Bureau of Land Management, California.
Afton Canyon's surface water makes it unique in the southern California desert. Known locally as "The Grand Canyon of the Mojave" for its dramatic geological formations, this is the only place where the Mojave River flows above ground year-round - providing significant riparian (riverbank) wildlife habitat amid the desert.
Since prehistoric times, the natural bounty created by this water source has made Afton Canyon a focus for living things. Dense willows and cottonwoods shaded the river, and thickets of mesquite produced bean pods for food. The ponds, marshes and streams provided habitat for a wide variety of wildlife species.
Know Before You Go
Weather extremes and poisonous snakes are desert hazards common to this area. Rainbow Basin has a flash flood risk as well. Avoid low-lying areas during storms and remember that rain upstream can cause flooding even though it is not raining in the immediate area.
- Out of State Vehicles: OHV users must comply with all California rules and regulations governing Off-Highway vehicles. Please see below for a partial list of key regulation and visit the California OHV Page for more information.
- Weather: The area is hot and arid, with summer high temperatures ranging from 100 to 120 degrees F. Winter low temperatures may drop below freezing with highs in the 70's. Typical of the desert, winds are frequent and strong, and humidity is generally low.
- Food, Fuel and Necessities: Food, fuel and most necessities are available in Baker and Barstow. Cellular phone service is not reliable in all locations.
Camping and Fees
Camping is available at the Afton Canyon campground, situated at the west end of the canyon. This newly renovated campground provides several sites, available on a first-come basis for a fee of $6 per night. There is also a 14-day stay limit.
Each site is equipped with a shade structure, parking area, table, fire pit, and grill. Vault toilets are centrally located. Campfire permits are required and may be restricted in fire season (typically May-October). Fire danger is extreme during most of the year. Campfire permits can be obtained online at www.preventwildfireca.org.
Off-Highway Vehicle Use
This area provides access for staging OHV and 4X4 vehicle touring into the adjacent area of the Mojave Trails National Monument (MTNM). This and other surrounding limited use areas require vehicles to travel on designated routes. There is also street legal vehicle access into the Mojave National Preserve along the Mojave Road.
The following partial list of regulations and tips should help OHV users and other recreationists appreciate and enjoy the use of these public lands.
- OHVs owned by California residents must be registered with the California DMV and must display a valid “Green Sticker” or “Red Sticker”.
- If you are NOT a resident of California and your OHV is not registered in your home state, you are required to have a NON-RESIDENT Green Sticker OHV permit.
- On the ground, motorized vehicles should yield to non-motorized craft and aircraft.
- OHVs must be equipped with an approved muffler, brakes, and spark arrester.
- It is illegal for anyone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs to operate an OHV.
- It is illegal to bring, dispose of, or possess any glass container, empty or not.
- It is illegal to bring, dispose of, or possess any firewood containing nails, screws or other metal hardware within the open area.
- NO PALLETS!
- It is illegal to possess and/or discharge fireworks.
- Persons on an ATV under 14 years of age must be supervised by a parent or guardian.
- All persons, regardless of age, who operate an ATV on Public Lands must wear an approved safety helmet; Carrying passengers is prohibited on ATVs; Remember—Safety First, Every Ride, Every Time!
Campfire permits are required and may be restricted in fire season. Fire danger is extreme during most of the year. Campfire permits can be obtained online at [http://www.preventwildfireca.org%3c/a]www.preventwildfireca.org
- Wildlife Viewing
From Barstow, take Interstate 15 east for 35 miles. Take the Afton exit south. Drive south three miles on graded dirt road to parking area for the fully-developed Afton Campground. Visitor information is available at the campground and at all entrances into the area.