Algodones Dunes BLM Wilderness Area - Imperial County

Imperial Sand Dunes Cahuilla Ranger Station

Gecko Rd · Brawley, ca

How to find us

East on I-8 from San Diego past El Centro (100 miles). Exit to Hwy 111 North towards Brawley (15 miles), then East onto the 78. Head out another 20 miles to Gecko Rd and the Ranger Station. Map is inaccurate, but locates Gecko Rd ok. About 2.5hrs

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Imperial County is a large and sparsely explored botanical mystery to most, especially in areas that would appear at first glance to be inhospitable to life. When most people hear of Glamis and the Imperial Sand Dunes, the thoughts of people riding over sand dunes in buggies and ATVs comes to mind, running over the desert at a quick enough pace that the heat is calmed by a breeze of their own making. A deeper look uncovers a place that is very complex and amazing to study. The Dunes are a location set within an environmental duality, where temperatures can vacillate wildly between night and day, where moisture is both absent and surprisingly common, and extreme adaptations are required to survive.

Late April is a time when very odd and very rare plants put up bloom, catching a very narrow window between too cold and too hot, and then bedding back down for a another year, or many years. We're taking this opportunity to access this amazing area with the kind grace of Wildlife Biologist Camden Bruner of Bureau of Land Management's El Centro Office. We're all looking forward to finding sandpaper plant (Petalonyx thurberi), Colorado Desert buckwheat (Eriogonum deserticola), Giant Spanish Needle (Palafoxia arida var gigantea), Wiggins Croton (Croton wigginsii), Desert sunflower (Geraea canescens), Algondones Dunes sunflower (Helianthus niveus ssp tephrodes), Pierson's locoweed (Astraglaus magdalenae var peirsonii), Fanleaf crinklemat (Tiquilia plicata), dune primrose (Oenothera deltoides), and sand verbena (Abronia villosa). With a great deal of luck we may find the most alien of plant species: the parasitic Sand food (Pholisma sonorae) which is often covered by the rolling sand as it feeds on the moisture and energy of other plants.

From the Ranger Station, the plan is to access the Imperial Sand Dunes Wilderness Area in two or three locations starting with the Osborne Overlook to focus on the dunes themselves, then onto a shaded area of microphyll woodlands off Ted Kiff "Road" where honey mesquite (Prosopsis glandulosa), Ironwood (Olneya tesota), and Paloverde (Parkinsonia florida) grow in great number.

Bring lots of water! At least a gallon, better two. I will provide ice coolers in my truck with some extra water. Be prepared for the heat - temperature during the midday sun could go over 100F (38C). Large brim hats, fans, light clothing, sturdy shoes (sand!), lunch, suncreen, icepacks, etc. Cameras, notebooks, walking sticks, kerchiefs, and umbrellas are also encouraged. If you plan on driving, take a vehicle that can handle sandy roads, meaning high clearance and all wheel drive. Watch your gas, tires, radiator, and check your AC before heading out. Ideally, carpool in vehicles prepped for camping in the desert. Camping is a great experience out there and if you've never done it, consider it.

CARPOOL: Day trip only. From Fashion Valley Mall in Mission Valley, meet at 6:20 to 6:30 AM. Park at the western entrance nearest the Transit Station. Parking there is free for 24 hours and has mobile security and cameras. Keep in mind there is the same risk to parking there as any public street. If you plan to take the trolley in and can't make it in time, we can coordinate an alternative, PM me. If we have too many people to fit my truck, be prepared to drive and take people with you. The roundtrip is about 310 miles, so please consider a ridefare of $10 or more. Aiming to return back to San Diego around 4:30 or 5 PM.