Northwest of El Centro on the east side of Anza-Borrego, the Ocotillo Wells SVRA has 40,000 acres of desert to explore. Outside the boundaries, to the south and east, large tracts of BLM land are also open to off-highway vehicles.
No fees are collected for camping or day-use. Open camping is permitted throughout the unit for up to 30 days per calendar year.
BLOW SAND HILL - Wind-blown sand is a highly effective agent of abrasion, as anyone who has been in a sandstorm will agree. Wind is one of the few agents that can and do carry material uphill. Here, the wind carries sand for miles before piling it up into this huge dune. Perhaps the most popular spot in the park, Blow Sand is illuminated by a circle of headlights on many weekend nights.
DEVIL'S SLIDE - This 200 foot-high granite and sand island is named for the challenge it presents to the OHV enthusiast. It is actually an ancient decomposing mountaintop. A dark coat of desert varnish covers the rocks as a result of exposure to sunlight. There are several old hidden mine shafts along the mountainside. The mines are said to be haunted. People have reported seeing flickering lights near the mines at night after a rainfall.
BARREL SPRINGS - These mesquite sand dunes are an oasis for wildlife. The springs seep from the ground, especially after a heavy rain. Coyotes often dig holes to drink. Part of the area is designated as a cultural preserve. Archeological investigations indicate that several Native American groups and early settlers used the area. The shade and availability of water made it a convenient spot to rest, to meet, and to trade goods. Some of the dunes have been fenced to allow for natural restoration. Please do not ride close to the edge of the dunes as this kills the mesquite roots. Without these shrubs, the sand dunes would blow away.
SHELL REEF - Park beneath the reef and examine the soil. You will find not rock or sand but fragments of fossilized oyster shells. Look closer and you will find entire shells and even pieces of the reef which have fallen down the slope. The reef is estimated to be 4 million years old! It was pushed out of an ancient sea during a time of tremendous upheaval when the distant mountain ranges where formed. Please help preserve the reef. Find other “hills” to climb, and encourage others to do the same.
GAS DOMES - To reach this natural phenomenon, you must exit the park on the Gas Dome Trail east of Pole Line Road. These mysterious, volcano-like mud pots of bubbling liquid are located approximately one and one-half miles into the public lands of the Bureau of Land Management. Cold to the touch, the gray water releases large bubbles of gas. For information about recreational opportunities and attractions in the BLM area, contact the El Centro office (619) 353-1060.
PUMPKIN PATCH - This unique landscape is the result of wind and water continuously eroding the surface soil and revealing these globular sandstone concretions. Such concretions are believed to be formed by the natural cementing of sand particles to a small object such as a piece of shell, a grain of sand, or even an insect. Please help preserve the Pumpkin Patch and the nearby ridges where new pumpkin-size desert “pearls” are emerging.