Carrizo Plain National Monument
After leaving Arizona, we headed to southern California for some doctors appointment and such and then began our slow journey north. We started by spending some time in a place neither of us had ever heard about before. We went to Carrizo Plain National Monument. It is almost 250,000 acres of land managed jointly by BLM, CA Fish & Game, and The Nature Conservancy. I actually found it by seeing it on a map, looking it up online and then finding out that we could stay here in a campground for free for up to 14 days! At that point, I thought, “Wow! We gotta check this place out!” And I’m glad that we did!
Soda Lake is one of the largest undisturbed alkali wetlands in the state. With no outlets, during the summer months, all the water evaporates and leaves behind an expanse of sodium sulfate and carbonate salts. Back in the 1880s, the saline deposits of the lake were mined for use at nearby cattle ranches as salt licks or for preserving meat. Prior to 1908, the Carrisa Chemical Company constructed a 600 ton per month capacity processing plant to recover sodium sulfate that was used primarily in the production of craft paper, detergents and glass. Today, they have a nice boardwalk in that you can walk out on to view the lake in whatever state it is in, depending on the time of year it is.
They have two different campgrounds here. We stayed in the KCL Camp. Both of them are quite primitive with no services and no drinking water. For most of our stay, we were the only ones in the 8-site campground, which we quite enjoyed. Behind where we were camped, there was a horse trail that we followed for quite a while one day out into the hills. We got to see some amazing views of the surrounding area.
There seems to be quite a bit of farming/ranching history in the area. I wasn’t able to find out too much about it while we were there. When we went to try to visit the Education Center, it was closed, but as you travel around there are many abandoned buildings and other structures that have fallen down.
The other advice that I have to share about the place is be extremely careful not to visit during any big rain event. We arrived the day before a rainstorm came through and then we stayed while it rained for a couple of days and then had time to wait it out a couple of days after it stopped. As long as you have the time to do this, you will be fine. Otherwise, the dirt roads coming in and out of the monument are made of clay and get very, very slippery and muddy! We found this out the hard way and I don’t recommend it. You also have to plan ahead because the monument is very isolated. There really aren’t any kind of towns close by and the towns that are close by don’t have much to them so you have to make sure you have what you need when you get there. There’s also no cell service and no WiFi unless you’ve got HughesNet. We’ve got an AT&T cell & Verizon MiFi and neither had any service.
All in all though, it was a great place to visit and I would definitely go back again. I would just plan ahead a bit better, but once you’re there it’s a wonderful place to sit back and relax! And if you stay where we did, you could be greeted every day by this little guy like we were. Now who would love that???!!!! Hope you enjoyed your virtual tour! Come back again soon and happy trails!!