Kelso Depot (view SW from parking lot)
Located in the heart of the Preserve, Kelso Depot Visitor Center serves as Park Service offices and the main visitor contact station for the park. More people visit Kelso Depot than any other part of the Preserve, but most of these people are simply traversing the area and using the depot as a rest area.
The visitor center building is an historic railroad depot. Union Pacific Railroad laid track and opened the first Kelso Depot in 1905, and in 1924 they opened the current building based on Spanish Mission Revival style to boost tourism. Use of the depot ended in 1962, but the building remained in use by the railroad until 1985. The building was saved from demolition by local citizens, and now is used by the Park Service as a museum and visitor center (link to NPS brochure for details). Frequent trains rumbling by bring history to life and recall an era when life was slow.
In the visitor center, visitors will find helpful staff and written information, exhibits, an orientation film, an art gallery featuring locally relevant artwork, a bookstore with local books and gifts, restrooms with flush toilets, drinking water, and a picnic area. Visitors will even find tasty hot food, cool drinks, and ice cream inside the visitor center at the historic lunch counter (The Beanery).
Visitors might consider calling (760-252-6108) before arriving to get information on road conditions, the status of the spring wildflowers, and other current details.
Link to map.
Hours of Operation
The visitor center is scheduled open Friday to Tuesday, 9-5.
Rangers lead guided nature walks at Kelso Dunes on Saturdays at 11 AM during winter and spring (November to April).
Things to Do on Your Own
There are no designated trails or other points of interest immediately around the visitor center. However, visitors can walk into the desert wash northwest of the visitor center where spring wildflowers can be good.
Visitors might also consider driving south to the Kelso Dunes area where sand dunes spread across 45 square miles and rise to heights of about 650 feet above the landscape to the north. The dune field is another good area to find spring wildflowers.
Getting to Kelso Depot Visitor Center
Kelso Depot is located in Mojave National Preserve, about 1-1/2 hours south of Las Vegas. From town, drive south on I-15 into California.
From the California state line, either drive south 9.5 miles on Interstate-15 and exit the onto Nipton Road (Table 1, Site 1008) or continue south 23.5 miles on the Interstate to Cima Road (Site 0830).
Using the Nipton Road exit (Site 1008), turn left onto Nipton Road and drive east 3.6 miles. Turn right onto Ivanpah Road (Site 1264) and drive south 3.2 miles. Turn right onto Morningstar Mine Road (Site 1265) and drive southwest 15 miles to Cima (Site 0831), where the road crosses railroad tracks and continues as Kelso-Cima Road.
Using the Cima Road exit (Site 0830), turn left onto Cima Road and drive south 17.9 miles to Cima and a 3-way T-intersection with Morningstar Mine Road and Kelso-Cima Road (Site 0831). Turn right onto Kelso-Cima Road.
Using either exit, on Kelso-Cima Road, continue south 17.6 miles on Kelso-Cima Road to the Visitor Center, on the left (Site 1269).
From the south, exit Interstate-40 onto Kelbaker Road (Site 1477). Drive north 22.5 miles to railroad tracks. Cross the tracks and turn right onto Kelso-Cima Road (Site 0837). Continue 0.1 miles to the visitor center (Site 1269), on the right.
Table 1. Highway Coordinates Based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.
||Hwy I-15 at Cima Rd
||Kelso-Cima Rd at Cima
||Kelbaker Rd at Kelso-Cima Rd
||I-15 at Nipton Rd
||Nipton Rd at Ivanpah Rd
||Ivanpah Rd at Morning Star Rd
||Kelso Visitor Center
||I-40 at Kelbaker Road