Wind, Mud, and Tectonics of Fish Creek: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

HDR; anzaborrego desert state park; california; desert; sunset We were on cloud 9 with this view.

We were on cloud 9 with this view.

The night before the start of the Fish Creek leg of our Anza-Borrego Desert State Park adventure we stayed at our favorite campsite. Potentially, this was our favorite California State Park campsite to date. The views were just spectacular 360 degrees around and the dramatic clouds and colorful sunset and sunrise made it all that much better. I don’t want to give away too much about this treasure, but I will tell you to get there you will need to travel on the rim of Arroyo Seco del Diablo.

The Diablo Dropoff

Then, we took the plunge and, once we drove down the Diablo Dropoff, we were committed to the Fish Creek area. To quote the Lindsays (if you’re heading out to A-B make sure to pick up their guidebook), “this route is absolutely for experienced off-roaders only.” They warn about deep sand, sharp turns, and less than four wheels on the ground for prolonged periods of time.

Jeep; anzaborrego desert state park; california; desert; overlanding Despite the scary sounding name, the Diablo Dropoff was not that bad.

Despite the scary sounding name, the Diablo Dropoff was not that bad.

Only it didn’t really look that bad. Even so I shifted the t-case into 4 low, kicked the Jeep into 1st gear and prepared for the worst. The route had been graded since the writing of the guidebook and it was a smooth ride all the way down. The sand wasn’t too deep, the turns weren’t so sharp, and not a wheel lost contact with the dirt. Any 4WD vehicle could likely have made it back up the slope if needed.

Alas, it was time to explore Fish Creek.

anzaborrego desert state park; california; desert Have a yabadabadoo time exploring these formations.

Have a yabadabadoo time exploring these formations.

The Wind Caves

The Wind Caves are a must. Cresting the short steep climb from the trailhead we rested our eyes on a scene straight out of The Flinstones. The Wind Caves look so much like the town of Bedrock that some individual, likely thinking that they were actually having an original thought, carved the town name into one of the sandstone walls. In fact, such vandalism was present in many locations and some individuals even decided that one of the caves should serve as a recycling bin for their water bottles.

The hike to the caves is less than 2 miles round-trip, but plan extra time. You’ll surely want to spend some time relaxing in the shade of some of the bigger chambers and enjoying the view of Fish Creek and the badlands.

anzaborrego desert state park; california; desert Impressive mud formations with lots of slot canyons.

Impressive mud formations with lots of slot canyons.

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Mud Palisades

East of the Wind Caves you will find the Mud Palisades. Who knows where these impressive sandstone formations got their name. It could have been from the Palisades of the Hudson River, or perhaps of the Sierra Nevada. Whatever the etymology, they are worth the drive or hike up Olla Wash. There are plenty of slot canyons to explore there as well.

anzaborrego desert state park; california; desert I wonder where this boulder got its name.

I wonder where this boulder got its name.

Split Rock and Split Mountain Gorge

In our previous post I promised to speak about split things so here I go. Further East along Fish Creek you will find Split Rock. You’ll know it when you reach it. You will find morteros near the halved boulder with pictographs on it. I’m no Native American rock art expert, but I swear one is a pornographic image. Though you shouldn’t take my word for it. Inspect it closely and be the judge. We also read that there were petroglyphs on the rock, but we found none. Perhaps they were etched away by the weather or ruined by uninformed visitors. Never touch rock art as the oils in your skin and the friction will damage them.

From here you won’t be able to go much further East as another dropoff and the Squeeze await. This dropoff is officially one way down-hill.

Though we left much of the Fish Creek unexplored, we had no choice but to head out of the park and head towards our less interesting city lives. The way out is via Fish Creek to the pavement of Split Mountain Road which leads through Split Mountain Gorge.

anzaborrego desert state park; california; desert The power of tectonics demonstrated in this impressive fold in Split Mountain Gorge.

The power of tectonics demonstrated in this impressive fold in Split Mountain Gorge.

Two things impressed me about this geologic formation. First, the creek that formed the gorge was there before the mountain rose. It simply continued flowing, undeterred as tectonic forces, powerful enough to raise the peak, waged its war on flat terrain. Secondly, said tectonic forces are clearly visible in the gorge. Look for the folds in the rock on either side of the gorge.

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For more information on and adventures in state parks, visit our California State Park Guide.