Lake Manix


Pleistocene Ancient Mojave River System

Lake Manix is an ancient lake in what is now the Mojave Desert of California, USA. It was part of the ancient Mojave River system, which flowed through the area during periods of the Pleistocene epoch when the climate was wetter than it is today. The presence of this lake is a testament to the dramatically different environmental conditions that prevailed in the region thousands of years ago.

Lake Manix

In its ancient course, the Mojave River fed into Lake Manix, creating a significant water body supporting diverse flora and fauna. This ancient river system was vital for migrating and sustaining animals and possibly early human populations. Over time, Lake Manix eventually dried as the climate became warmer, and the Mojave River’s flow diminished significantly. The remnants of this ancient river system can still be traced in the modern landscape of the Mojave Desert, with the Mojave River now flowing intermittently and largely underground.

Archaeological and geological evidence from the Lake Manix area provides valuable insights into the climatic changes that have occurred over millennia in the Mojave Desert. Studies of sediment deposits, fossil records, and other geological features around the former lake site help scientists reconstruct the paleoenvironmental conditions, offering clues about water availability, vegetation types, and the animals that once inhabited the region.

The transition from a wetter, lake-dominant landscape to the arid desert environment of today highlights the dynamic nature of Earth’s climate and ecosystems. Understanding the history of Lake Manix and the ancient Mojave River system contributes to our knowledge of past climatic shifts. It helps inform current and future conservation efforts in desert ecosystems.

Coyote Arm of Lake Manix

The Coyote arm of Lake Manix refers to a specific portion or segment of ancient Lake Manix, which existed during the Pleistocene epoch in what is now the Mojave Desert of California. This area is particularly interesting to geologists and archaeologists because it provides evidence of the extent of the lake and the environmental conditions that prevailed in the region.

Lake Manix covered a large area and had multiple “arms” or extensions, with the Coyote arm being one of them. These arms were parts of the lake that extended into different valleys or low-lying areas, filled by the ancient Mojave River and its tributaries. The existence of these arms indicates that the lake’s water levels and boundaries changed over time, influenced by climatic fluctuations, precipitation patterns, and river flow dynamics.

Studying the Coyote arm and other parts of Lake Manix helps scientists reconstruct the paleohydrology of the region. By examining sediment layers, fossil remains, and other geological features, researchers can infer past water levels, the timing of lake expansion and contraction, and the habitats around the lake. This information is crucial for understanding how ancient ecosystems responded to climate change and how they supported early human populations and other species.

Evidence from the Coyote arm and similar areas around the former Lake Manix also contributes to our understanding of the broader paleoclimatic patterns in North America. Such studies are part of a larger effort to piece together the history of Earth’s climate and how it has shaped the development of landscapes and ecosystems over geological time scales.

Troy Lake arm of Lake Manix

The Troy Lake arm of Lake Manix represents another significant segment of the ancient Lake Manix, which was a part of the extensive Pleistocene-age lake system in the Mojave Desert, California. Like the Coyote arm, the Troy Lake arm was one of the various extensions or branches of Lake Manix, fed by the ancient Mojave River and its tributaries during a time when the climate was considerably wetter than it is today.

The presence of the Troy Lake arm and other arms like the Coyote arm indicate the region’s complex hydrology and varied topography during the Pleistocene. These arms were essentially the lake’s extensions into surrounding valleys, creating diverse habitats for various plant and animal life. These lake arms’ fluctuating boundaries and water levels, driven by climatic variations, offer valuable insights into past environmental conditions.

Researchers study the Troy Lake arm and focus on sediment deposits, fossilized remains, and other geological indicators to understand the lake’s hydrology, such as water depth, extent, and changes over time. These studies contribute to a broader understanding of how ancient lake systems like Lake Manix responded to glacial and interglacial cycles, influencing precipitation patterns, temperature, and, ultimately, the region’s hydrography.

