Wrong-Way River

by walter feller

Mojave River

In 1852 a survey was made of the southwestern edge of the Mojave Desert. The Old Spanish Trail # had become a wagon road bringing thousands of pioneers to the west and developed as a supply route between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. The survey was as accurate as any at that time and followed the trail from near the top of the Cajon Pass to a point where the trail leaves the Mojave River near Fishponds. The trail to Salt Lake continues north as we know it, but the river flowing east on this map bears southeast and empties into the Colorado River. At the time it was thought the Mojave (spelled Mohahve on the map) River followed this course. It did not. There was no Mojave Road in 1852 and not many Americans had traversed that portion of the desert. As we now know the Mojave River cuts through Afton Canyon and then disappears into the sink of the Mojave before it reaches Soda Lake.

The Williamson survey the next year in 1853 begins to correct the true ancient course of the river as it would have found its way to converge with the Amargosa River and empty into Death Valley’s Lake Manly via Soda Lake, Silver Lake, Silurian Lake, and Salt Springs.

-End –

Protecting the Mojave in 1974

Los Angeles Herald Examiner Photo Collection
Howell, E. Bruce – 1974

Photograph caption dated April 3, 1974 reads, “Shy desert tortoise curls up inside his shell on top of a groove left in desert sand by motorcycle on the Stoddard Valley off-road vehicle racing area of Barstow. Already legally protected as an endangered species, environmentalists and scientists say the threat is heightened along with other desert life by off-road vehicle activities.”

Photograph caption dated April 3, 1974 reads, “Environmentalist group that recently toured the Mojave Desert to show evidence of damage done by indiscriminate use of off-road vehicle say they believe holes on this live desert tortoise shell were caused by bullets.”

Photograph caption dated April 3, 1974 reads, “Tiny marker planted in Mojave Desert at Stoddard Valley, marks U.S. Bureau of Land Management boundary separating approved off-road vehicle race course from a restricted area. Heavy tire tracks on both sides of marker indicate that such markers are virtually ignored, except by desert visitors with guns, who have riddled them with bullets.”

Photograph caption dated April 3, 1974 reads, “Stoddard Valley on Mojave Desert near Barstow, despite its vast openness is a continuous maze of off-road vehicle tire tracks. Federal plan for managing off-road vehicle use on desert has left it open for off-road vehicle races and closed other areas. But environmentalists and scientists say regulations for restricted areas are too vague and open to this kind of damage.”

Photograph caption dated April 3, 1974 reads, “These people seek to defend the vast Mojave Desert from a federal program that regulates off-road vehicles. They claim regulations are vague, unenforceable, and could open the desert to extensive off-road vehicle damage. From left are UC Riverside professors Bill Mayhew, zoology; Sylvia Broadbent, anthropology; and Richard E. Gutting, Jr., attorney for Environmental Defense Fund.”

Photograph caption dated April 3, 1974 reads, “Judith Winder, staffer for Environmental Defense Fund, sketches petroglyph of longhorn sheep from rock in Inscription Canyon.”

Photograph caption dated April 3, 1974 reads, “Hand of UC Riverside anthropology professor, Sylvia Broadbent, points out recent chisel mark at bottom of a chipped out section of volcanic rock which had an ancient Indian carving on it. Such damage to antiquities, which is widespread in the Mojave Desert is illegal. This damage was in Inscription Canyon near Barstow.”

Photograph caption dated April 3, 1974 reads, “Richard E. Gutting, Jr., kneeling, attorney for Environmental Defense Fund, and UC Riverside anthropology professor Sylvia Broadbent, examine off-road vehicle dislocation of ‘desert pavement,’ a dark, rocky covering on desert floor which takes thousands of years to form but is important to the natural balance of desert life. Light swath was made by off-road vehicle race.”

Photograph caption dated April 3, 1974 reads, “Off-road vehicle race course touring party gathers at scene of ancient Indian sleeping circle (foreground), a circular formation of larger rocks in midst of small ones, which anthropologists say were foundations for shelters built by prehistoric Indians. All such sites, they assert, should be protected.”

Photograph caption dated April 3, 1974 reads, “Not just ordinary boulders, these, according to Dr. Sylvia Broadbent, UC Riverside anthropology professor, who said there is no question that the slightly concave rock in the upper half of photo was worn that way by ancient Indians grinding grain and marks on the surface of the rock in the lower photo were also made by the same Indians.”

Photograph caption dated April 3, 1974 reads, “Petroglyphs, ancient Indian rock art, abound on the walls of Inscription Canyon near Barstow. Archaeologists look upon them as valuable keys to unlocking the secrets of prehistoric peoples who inhabited the vast Mojave Desert, but complain they are being destroyed by desert visitors at an alarming rate.”

Photograph caption dated April 3, 1974 reads, “He calls the Mojave Desert ‘home.’ Desert lizard suns itself on dark, porous volcanic rock in Inscription Canyon. Same rocks are covered with ancient Indian petroglyphs, and rock art carvings, indicating the canyon may have been where Indians trapped and captured longhorn sheep and other desert game. The entire canyon is falling victim to vandals and souvenir hunters.”


January 2022 Edits

Canada Geese at Saratoga Springs, Death Valley National Park

Owl Canyon

Owl Canyon

Owl Canyon

Apple Valley, Ca.

Ambient Sunrise

Coxcomb Mountains

Apple Valley – Joshua Tree Forest

Zzyzx – Desert Studies Center

Techatticup Mine – Eldorado Canyon, Nelson, Nevada – 3/2015

Nelson, Nevada – 3/2015

Lucerne Dry Lake

Tomorrow’s Sunrise

Wild Places – Cougar Buttes

The high country is different than the low country. The high country is higher and of course the low country, lower.

Petroglyphs – February 2011

Soggy Dry Lake

Soggy Dry LakeJohnson Valley

Playa formation – “A playa is a dry, vegetation-free, flat area at the lowest part of an undrained desert basin. It is a location where ephemeral lakes form during wet periods, and is underlain by stratified clay, silt, and sand, and commonly, soluble salts. Playas occur in intermountain basins throughout the arid southwestern United States. Although playas may appear as featureless plains, they are rich in features and characteristics that can reveal information about climates, past and present. “