Wednesday, February 28, 2024

How will new National Monuments in the desert affect boondocking?

Chuckwalla National Monument

Two new National Monuments are in the works in the deserts of California and possibly Arizona. The Chuckwalla National Monument between Joshua Tree National Park and the Salton Sea is in its final stages of implementation. The Quechan Nation and other interested parties are seeking National Monument status for part of their historical tribal lands along the southern end of the Colorado river. Both of these areas currently contain — or could contain, depending on final boundaries — popular boondocking areas.

Chuckwalla National Monument begins at the southern boundary of Joshua Tree National Park. That area is a favorite spot for folks visiting the park. I’ve stayed there six or seven times. 

BLM camping outside Joshua Tree NP

The boundaries for the proposed Kw'tsán National Monument haven’t been established beyond mention of the Picacho Peak Wilderness and Indian Pass. The Quechan Nation says: 

The Kw’tsán National Monument will provide permanent protection for our homelands, cultural objects, and sacred places that are increasingly threatened by mining exploration, natural resource extraction, harmful development, unregulated recreational use, management inadequacies, and climate change.

Picacho Peak

No doubt they would like as much area as possible protected by a National Monument. Might that area include where I’m camped right now, off Ogilby Road near American Girl Mine? And what about the areas adjacent to the Colorado River and Imperial Dam, like Senator Wash and the LTVA? It’s too early to say, but I suspect the Quechan are most interested in the mountains and not so much the flat lands at their base. I’m guessing the “unregulated recreational use”  is about off-roaders. We’ll see.

[In case you were wondering, the correct pronunciation of Quechan (a spelling imposed on the tribe) is like Kwatsaan. Hence Kw’tsán.]

Picacho Wilderness Area

But what boondocking restrictions might come with National Monument status? Well, dispersed camping, or sometimes camping in designated spots, is allowed in National Monuments. But it’s common to restrict motorized access in some areas — usually closing primitive two-track trails and virgin areas. Biologically sensitive and archeologically significant areas are also placed off limits. And some closures might be seasonal to accommodate wildlife migration and nesting.  I’ve camped in National Monuments with these limitations before and it wasn’t inconvenient at all, because I’m not the type to rip around in a 4x4, destroy resources, harass wildlife and plunder artifacts.

However, as part of the Kw’tsán proposal, the tribe would be able to set additional land use restrictions. Again, we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

Near Kw’tsán National Monument, or in it?

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