The research on the Troy Lake arm, alongside other parts of Lake Manix, is crucial for reconstructing past climates and ecosystems. It helps in understanding the challenges faced by early human settlers and the strategies they employed for survival. Moreover, it provides context for current environmental changes and aids in predicting future climatic shifts, especially in desert regions like the Mojave, which are sensitive indicators of broader environmental transformations.

Afton Canyon


Afton Canyon, often called the “Grand Canyon of the Mojave,” is a striking geological feature in California’s Mojave Desert. It is renowned for its dramatic landscape, including steep canyon walls, rare desert waterways, and various wildlife. The formation of Afton Canyon is closely tied to the history of Lake Manix and the ancient Mojave River system.

During the Pleistocene epoch, when Lake Manix existed, it was a significant water body fed by the Mojave River, which carried meltwater from glaciers in the mountains to the north. Over time, the climate became drier, and the lake levels fluctuated. Eventually, Lake Manix breached its natural dam, leading to a catastrophic water outflow. This event was a pivotal moment in the formation of Afton Canyon.

The breach of Lake Manix’s dam caused a massive release of water that carved through the landscape, creating Afton Canyon. Rapid erosion cut deeply into the sediment and rock, forming the canyon’s distinctive steep walls. The force of the water was so powerful that it removed vast amounts of material, shaping the canyon into its present form.

Today, Afton Canyon remains one of the few places in the Mojave Desert where the Mojave River flows above ground, offering a rare glimpse into the water’s erosive power that shaped the landscape. The canyon’s formation is a testament to the dynamic geological processes that have occurred over millennia, driven by climatic shifts and water movement.

The role of Lake Manix in forming Afton Canyon highlights the interconnectedness of geological features within the Mojave Desert. It illustrates how ancient lakes, rivers, and climatic conditions have sculpted the region’s unique landscapes. Afton Canyon’s creation is a prime example of how water, even in arid environments, can be a powerful change agent, carving through the earth to create spectacular natural features.

Mojave River & Associated Lakes

The Baker Grade, Interstate 15


The Baker Grade is a renowned and challenging stretch of the Interstate 15 (I-15) freeway in the Mojave Desert near Baker, California. This freeway segment is characterized by its steep incline and decline over a long distance, presenting a significant test for vehicles, especially during the extreme temperatures in this desert region. The I-15 is a critical highway connecting Southern California, Los Angeles, and San Diego, as well as Las Vegas, Nevada. Further, it extends towards Salt Lake City, Utah, making the Baker Grade a crucial passage for travelers and freight transport.

Baker, the small town near this stretch of the I-15, is often cited as the “Gateway to Death Valley,” serving as a critical rest and supply stop for those en route to Death Valley National Park and other destinations in the Mojave Desert. The town is famous for the World’s Tallest Thermometer, a 134-foot tall structure designed to commemorate the highest temperature recorded in Death Valley (134°F in 1913) and symbolize the region’s extreme heat.

The Baker Grade’s significance goes beyond its physical challenge; it is a testament to the engineering and planning required to maintain such a vital artery through one of the most inhospitable terrains in the United States. Travelers navigating this section are advised to ensure their vehicle’s cooling system is in optimal condition, to carry plenty of water, and to be prepared for the possibility of extreme weather conditions, which can range from scorching heat to sudden cold in the winter months.

State Highway 127 to Death Valley

Moreover, the Mojave Desert’s stark, austere beauty offers a unique backdrop for this portion of the I-15. It makes the journey through the Baker Grade memorable for its scenic vistas and physical demands. Despite the challenges it presents, the Baker Grade is an essential component of the southwestern U.S. transportation network, facilitating commerce and travel between California and Nevada.

Deep Creek Hot Springs


Deep Creek Hot Springs, located near Apple Valley in the Mojave Desert of Southern California, is a popular natural attraction within the San Bernardino National Forest. These hot springs are renowned for their scenic beauty and the therapeutic benefits of the mineral-rich waters. The area around Deep Creek Hot Springs offers a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, swimming, and wildlife viewing.

