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Backpacker Magazine – April 1998

Desert Rat's Delight In Arizona

The East Cactus Plain Wilderness brims with life and solitude. Just don't forget the water.

by: Annette McGivney

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QUICK TAKE: East Cactus Plain Wilderness, Arizona

DRIVE TIME: The East Cactus Plain Wilderness and the Cactus Plain Wilderness Study Area are located in western Arizona near the California border approximately 145 miles (21/2 hours) west of Phoenix and 200 miles (31/2 hours) east of Los Angeles.

THE WAY: Follow AZ 72 to the town of Bouse. Turn right on Main Street (heading north), and then left on Rayder Road, which becomes a graded dirt road called Swansea Road. Continue north on Swansea Road for 5.3 miles to the Central Arizona Project canal. Just on the other side of the canal is a parking lot and bulletin board, marking the entrance to the wilderness.

TRAILS: There are no trails in the 14,630-acre East Cactus Plain Wilderness Area or the adjoining 59,100-acre wilderness study area. If you're versed in traveling by map and compass, the options for cross-country travel are infinite. There is no surface water, so pack what you need.

ELEVATION: The highest point in the East Cactus Plain is 1,654 feet; the lowest is 1,250 feet. Dunes range in height from about 30 to 120 feet.

CAN'T MISS: If you've never spent the night surrounded by a pack of coyotes singing their hearts out, then you're in for a treat.

CROWD CONTROL: Because of its remote location, the Cactus Plain receives few visitors. The best times to visit are November through April, when daytime temperatures reach into the upper 70s to low 80s and nighttime lows dip into the 50s.

PIT STOP: After a few days in the dunes, stop by the County Seat restaurant in Parker for a steak sandwich and fries.

WALK SOFTLY: Groups of three or more should hike spread out to lessen impact. Avoid stepping on delicate cryptobiotic soil (black, crusty, moss-like ground cover).

MAPS: For East Cactus Plain, get USGS 7.5-minute topo Powerline Well. For Cactus Plain Wilderness Study Area, get Black Peak, Bobs Well, Bouse, Bouse NW, Bouse Hills West, Cross Roads or Powerline Well. Order maps over the Internet at:

MORE INFORMATION: Lake Havasu Field Office, Bureau of Land Management, 2610 Sweetwater Ave., Lake Havasu City, AZ 86406; (520) 505-1200.

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Star Star Star Star Star
John Cowden
Aug 29, 2013

I was driving to Los Angeles....extremely exhausted I left the freeway somewhere Needles, CA/NV....I went south through scrub and small two lane though well traficied roads..
I am sure it was not far from a water recreation guess is Lake Havasaw(?)....

My inquiry focuses on an old abandoned railroad track that ran somewhat parallel with the road... What interests me are the "graffiti" created from mosaics made from the natural rock both black, volcanic I believe, and a white, a chalk perhaps..
I was so exhausted all I could see is getting to my destination as I was not really prepared for a night in the desert and ppl were waiting for me... I am now back I LA and would like to return and take pictures for a proposal I plan to prepare for a short documentary I am preparing regarding the connections between modern and ancient cliff dwellers and the relationship with communication to the future using petroglyphs and these mosaics, what I could see from the road...was the eternal statement that crosses all time and space..."We were here...!?!" And the implied question, "Where are you and what are you doing..??"
It has always been my contention that essentially human nature has not changed...only technology...and this is a primitive answer delivered by so called modern humans saying...well that's my quest..!? What? Why is implicit...thank you for your time and baring up with my verbose inquiry...any help addy --- ...John Stephen Cowden


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