“anomaly in the middle of the desert!”
Kelso Depot seems like an anomaly in the middle of the desert, but for the Union Pacific, it became a thriving necessity. Since its inception in 1862, the Union Pacific (UP) wanted a foothold on the West Coast. After reaching Portland, Oregon, the UP turned its attention to the rich California markets and the ports around Los Angeles. To get there, it needed to construct a railroad line across the Mojave Desert. Kelso was crucial to reaching that goal. Kelso Depot now acts as the new visitor center for Mojave National Preserve in October, 2005.
Entering the preserve from I-40, the first thing you see is a sign from San Bernadino county that tells you the road is no longer maintained. The sign is ture, but misleading: the county no longer maintains the road, but the National Park Service does. Parts of the road are more patch than road, but I drove Kelbacker Road from I-40 to I-15 without incident.
Watch out for desert tortoises!
Despite being in a desert, the air is surprisingly cool, thanks to the elevation.
This is a great piece of history and worth the stop if you have the time.
The views on the way in (the thickest Joshua tree forest!) and the way out (volcanic ash) were great - the depot is cool to see and is air conditioned. Cafe closed for refurbishment today. Park participates in the junior ranger program. It's a long drive but fun!
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