Access to Deep Creek Hot Springs is primarily through hiking trails, the most common being the Bradford Ridge Path from the high desert side and the Pacific Crest Trail from the Lake Arrowhead side. The hike to the hot springs is known for its rugged terrain, offering a moderate to challenging trek depending on the path chosen and the hiker’s experience level.

The hot springs themselves are situated along Deep Creek, a tributary of the Mojave River. The area features several pools with varying temperatures, allowing visitors to choose their preferred level of warmth. The surrounding environment is a mix of desert and riparian zones, home to various plant and animal species.

It’s important to note that visiting Deep Creek Hot Springs requires adherence to local regulations and respect for the natural environment. The area is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, which may impose restrictions to protect the habitat and ensure the safety and enjoyment of all visitors. Additionally, due to its remote location and the necessity of hiking to reach the hot springs, visitors should be well-prepared with adequate water, food, and safety gear.

Twentynine Palms


The name “Twentynine Palms,” referring to the city in California, indeed lacks a hyphen, which might seem unusual given the norm in English to hyphenate compound numbers from twenty-one through ninety-nine. The reason for this absence of a hyphen in “Twentynine Palms” is more historical and conventional than grammatical.

Oasis of Mara (colorized vintage photo)

The city’s name comes from the original designation of the area by the Oasis of Mara, where it was noted by early settlers or possibly by surveyors that there were twenty-nine palm trees at the site. This naming convention stuck, and the specific styling of “Twentynine” without a hyphen became the city’s official name. Over time, this styling was retained in official documents, signage, and local usage, making it the standard spelling.

In-place names, especially hyphens, can vary widely and are often dictated by tradition or local preference rather than strict grammatical rules. Once a name is established and recognized in official records, it tends to remain unchanged to preserve historical consistency and identity. This is why “Twentynine Palms” remains without a hyphen, reflecting its unique history and how it was originally named.

Mountain High North

Wrightwood Ski Resorts

Mountain High North, previously known as Ski Sunrise, is part of the Mountain High Resort in Wrightwood, California. This area of the resort has its own unique characteristics and offerings. Here’s an overview:

Ski Sunrise – 1996

Mountain High North, previously known as Ski Sunrise, is part of the Mountain High Resort in Wrightwood, California. This area of the resort has its own unique characteristics and offerings. Here’s an overview:

  1. Location and Terrain: Mountain High North is located in the San Gabriel Mountains near Wrightwood. The terrain at Mountain High North is generally known for being more beginner and family-friendly compared to the other areas of Mountain High. It’s an excellent place for those new to skiing or snowboarding.
  2. Integration and Development: Mountain High North was integrated into Mountain High Resort following the acquisition of the Ski Sunrise area. This integration expanded the overall capacity and variety of terrain offered by Mountain High, making it one of the largest ski resorts in Southern California.
  3. Facilities and Services: Mountain High North typically offers various services, including ski and snowboard lessons, equipment rentals, and food and beverage options. The facilities are designed to cater to families and beginners, focusing on creating a welcoming and accessible environment.
  4. Snow Play and Tubing: One of the unique features of Mountain High North is its emphasis on snow play and tubing. This makes it a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders, and those looking to enjoy the snow in other ways.
  5. Operating Schedule: Mountain High North sometimes has a different operating schedule than the West and East resorts, often opening later in the season and closing earlier. This is due to its specific focus and the varying snow conditions across the different areas of Mountain High.
  6. Events and Activities: Mountain High North hosts various events and activities throughout the season aimed at families and beginners. These can include special holiday events, beginner workshops, and family-friendly competitions.
  7. Contribution to Mountain High: The addition of the North resort has allowed Mountain High to offer a more diverse range of experiences to visitors. It complements the more advanced and diverse terrain in the West and East resorts, making the combined Mountain High Resort appealing to a wider range of winter sports enthusiasts.

