Clark Mountain, Yates Well to Colosseum Gorge: Lovely, scenic roads with a few slow sections.
Clark Mountain, West: Punishing, rocky, technical roads: a first-gear crawl with lots of stopping to plan routes and move rocks around.
Just west of Primm and north of Yates Well lies a small, disconnected piece of Mojave National Preserve called Clark Mountain.
A year or two ago, Dave and I tried to explore Clark Mountain. Exiting I-15 at Cima Road, we headed northwest and looked for a small unmarked road heading east into the park. But we missed the right road and ended up on a rocky, tedious power-line road. Eventually we took a side road heading toward the mountain and ended up in a maze of unmarked roads, eventually coming to a four-way intersection with a sign:
GREEN'S WELL ROAD
Public by-pass route
Unfortunately, one of the three roads dead-ended in a "Private property: KEEP OUT" sign while the other two looked too technical to attempt so late in the afternoon. So we slunk back to the powerline road and turned right, toward Primm.
This year, we attacked Clark Mountain from the other side.
We started from Yates Well Rd, the first I-15 exit south of Primm. Right toward the golf course, then first left toward the mountain. Our first project was to find old Ivanpah.
Ivanpah is an abandoned town over in the main part of Mojave Preserve -- but historical records show that it was moved there from an earlier location over on the slopes of Clark.
Just inside the NPS boundary, there's a network of
small dirt roads forking off to the left. We parked and walked around,
and eventually found the Ivanpah site: a few
standing rock walls, a watering trough, a mysterious hole in the
ground with a fence around it ("Private property, KEEP OUT") and
a collection of ancient rusted and flattened iron cans
as well as more modern shotgun shells.
Beyond Old Ivanpah, the road threads its way up along Colosseum Gorge, named after the spectacular open-pit mine near the top of the pass. The mine's steeply terraced walls do put one in mind of a vast spectator arena; but the only show today was the quiet pool at the bottom, the only spectators the two of us and a trio of ravens.
There's a network of interesting looking roads below the mine. Some lead up to Clark while others explore the grassy meadow below. A couple in a Landrover (the only other vehicle we saw all day) was crawling along one of the mountain roads.
Continuing on from the mine, we found the road occasionally rocky, but easy. At the bottom was an intersection with a sign aimed westward:
GREEN'S WELL ROADWe'd made the connection! We'd been so close on our previous trip -- if only we'd known.
Public by-pass route
Clark Mountain, West
The rest of the journey would be easy! Just turn left at the right place and head south along the west face of Clark to the paved road, avoiding that awful rocky powerline road which had so sapped our energy and our time on the previous trip.
The turn-off (shown at left) is easy to miss: a fork to the left, up a steep incline, then an immediate right (fortunately shown on our Trails Illustrated map). We drove right past the left at first thinking it couldn't be the one, but as we saw our route bending right and down toward the powerline now visible in the distance, we knew we'd missed it and went back.
We climbed out of desert willow into a Joshua tree forest with a
beautiful view of the valley to the north. And then the road got rocky.
Just as rocky as it had been on the powerline road -- but this time it
hummocked up over hills and down into washes, so the going was much
It turned out to be by far the most technical road we'd done, involving frequent stops to get out and plan routes and sometimes build ramps so the Rav wouldn't bottom out. On the tricky sections, one person got out and "spotted" while the other drove.
In the end we made it across to paved Kingston Rd with no damage to the Rav.
That section only took about two and a half hours, but it felt like
five. I guess it was a learning experience, certainly the most
technical road we've done -- but in future we'll stay off the west
side of Clark Mountain.
(At right: View of Primm and Ivanpah dry lake.)
GPS log:Track log, Waypoints
[ 14:44 Nov 06, 2009 More travel/mojave | permalink to this entry | ]