To ensure a
safe trip to the desert, follow these simple but nessisary guidelines.
- Carry plenty of water, even if you are only going for a drive.
- Drink even when you do not feel thirsty.
- When hiking, carry a gallon of water for each day plus extra in case of an emergency.
- Store extra water in your car.
- Carry water even if you are only planning to explore a short distance from your car.
- Wear a hat with a brim and light-colored, lightweight clothes.
- Pack warm, wind-proof clothes in case the wind picks up or the weather cools.
- Wear sunglasses and sunscreen, lots of sunscreen.
- Ensure that your car is in good working order - service stations are few and far between.
- Carry a spare, a jack, and some flares.
- Carry boards to place under tires in case you hit a sandy trap (see below).
- Shift down and keep moving.
- If you get stuck, do not spin your wheels; it will only dig you in deeper.
- Try going in reverse.
- If going in reverse does not work, place boards or carpet scraps under your tires.
- If you cannot get out, stay with your car.
- Do not leave your car unless you are certain that help is close by.
- GPS systems are not reliable in the desert. Carry a map and verify directions before venturing out.
- When hiking, always carry a topographic map and compass.
- Take a compass reading before beginning your walk, and look for landmarks to guide you
- Let someone know where you will be and when you will return.
- Pay attention when traveling back roads; they often branch and divide.
- Stay away from spiny cactus, agave, and other plants.
- To prevent stings and bites, be careful where you place your hands, feet, and your
- Check our Animals page for more info.
- Unexploded grenades and land mines (left over from desert training during World War
II) still turn up, especially after heavy rain.
- If you see anything suspicious, stay clear; they can still explode after all these
- Abandoned mines may have hidden shafts, and old buildings in ghost towns may collapse;
- Avoid flash floods by keeping out of narrow canyons and washes when there is a chance
- You cannot outrun a flash flood.
- Get to higher ground and climb to safety!
- Watch for rapidly rising water.
- Stay away from - and keep children from - drainage ditches and storm drains.
- Do not walk into or near high water.
- Do not camp along streams and washes.
- Get out of areas subject to flooding, including dips, low spots, canyons and washes.
- Avoid already flooded and high velocity flow areas.
- Do not attempt to cross flowing streams where water is above your ankles.
- NEVER drive into water covering the road.
- You do not know how deep it is or if the road is washed out.
- Turn around and go the other way!
- Look out for flooding at highway dips, bridges, and low areas.
- If the vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground.
- Be especially cautious at night when it's harder to recognize flood dangers.
- Do not park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions.
- Hikers and campers can be exposed to potentially dangerous chemicals as a result of
historic mining, illegal dumping, wire burning, or the production of illicit
- Suspicious sites (evidence of strange odors, piles of drums or containers, large burned
areas) should be reported immediately.
Gas, food, and
lodging increase in importance the further you travel into the desert. You'd
be downright uncomfortable without them and they're not easy to find out there.
Thre desert rats know how to plan ahead so they're never caught short.
Gas: when the
sign says "Next gas 50 miles," you better know you've got enough
to make it before you pass the pumps!
Food & Lodging: It is a good idea to carry food and an absolute must to carry water when you
venture into the desert. Motel rooms can be few and far between. Check ahead
to the towns you will be visiting. Some have a special character or colorful
story all their own. Or, be adventurous and plan on camping out. There are
many camping opportunities available from full hook-ups for your motor home
to primitive walk-in tent sites.
of the desert include bleached bones lying by alkali pools or dried remains
of some grizzled prospector streched out on parched sands. There are a thousand
tales of danger, death, and dying in these wild lands. Heres the lowdown on
seperating the myths from the real dangers.
Lots of folks get the willies thinking about scorpions, tarantulas, black
widows, or rattlesnakes. While it is true these creatures make their living
in the desert, it is not true that they are just waiting to bite you. Poisonous
animals use their venom to stun the creatures they plan to eat; the last thing
they want is to waste it on inedible humans!
Even then, most bites and stings, while painful, are not fatal. Most bites happen when people
place their hands or feet into crevices or when they disturb or threaten the
animal. Always remember to look first before placing your hands into crevices
or onto rocks. And, if the worst should happen, be safe rather than sorry
and head for medical attention right away.
The tale about Matt Riley heading out on the 4th of July with a small canteen
of water (some versions say whiskey) to walk 20 miles to a party and never
getting there is true. Matt planned to stop at a spring for more water but
he wasn't certain where the spring was located. His tracks circled the spring,
but he never found it.
This story provides
a good lesson. It's true, the heat of the desert can turn you into beef jerky.
Don't be fool hardy, plan your trip carefully, carry lots of water, bring
good maps of the area, and know your limits.