Mountain High North, with its focus on beginner-friendly slopes, snow play, and tubing, plays a crucial role in the overall appeal of Mountain High Resort. It caters to a segment of visitors looking for a more relaxed, family-oriented snow experience in the proximity of Los Angeles.

Lake Cahuilla

Ancient Lake Cahuilla, or Lake LeConte, was a prehistoric lake in California and northern Mexico. This lake was significantly larger than the current Salton Sea in the same region. It existed in the Salton Basin, a low-lying area of the Colorado Desert.

Salton Sea

The formation of Lake Cahuilla was due to the Colorado River changing its course at various times in history. The river flowed into the Salton Basin, creating a large freshwater lake. The size and existence of the lake fluctuated over centuries, depending on the river’s course and the climate.

Lake Cahuilla was significant in several ways:

  1. Ecological Impact: As a large freshwater lake, it supported a diverse ecosystem and was an important habitat for various species.
  2. Human History: The lake significantly influenced the indigenous peoples of the region. Tribes such as the Cahuilla, Quechan, Mohave, and others lived around its shores and relied on its resources for survival. The lake’s presence and subsequent disappearance influenced their cultural narratives and settlement patterns.
  3. Geological Interest: The rise and fall of Lake Cahuilla have been of interest to geologists and other scientists in understanding the region’s geological history and the behavior of the Colorado River.
  4. Archaeological Significance: The areas that were once under the lake have been rich in archaeological findings, providing insights into the life of the indigenous peoples who lived there.
  5. Influence on Modern Issues: The history of Lake Cahuilla has been studied in the context of understanding modern issues related to the Salton Sea, such as environmental and water management challenges.

The remnants of Lake Cahuilla, like beach ridges and other geological features, are still visible in the landscape, providing a glimpse into this prehistoric body of water’s vastness and significance.

Timeline for Lake Cahuilla

The timeline of Lake Cahuilla’s existence spans several thousand years, with filling and drying periods corresponding to changes in the course of the Colorado River and regional climate conditions. Here’s a general overview of its timeline:

  1. Early Formation (Prehistoric Times): The formation of Lake Cahuilla dates back to prehistoric times. It is believed to have formed and disappeared multiple times over several thousand years. The exact dates of these cycles are subject to ongoing research and interpretation.
  2. Evidence of Multiple Cycles (Several Thousand Years Ago): Geological and archaeological evidence suggests that Lake Cahuilla filled and dried up multiple times. These cycles were driven by the Colorado River’s changing course, alternating between flowing into the Gulf of California and the Salton Basin.
  3. Last High Stand (About 1300-1600 AD): One of Lake Cahuilla’s most recent and well-documented high stands occurred between 1300 and 1600 AD. This period is particularly interesting to archaeologists and historians as it coincides with the flourishing of indigenous cultures in the region.
  4. Final Drying (Around 1600 AD): The lake is believed to have dried up completely around 1600 AD, following the Colorado River reverting its course away from the Salton Basin and back towards the Gulf of California. The desert environment of the Salton Sea area as we know it today began to take shape after this event.
  5. Modern Times (20th Century Onwards): The current Salton Sea was created in the early 20th century due to accidental flooding from the Colorado River in part of ancient Lake Cahuilla’s basin. This event is unrelated to the natural cycles that created and dried up Lake Cahuilla but occurs in the same geographic region.

The timeline of Lake Cahuilla is a subject of ongoing scientific study, with new research continually refining our understanding of its history and the factors that influenced its formation and disappearance.

Saltdale – Koehn Dry Lake


Koehn Lake and the nearby ghost town of Saltdale have a rich history intertwined with the salt industry in California. Koehn Lake, situated in the Fremont Valley of the Mojave Desert in eastern Kern County, California, is a dry and seasonally endorheic lake, occasionally becoming a closed basin without outflow. The lake is approximately 5 miles long and 3 miles wide at its widest point.

