Algodones Dunes Camping or Day Trip - Imperial County

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Imperial Sand Dunes Cahuilla Ranger Station

Gecko Rd · Brawley, CA

How to find us

SATURDAY & SUNDAY: Meet at 9 AM at the Gecko Rd Ranger Station. From San Diego, take I-8 East to El Centro, exit 111 N, then 78 East to Dunes. ~150 miles. From Los Angeles, take I-10 E to Indio, then 86 S to 78 E to Dunes. ~221 miles

Location image of event venue


PLANT KNOWLEDGE: Beginner to Any on Saturday, Professionals & CNPS / SD Botanical Society fellows on Sunday
ACCESS: Open to all, no charge

For everyone that missed the Algodones Dunes trip last year, here is your chance to jump in on a great repeat, with the extraordinary additions of Steve Hartman the CNPS Board President and Amy Patten, CNPS Rare Plant Botanist. Early April will hopefully have a great bloom of Algodones Dunes sunflower (Helianthus niveus ssp tephrodes), Giant spanish needle (Palafoxia arida var gigantea), Pierson's milkvetch (Astragalus magdalenae var piersonii), Sand food (Pholisma sonorae), and Fairyduster (Calliandra eriophylla) among other rare species and extreme desert endemic species.

For Saturday, we'll meet up at the ranger station for orientation and a quick look for the odd sand food, then head over to the Osbourne Overlook to check out the dune ecosystem there. We're looking for the plants that amazingly grow and thrive in rolling sand. Following this, we'll head over to the microphyll woodlands, where abundant water below the surface creates an open woodland of ironwood (Olneya tesota), palo verde (Parkinsonia florida), and mesquites (Prosopsis sps). We'll have lunch under the shade of these trees before exploring a little more around the area for anything of interest. Afterwards, anyone who wants to stay to camp or stay in lodging nearby will wish our friends safe travels.

That evening, we plan to do overnight dry camping in the desert, with some of the best stargazing in the whole state. In addition, it'll be a new moon.

Sunday, we'll meet up at the ranger station once more to get anyone who is coming out for the CNPS rare plant survey. Right now, our intended target is the Saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) 2B.2 as a landmark species but in addition, interesting listed species in the Hwy 78 / Ninemile Wash area like Argus blazing star (Mentzelia puberula), Chocolate mtns Coldenia (Tiquilia canescens var. pulchella), and Sand Evening Primrose (Chylismia arenaria). We'll do iNaturalist and CalFlora observations and Herbaria collections where possible. This portion of the trip is aimed at botanists specifically. We hope to finish by 4PM to get back home before dark.

The desert can be dangerous if you are not prepared. Bring plenty of water (2 gallons per person per day at least), sunscreen, and light fully covering clothes. Even in early April, expect the temperature to be above 90F (32 C). Also, if driving, make sure your vehicle can handle sand, meaning high clearance. 4x4 and all wheel drive is preferred, but not necessary. Also be aware that sand and fine dust is everywhere and will get into everything.

DRY CAMPING: No services or facilities will be available at the camping location. All the food, water, etc you bring in will need to be packed out. Remember, dig the hole before! Lanterns &/or flashlights will be needed, along with good sleeping bags and tents as it gets very cold at night. The chance to encounter scorpions over night is high, but this is offset by the possibility of seeing kangaroo rats bounce across the campsite!

I will offer carpool in my truck to those who want to camp. Please PM me head of time. Look for a black Toyota Tundra (three extra seats), leaving from Fashion Valley Mall Transit Center parking area nearest Fashion Valley Rd (west end of the mall) from 6:45 to 7:00 AM. Of course, for anyone who will day trip on Saturday only, be prepared to drive and bring along other Meetup people. Parking at the Transit Center parking lot is free for 24 hrs and is occasionally patrolled by security. That being said, the same risks apply there as to regular street parking. Donations for gas are welcome, but not required. ($20 is suggested to cover gas)