Clark Dry Lake

From the Salton Sea to the east, and the expanse between near the Mexican border to the south and the Santa Rosa National Monument to the north, Anza-Borrego State Park has a number of interesting geologic features that can be seen with a little effort. Some, like Font’s Point require at times, four wheel drive to visit, but have a great payoff in terms of sunrise and sunset. Others, like the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves require both four wheel drive, and a willingness to explore and adventure. Out of all of these locations, none is more accessible than Clark Dry Lake Bed.

Clark Dry Lake, Anza Borrego State Park

Located off of Rockhouse Trail road, which is the jumping off point to further off-road adventures, and occasional boondocking lies the Clark Dry Lake bed. Like much of this area of the Anza-Borrego desert, this area was once underwater. And, like much of the Anza-Borrego desert, this area features an interesting geologic feature in that the Clark Valley is a “pull-apart” basin, which means that it is part of the earth’s crust that has dropped in elevation due to the motion of neighboring faults. Similar “pull-apart” basins exist both nearby - in the Salton Trough - and a little further north in the Badwater Basin. Because of this loss of elevation, currently, the entire Clark Valley drains into the normally dry Clark lake bed.

Clark Dry Lake, Anza Borrego State Park

Directions: From Borrego Springs, travelers will want to follow the S-22 for seven miles to the northeast, before rounding a bend near Pegleg Smith’s Monument. Immediately after Peg leg Road (where the monument is located), travelers will see the signed turnoff for Rockhouse Trail. While Rockhouse Trail is a paved road for the first half mile, the road turns into a graded road from that point on, and then turns into a dirt road. While overall, the road is in good condition, travelers should be aware that as the road is unmaintained, there is the possibility for parties to get stuck or stranded, especially the farther they venture into the wilderness, and should judge the condition of their vehicle and the road accordingly depending on the time of year they visit. 

Clark Dry Lake, however, is readily apparent from the main road (S-22), and is only two miles from the S-22 on Rockhouse Trail, and this section of road is usually always accessible to all vehicles. From the S-22 to the lake, there are a number of pull-out or if you rather “boondocking” spots for RV’s, tents, or other vehicles. Some of these spots have fire rings; all of these spots are exposed. In my opinion, there are plenty of better spots within the park to camp, but given its proximity to the road, Borrego Springs, and relatively flat terrain, I can see the attraction for boondocking in this area. Once at the lake, one can hike, run, and explore the dusty cracked surface for as long as one wants. Obviously, depending on the time of year, explorers should be prepared for the conditions, and have appropriate clothing and plenty of water.

Tips: As noted above, unlike the Slot, Font’s Point, or the Mud Caves, this location is a great spot for geology buffs that is easily accessible. As well, it is also a interesting historical spot, as the dry lake was used as an airfield during World War II, and a radio observatory thereafter.