Ocotillo Wells SVRA
Welcome to Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area!
General Plan Update
Thank you to everyone who provided comments on the preliminary goals for the Ocotillo Wells SVRA General Plan. To stay informed on the next steps and future opportunities to provide input, please visit the General Plan website for updates.
The rangers and staff of Ocotillo Wells are dedicated to providing a safe and enjoyable desert riding environment, and to ensuring that a quality experience remains available for future generations.
No fees are collected for camping or day use. Open camping is permitted throughout the unit for up to 30 days per calendar year. Vault toilets, shade ramadas, picnic tables, and fire rings are located in the Quarry, Main Street, and Holmes Camp areas. Water is not available. Vehicle repair shops, fuel, telephones, groceries, a motel and restaurants are available in the neighboring small town of Ocotillo Wells and along Highway 78 where it borders the park.
Self guided tours are available. Check the nearest bulletin board, or visit the Ranger Station to find out about current activities.
Below is a suggested self-guided tour for off-road vehicles with high-clearance and 4-wheel drive capability, or all-terrain vehicles. The tour can take anywhere from a few hours to all day depending on your pace. If you have limited time, save the remotely located Pumpkin Patch and Gas Domes for another day.
BLOW SAND HILL
Wind-blown sand is a highly effective agent of abrasion, as anyone who has been in a sandstorm will agree. Wind is one of the few agents that can and do carry material uphill. Here, the wind carries sand for miles before piling it up into this huge dune. Perhaps the most popular spot in the park, Blow Sand is illuminated by a circle of headlights on many weekend nights.
This 200 foot-high granite and sand island is named for the challenge it presents to the OHV enthusiast. It is actually an ancient decomposing mountaintop. A dark coat of desert varnish covers the rocks as a result of exposure to sunlight. There are several old hidden mine shafts along the mountainside. The mines are said to be haunted. People have reported seeing flickering lights near the mines at night after a rainfall.
These mesquite sand dunes are an oasis for wildlife. The springs seep from the ground, especially after a heavy rain. Coyotes often dig holes to drink. Part of the area is designated as a cultural preserve. Archeological investigations indicate that several Native American groups and early settlers used the area. The shade and availability of water made it a convenient spot to rest, to meet, and to trade goods. Some of the dunes have been fenced to allow for natural restoration. Please do not ride close to the edge of the dunes as this kills the mesquite roots. Without these shrubs, the sand dunes would blow away.
Park beneath the reef and examine the soil. You will find not rock or sand but fragments of fossilized oyster shells. Look closer and you will find entire shells and even pieces of the reef which have fallen down the slope. The reef is estimated to be 4 million years old! It was pushed out of an ancient sea during a time of tremendous upheaval when the distant mountain ranges where formed. Please help preserve the reef. Find other “hills” to climb, and encourage others to do the same.
To reach this natural phenomenon, you must exit the park on the Gas Dome Trail east of Pole Line Road. These mysterious, volcano-like mud pots of bubbling liquid are located approximately one and one-half miles into the public lands of the Bureau of Land Management. Cold to the touch, the gray water releases large bubbles of gas. For information about recreational opportunities and attractions in the BLM area, contact the El Centro office (619) 353-1060.
This unique landscape is the result of wind and water continuously eroding the surface soil and revealing these globular sandstone concretions. Such concretions are believed to be formed by the natural cementing of sand particles to a small object such as a piece of shell, a grain of sand, or even an insect. Please help preserve the Pumpkin Patch and the nearby ridges where new pumpkin-size desert “pearls” are emerging.
If a member of your party becomes lost, don’t panic. Make a note of where the person was last seen and at what time. Locate a Ranger either in person or by telephone. The Rangers know how to conduct search and rescue operations.
A lost person is usually found fairly quickly when Rangers are promptly notified.
It is usually best not to transport an injured person away from an accident scene before medical personnel arrive. Moving a victim improperly can make an injury worse, particularly when the injury is to the head, neck, or back areas. If possible, send someone to find a Ranger. Most business establishments in the Ocotillo Wells area know how to contact a Ranger quickly. Park Rangers are the closest source of help, and are usually the first professionals to arrive at an accident scene.
Ocotillo Wells is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Open camping is available throughout the park for up to 30 days per calendar year. Camping is not permitted at the Shell Reef, Devils Slide, and Blow Sand Hill areas. If you are in a self-contained vehicle with holding tanks, fill your tanks before you arrive—water filling stations are not available. Also, the park does not have a dump station for your waste water disposal.
Vault restrooms and limited shade ramadas are located in the Quarry, Cove, Main Street, Holly Road, and Hidden Valley areas. Pay showers are available only in Holmes Camp and Ranger Station Road. The showers no longer accept quarters; the park installed shower token machines. Shower token dispensers are available at the shower facilities. The dispenser accepts $1s, $5s, $10s, and $20s. Each token is $1.00 and provides 6 minutes of water. Tokens are also available at the Discovery Center.
Vehicle repair shops, restaurants, and motels are available in the towns of Borrego Springs, Salton Sea, and Ocotillo Wells.