Digital-Desert : Mojave Desert
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Mojave River - Barstow Area

Afton Canyon

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Afton Canyon Natural Area is located 37 miles northeast of Barstow along Interstate 15 between the Afton Road and Basin Road exits. Afton Canyon is designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern to protect plant and wildlife habitat, and to preserve scenic values of the riparian area within the canyon.

Natural History

Afton Canyon was carved by water draining from ancient Lake Manix, very likely through a crack caused by a strong earthquake along the Manix Fault about 15,000 years ago. Water eroded the colorful soils and rocks eventually carving the canyon as you see it today. The process countinues slowly as the Mojave River flows gently through the canyon floor, hence the nickname 'Grand Canyon of the Mojave'.

Human History

Humans left unwritten evidence in the form of stone tools and pottery estimated to be at least 8,000 years old. Written history begins with missionaries, traders, and explorers in the late 1700's progressing with military scouts in the late 1860's and railroad building around the turn of the century.

Early western explorers passing through this area included Jedediah Smith, Kit Carson and John Charles Fremont. The route following this road, known as the Mojave Road, is a rugged 4-wheel-drive scenic tour running from Fort Mojave on the Colorado River near Needles to Camp Cady near Harvard Road east of Barstow.

Activities

Afton Canyon is one of few places where the Mojave River flows above ground making Afton an ideal location for bird and wildlife viewing. The area is ideal for hiking, hunting, camping, nature study, rock hounding, horseback riding, and vehicle touring. Check local weather forecasts before visiting the area. Thunderstorms can result in flash floods in canyons and washes. Tell a friend or neighbor where you are going and when to expect your return. Bring sufficient water, food, clothing, tools, and first aid supplies for your activity.

The Afton Canyon area is a mix of public and private lands including those held by the Southern Pacific Railroad. Please respect the rights of private land owners. Land status can be found on Desert Access Guide maps covering this area and can be purchased at California Desert BLM offices.

Hiking and Sightseeing

Bring your camera and binoculars! Afton Canyon has a diverse landscape of hills, canyons and washes. Multicolored rock walls and changing light conditions make for many photographic opportunities. Washes and stream channels are good hiking trails and excellent for experiencing natural conditions.

Wildlife viewing is best during early morning and evening hours. In the canyon, birds tend to gather in thick vegetation. Along washes and streams, vegetation is critical for wildlife food and shelter. Many routes in Afton Canyon have been closed to vehicle travel to protect these wildlife habitats.

Mojave River and Associated Lakes
The Mojave River is the largest drainage system in the Mojave Desert. It's modern extent and capacity is only a fraction compared to ...

Changing Climates and Ancient Lakes The impact of both long-term and short-term climatic oscillations can be seen on the landscape. Glaciation periods lasting many ...

Mojave Valley/Granite Mtns

Afton Canyon Photo Gallery

Mojave River

Arbuckle Mine

Mojave Road

Lake Manix



Sweet Afton ~ Robert Burns, 1791

Flow gently, sweet Afton! amang thy green braes,
Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise;
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

Thou stockdove whose echo resounds thro' the glen,
Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den,
Thou green-crested lapwing thy screaming forbear,
I charge you, disturb not my slumbering Fair.

How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighbouring hills,
Far mark'd with the courses of clear, winding rills;
There daily I wander as noon rises high,
My flocks and my Mary's sweet cot in my eye.

How pleasant thy banks and green valleys below,
Where, wild in the woodlands, the primroses blow;
There oft, as mild Ev'ning weeps over the lea,
The sweet-scented birk shades my Mary and me.

Thy crystal stream, Afton, how lovely it glides,
And winds by the cot where my Mary resides;
How wanton thy waters her snowy feet lave,
As, gathering sweet flowerets, she stems thy clear wave.

Flow gently, sweet Afton, amang thy green braes,
Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays;
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

Interstate 15

ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather - glossary
ghost towns - gold mines - parks & public lands: wilderness - native culture - history - geology: natural features - comments
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