Saltdale, founded in 1915, owes its origins to the salt harvesting operations from Koehn Dry Lake. The town had a post office operating from 1916 to 1950. The history of salt production in the area began in earnest in 1914 with the operations of the Consolidated Salt Company. This was further expanded with the involvement of the Fremont Salt Company from 1919 to 1927, which also utilized solar evaporation of surface brine for salt production.

The salt industry in this region has undergone several changes in ownership and production methods over the years. In the early 20th century, salt production fluctuated considerably, largely dependent on rainfall and storm runoff to supply water for brine formation. Modern techniques involve pumping brine from wells and channeling it to ponds for evaporation, a process that takes about four months to form approximately 6 inches of salt.

Saltdale, during its peak, had a diverse community, including managers, skilled workers, and their families, as well as common laborers, often Latino Catholics. The town had facilities like a company store, a post office, a school, and a service station. Saltdale’s school, under the guidance of notable teachers, played a significant role in community life, including efforts towards “Americanization” by encouraging English language use and cultural integration.

However, Saltdale faced challenges due to its remote location and the fluctuations in the salt industry. The town experienced isolation, difficulties in accessing law enforcement and medical care, and was impacted by the economic conditions of the time, including the Great Depression.

The decline of Saltdale was marked by the eventual abandonment of the town by the 1970s. The salt operations also evolved, with less need for manpower due to modernization. Today, Saltdale stands as a ghost town, with the remnants of its past slowly eroding away in the salty landscape.

Koehn Lake, apart from its salt mining history, has also been used for various other purposes. At its northern end, there are evaporation ponds from the salt mining operation, and the rail siding at the former townsite of Saltdale has been used for offloading explosives. The area around the lake has also been used for testing by the Reaction Research Society and for a desert test track by Honda Motors. In 2014, it was notably the area where Virgin Galactic’s experimental spaceship disintegrated.

The history of Koehn Lake and Saltdale provides a unique glimpse into the industrial and community life of early 20th-century California, highlighting the challenges and adaptations of a community built around a natural resource.

The Mojave People

The Mojave Indians are a Native American tribe indigenous to the southwestern United States, primarily in the Mojave Desert region, which spans parts of California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. They have a rich ethnography and ethnohistory characterized by their unique cultural practices, social organization, and historical interactions with European settlers.

Here are some key aspects of the Mojave Indians’ ethnography and ethnohistory:

  1. Language and Culture: The Mojave people traditionally spoke the Mojave language, part of the Yuman language family. Their culture was closely tied to the natural environment of the Mojave Desert, and they had a deep knowledge of desert plants and animals. They practiced farming along the Colorado River and engaged in hunting and gathering.
  2. Social Organization: The Mojave society was organized into clans, and their social structure was matrilineal, meaning descent and inheritance were traced through the mother’s line. Clan membership played a significant role in their social and kinship systems.
  3. Religion and Spirituality: Mojave religious beliefs were centered around a complex system of spirits and deities associated with the natural world. The Colorado River played a significant role in their spiritual beliefs, and ceremonies often revolved around it. The Mojave Creation Story is an important part of their religious narrative.
  4. Contact with European Settlers: Like many Native American tribes, the Mojave people experienced significant changes with the arrival of European settlers. In the 19th century, they encountered Spanish explorers, Mexican settlers, and American pioneers. These encounters led to conflicts and changes in their way of life.
  5. Fort Mojave Reservation: In the 19th century, the Mojave people were relocated to the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation, which is located near Needles, California. The reservation is still home to many Mojave tribal members today.
  6. Contemporary Mojave: Today, the Mojave people continue to preserve and celebrate their cultural heritage. They have cultural centers and organizations that work to maintain their traditions, languages, and arts. The tribe also engages in economic development and land management on their reservation.

The ethnography and ethnohistory of the Mojave Indians provide valuable insights into the history and culture of this indigenous group in the American Southwest. Researchers and historians continue to study and document their traditions to preserve their cultural heritage for future generations.

The Von Schmidt Boundary


The Von Schmidt boundary, or the Schmidt Line, refers to a historical boundary line in California. It was surveyed and established by Alexey von Schmidt, a Russian engineer, in the 1860s. The purpose of the Von Schmidt boundary was to delineate the border between California and Nevada during a time when there was confusion and disputes over the exact location of the state boundary.

Von Schmidt’s survey helped clarify the boundary and resolve conflicts between California and Nevada. His efforts included placing markers and monuments along the boundary line to make it clear and permanent. The boundary he established still exists today and is the official border between the two states.

The Von Schmidt boundary is of historical significance and has been preserved as a reminder of the surveying and boundary disputes of the past. It is located in the eastern part of California near the Nevada border.

Why was the initial boundary incorrect?

The initial boundary between California and Nevada was incorrect and subject to disputes for several reasons:

  1. Lack of Accurate Surveys: In the early years of California’s statehood and during the Gold Rush era in the mid-19th century, limited resources and technology were available for accurate land surveys. As a result, the initial surveys and boundary markers were not precise.
  2. Rush for Mineral Resources: The discovery of gold and other valuable minerals in the region led to a rapid influx of settlers and miners. This rush created a need for clear land boundaries and property rights. However, the focus was often on extracting resources rather than conducting precise surveys.
  3. Overlapping Claims: Different parties, including miners, settlers, and land speculators, had conflicting claims to land in the region. These overlapping claims added to the confusion regarding the exact location of the state boundary.
  4. Political Disputes: California became a state in 1850, and shortly thereafter, disputes arose over its eastern boundary. Nevada was not established as a separate territory until 1861. Political disagreements and conflicting interpretations of earlier treaties and agreements existed during this period.
  5. Multiple Surveys: Various individuals and surveyors attempted to establish the boundary, but their surveys often differed. This further complicated matters.

Given these factors, there was much uncertainty and disagreement regarding the California-Nevada boundary in the early years. It was only through the efforts of surveyors like Alexey von Schmidt and subsequent legal and political resolutions that the boundary was eventually clarified and accepted. Von Schmidt’s survey work played a crucial role in resolving these disputes and establishing a more accurate boundary line.


Aurora, Nevada 1910

The town of Aurora, Nevada, experienced a move due in part to the boundary disputes between California and Nevada. Aurora was originally founded in the 1860s during the Nevada Silver Rush. At its founding, the exact location of the California-Nevada border was still uncertain and subject to disputes.

As a result of the boundary disputes and the fact that Aurora’s initial location was close to the border, there were concerns about which state’s jurisdiction the town fell under. Aurora’s residents and businesses moved the town slightly to the east, further into Nevada’s territory, to avoid potential legal and tax issues. This move ensured that Aurora would be firmly within the boundaries of Nevada when the border dispute was eventually resolved.

The relocation of Aurora was a strategic decision made to secure the town’s status as part of Nevada rather than California, given the uncertainties and conflicts related to the state boundary at the time. This move allowed Aurora to thrive as a mining town in Nevada without the legal complications associated with straddling the border.

Is everybody happy?

It’s difficult to determine whether “everybody” is happy, as people’s feelings and satisfaction with their circumstances can vary widely. Happiness is subjective and depends on individual experiences, perspectives, and circumstances.

In the context of the town of Aurora’s relocation due to boundary disputes, it’s possible that the decision to move was made to address specific legal and jurisdictional concerns at the time. The move may have been necessary for the town’s continued growth and prosperity. However, whether every resident or stakeholder was happy with the decision would depend on their perspectives and interests.

In any community or population, there will be a range of opinions and emotions regarding significant decisions like a town’s relocation. Some may have been happy with the move because it resolved legal uncertainties, while others may have been less pleased due to the disruption and changes associated with relocation.

To determine the current happiness or satisfaction of people in a specific context, it would be necessary to conduct surveys or interviews to gather their perspectives and opinions.