Off-Roading in Ocotillo Wells, California

January 5th, 2011 by admin

It’s that time of year – desert season. The weather is cooling down and the 100+ degree temperatures are gone until next year. The Ocotillo Wells State Recreation Area is more than 80,000 acres of desert open for off-highway exploration and recreation. Outside the boundaries, to the south and east, large tracts of BLM land are also open to off-highway vehicles. The western boundary and part of the northern boundary connect with the half-million acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which is closed to off-highway recreation but open to exploration by highway-legal vehicles.

offroading in ocotillo, caA few friends, our families, and I went in search of the Mud Caves. The Mud Caves are holes in the canyon walls of some very deeply cut washes. The caves can be as long as 1000 ft and as deep as 100 ft underground. You squeeze through the tight entrances until they open up into a large cavern. The cavern, big enough to fit 20 to 30 people, is where the rain water that carved the caves pours in from a small hole in the ceiling, about 100 ft up.

We started down Fish Wash, a very fast, sandy wash that meanders through 200-foot canyon walls. You have to watch out for rocks when you’re in someone else’s dust so that you don’t get a flat tire.

ocotillo wellWe climbed out of the wash to find a steep sand hill. We stopped to have lunch while we contemplated how to get all the Jeeps and trucks up it. The F150 pre-runner charged it hard and got to the top. The two Jeeps struggled a little with the holes dug from other vehicles but eventually made it to the top, and the little VW Baja Bug made it look easy.

Kids playing in mud cave Ocotillo Well, CaliforniaWe stayed on the narrow mountain ridge for 5 miles before dropping back down into Fish Wash, right next to the Mud Caves. We spent a couple hours exploring the caves and letting the kids run around and throw rocks.

ocotillo well On our way back to camp, the F-150 crept through a mud puddle that turned out to be quicksand. The truck sank to its frame. The sand swallowed the 37-inch tires and the engine couldn’t even get them to spin. After a couple hours of swimming and digging in muddy water up to our chests, we got the truck out just before dark and headed to camp after an awesome day in the desert.

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