon Road via Cedar Canyon Road, will be disapponted as well: the National Park Service says travel on those well-loved backcountry roads is "not recommended." The same goes for the paved and dirt sections of Ivanpah and Lanfair roads, the 4WD-only Mojave Road, and Wildhorse Canyon Road. In general, though some dirt roads such as the popular Aiken Mine road remain open, the Park Service is officially advising people avoid traveling on the Preserve's back roads.

Despite those warnings, both the Hole In The Wall and Mid-Hills campgrounds remain open.

The Preserve's main paved through-routes also remain open, but the Park Service advises that San Bernardino County road crews will conducting emergency repairs to storm damage on Kelbaker and Kelso-Cima roads. Travelers routinely use those roads as high-speed shortcuts to Baker or Las Vegas; use extra caution this week and slow down for the sake of those crews.

Travelers who plan a visit to the Preserve can get updates on road conditions via the Preserve's website or by calling (760) 252-6108. Joshua Tree National Park is asking potential visitors to check that park's website for updates.

This weekend's storms passed by Death Valley National Park, and travelers may be tempted to head in that direction instead. But many of that park's roads remain closed after storms last month, and the tropical storm systems off the Baja coast will be sending storms our way for much of the next week, so be sure to check with the Park Service before you commit. Death Valley's Morning Report is a good source of recent updates to road conditions throughout that park.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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