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Visitation: 2.2 millio
Area: 50,000 Acres
Lat: 33.143444
Lon: 116.097851
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Every Kid in a Park. Initiative that gives every U.S. 4th grader and his or her family free access to 2000+ federally managed lands and waters. Educators can also participate.
Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area - Site # 273
SeasonalSeasonal - these sites have high wildlife values during certain seasons, though they may have recreational value year-round.

Background: One's first impression when looking at an expanse of the park is that there can't be anything there. In fact, the open area dotted with small and larger sand accumulations and vegetative mounds is a preferred habitat for the flat-tailed horned lizard. Since this is the rarest of the horned lizards with the smallest range, this park is one of the very few places where one can reasonably look for this species. Early morning meanders almost anywhere in the park might reveal one. Even if one is not found, there is a good chance of encountering zebra tails, desert iguanas, or basking sidewinders. Another rare lizard that might be found on these searches is the long-nosed leopard lizard. Besides the very special reptile opportunities the park provides, other common wildlife is readily observable without the crowds that other parks might draw, provided you avoid our heavy off-road times. Overnight campers have great chances to spot kit fox, coyotes, and kangaroo rats. The park has its share of warblers making migratory stopovers. In addition, the open spaces may allow patient watchers to find a large kettle of migrating Swainson's hawks or turkey vultures. Bird monitoring surveys have turned up forty or more migrating swallows in an hour's time. The grounds around the office have a resident roadrunner family. One last special opportunity is provided by excursions into the extremely sandy areas throughout the park. These small dunes and sand accumulations around bushes or in washes give the naturalist a chance to observe myriad tracks made by jackrabbits, canids, and other small mammals, lizards, snakes (including the distinctive sidewinder track), and invertebrates such as scorpions and beetles.
Minimally. There are displays about the military history of the area and the off-roading community in the district office. A few interpretive panels throughout the park describe geological features and plant communities.

The Habitat: It is difficult to characterize Ocotillo Wells. The majority is creosote scrub, but spread over many different terrain types and intermingled with many other plant species depending on location. Rocky foothills occupy a limited part of the park on the western edge. There are large areas of pebble-strewn terraces throughout the central area of the park. Clay badlands and mudhills abound in the northern and eastern parts of the park. Almost any of these areas can have sand accumulations, both large and small, and some areas have enough sand to be small dune areas unto themselves, or at least areas with dense hummocks often vegetated with mesquite. A series of washes criss-cross the park, ranging from deep cut, cliff-faced washes to broad washes with wide sheet-flow. Some of the mud areas are a challenge to traverse because of the deep ravines through them. Large areas of tabular sandstone and sandstone concretions are also found throughout the park.

The Experience: This is one of the few places that provides habitat for flat-tailed horned lizards.

Wildlife and Where to Find It: A number of lizards can be seen from the car, but, for maximum opportunities to find reptiles, park almost anywhere and search on foot in early to mid-morning. Birding for most of our bird species is best done by walking through the washes. If looking for kettles of migrating hawks or vultures, it is best to locate somewhere with a wide, expansive view, and scan the sky with binoculars. The recommended times are 8-10 am and the last hour to hour and a half before sunset from mid-February through early April. Observing fall migration is less likely, but if tried, mornings only would be your best chance extending the time to 11 am.

Viewing Tips: Peak OHV usage occurs weekends from mid-October through mid-April by off-road enthusiasts. Weekday activity is only heavy around Thanksgiving week, the Christmas-New Year's period, and spring break.

Site Notes: In addition to seeing flat-tailed horned lizard and other reptiles, a visitor should see the Barrel Springs area for its mesquite dunes, Gas Dome for its bubbling mudpots,and one of the springs (Tule Wash and Eriogonum Wash are two of the more accessible and are close to each other). Also recommended are some of the great sandstone features: concretions found in several places (the easiest to find at Pumpkin Patch), the tabular sandstone in many places (the easiest to find on the flat areas above Tule Wash), and the sandstone talus slopes covering the mudhills along Cahuilla Trail east of Pole Line Road.

