Kelso Dunes Wilderness

In Kelso Dunes Wilderness
In Kelso Dunes Wilderness

Kelso Dunes Wilderness is a 144,915-acre property located against the southwestern side of Mojave National Preserve in southern California. Immediately to the east in the Preserve is Mojave Wilderness. Across a road and pipeline corridor to the south is Bristol Mountains Wilderness.

Kelso Dunes Wilderness is named for the Kelso Dunes, an extensive dune field that is mostly east of the wilderness boundary in the National Preserve. What is in the Kelso Dunes Wilderness area is the northern end of the gently rounded, granitic Bristol Mountains and the Broadwell dry lake bed. In the central area of the wilderness is Broadwell Mesa, a flat-topped volcanic mountain surrounded by more volcanic evidence and a complex system of desert washes. The eastern portion of the wilderness drops into the broad Budweiser Wash which drains south into the Devil's Playground (sand dunes and rock formations) area in Bristol Mountains Wilderness.

Vegetation in the area is mostly creosote bush scrub with dry wash corridors of catclaw and paloverde. The scrub changes to a mixed desert scrub (with more thorns) as the elevation rises. Wildlife in the area includes bighorn sheep, coyote, bobcat, black-tailed jackrabbit, ground squirrel, kangaroo rat, quail, roadrunner, rattlesnakes and several species of lizards.

To get there: Exit the I-40 at Ludlow and go north about 3 miles on Crucero Road (BL7815). At the pipeline corridor junction you can continue north on BL 7815 along the western boundary of the wilderness or turn right and take NN015 east along the southern boundary of the wilderness. Neither road is maintained so you'll want a high clearance 4WD vehicle under you. The wilderness area is set back about 30 feet from both roads.

You can also approach the wilderness from the east across Mojave National Preserve. Just locate the pipeline right-of-way and turn west on that road. After about 13 miles you'll cross Budweiser Wash and exit the National Preserve, entering the corridor between the two wilderness areas on route NN015. The northern boundary of Kelso Dunes Wilderness is against NN017 and the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way.

Camping is allowed with a 14-day stay limit. After that the campsite must be moved at least 25 miles away.

Map of the Kelso Dunes wilderness area
Upper photo courtesy of Chris Barnes, BLM, CCA 2.0 License
Upper left photo and maps courtesy of the BLM