Nearby Viewing Sites: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park abuts OWSVRA on the north, west, and some to the south.

Festivals & Events: 

Visitor Information: Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce - 1-800-559-5524 - www.borregosprings.com
Viewing Site Hours of Operation are:
Staff On-site: Yes
Open: Sun,Mon,Tues,Wed,Thur,Fri,Sat
Hours: 24 hours - May change, check park website
Year Round: Yes

Road Information:   Dirt. 
Road Hazards: Unpaved dirt, sand, and rock road often in poor condition due to off-roading activity. Washes and other areas subject to flash flooding. Note 3 - Public safety. If you are visiting during off-road season, the heavy traffic would be a hazard. If here in the spring and summer, be prepared for extreme heat. Drink lots of water and have sun protection: hat, long sleeves, long pants, and sunscreen. Visiting California State Parks and viewing wildlife is an experience in the natural world with the same inherent risks as other outdoor adventures. Changing weather conditions, rugged terrain with changing trail and road conditions, and hazards of surf and other waters, plants (poison oak, falling limbs, etc.) and animals (mountain lions, rattlesnakes, ticks, etc.) are a part of life outdoors, as is protecting yourself and your belongings. Use the Visit a Park link at the State Park web page for precautions and public safety information.
 Number of Parking Spaces: 0
Parking Fee: No
Proximity to viewing area:In the site
 Pull-Through Parking: Yes
Parking Danger: Roads are rocky, sandy, and deeply rutted. Mud and flash flooding could also be an issue. If visitation is during peak off-road periods, heavy traffic and ATV/quad/motorcycle/other vehicles may be approaching from unexpected angles. Unless you are driving a 4-wheel drive vehicle, please do not attempt to go more than a few hundred yards even on the hard-packed trails off the paved highway.
Note 3 - Public safety. If you are visiting during off-road season, the heavy traffic would be a hazard. If here in the spring and summer, be prepared for extreme heat. Drink lots of water and have sun protection: hat, long sleeves, long pants, and sunscreen. Visiting California State Parks and viewing wildlife is an experience in the natural world with the same inherent risks as other outdoor adventures. Changing weather conditions, rugged terrain with changing trail and road conditions, and hazards of surf and other waters, plants (poison oak, falling limbs, etc.) and animals (mountain lions, rattlesnakes, ticks, etc.) are a part of life outdoors, as is protecting yourself and your belongings. Use the Visit a Park link at the State Park web page for precautions and public safety information.
Parking fee subject to change. See park website.

How to Get There: From San Diego: East on I-8 approximately 40 miles. Exit at Japatul Road/Hwy 79 exit and follow signs to Julian, approximately 23 miles. Turn right (east) onto Hwy 78 at Julian and go 32 miles to Ranger Station Road where the office is located.

From I-15 in Temecula: Take Hwy 79 exit heading east 41 miles (although technically this is 79 South, it heads east when first coming out of Temecula). Turn left (south) at S-2 (approximately 5 miles past Warner Springs). Go 17 miles to Hwy 78. Turn left (east) and go 20 miles to Ranger Station Road where the office is located.

From Palm Springs: Go approximately 15 miles east on I-10 and keep right to merge onto Hwy 86S toward Brawley/El Centro. Go approximately 48 miles south (86S turns into 86 as you proceed) and turn right (west) on to Hwy 78. Go 18 miles to Ranger Station Road where the office is located.


 

Contact Information
Managing Agency: OHV Division
Agency Site URL: http://www.ohv.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=1217
Physical Address:5172 Highway 78
Borrego Springs, CA 92004
Agency 2:PO Box 360
Borrego Springs, CA 92004
Manager Phone:805-773-7170
Site Phone:760-767-5391
County: San Diego/Imperial
Addition Website: