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November 22, 2019

The Fate of Clark Lake - Borrego Springs

To be fair The popular boondocking spot generally know as Clark Dry Lake along Rock House Road has always been private property.

California acquired the dry lake area surrounding the General Patton viewing tower several years ago, and although this property was for sale then, the state could not meet the owners asking price.

Well somebody final did meet that asking price and that favorite 160 acre boondocking spot has changed hands.

While the previous owner was only interested in the ‘water rights’, and allowed free use of the land, the current owner has closed off public access.

My understanding of how water rights work in the Borrego Valley is that the amount of land that is owned determines the volume of water that is allocated.  The land does not have to be contiguous, nor developed.

Let me use The Springs at Borrego as an example.  I think we all know who they are, awesome place!  Fee concerts and their own observatory too!  I've camped, golfed, seen the Kingston Trio FREE (TWICE!) ... they are just an example ...

But if The Springs wanted to expand and the property they current hold did not supply sufficient water rights, they could buy another parcel anywhere in the valley to obtain more water.

OK that’s the water part, but why close it off?  The Springs would not seem to have a motive for that ...

All the rectangles on this map are privately held.  The 160 acre parcel 2 is the one just sold and where we all boondocked at some time or another.

Rock House Road remains open, you can still get to the ‘Rock House’ and the glyphs.  But if there is a rougher road in Borrego I don’t know it.

Pegleg Smith has picked up a bit of the Clark Lake sunbirds.  As I type there are 16 units here and room for more.  Across the street the motorcycle folks have their area, but those 185 acres are privately held and currently for sale.

Where else to boondock near Borrego?  Truckhaven is open, as is Coachwhip.  I’ve camped at Arroyo Salado, which now has restrooms and great flowers in the spring.  Yaqui Pass is basically a parking lot, but can take any size rig and a nice hiking trail to the overlook.  There is a strip along the Borrego Salton Seaway between the road and the park boundary to the north that is available.

The gal at the chamber of commerce that showed me the map also laments the loss of “Snowbird Habitat”.  I like her description!


  1. so.....who bought the land?

  2. Neither the gal at the CoC nor either of the two realty offices knew. It was a private sale, maybe it'll be on the tax records soon.

  3. Jeff, you should have bought it ;)

    1. LOL! But i could sure use the water rights! and i'd have left it open, or maybe an iron ranger ...

  4. Replies
    1. Hmmm indeed! Good boondocking spots are disappearing :(

  5. Replies
    1. So true! Even SoCal Walmart stores are posting 'No Overnight Parking'!

  6. I am sorry to hear this.

    1. For sure, we all are. I've camped at both Clark Lake but more often Pegleg as it has better cell service and we're usually there just a night or two.
      As a ranger do you have an idea of what is going on in the Alabama Hills? I'm thinking boondocking there will soon be gone ... :(

  7. Only there the One time and loved it. Planned on going back. Guess we'll be doing a lot of research before we do.

    It's about time.

    1. Ah - do return BS is a great destination, it's our go to spot. do your research. Thanks for following the blog!

  8. Wow... the reduction in spots available to dry camp is becoming quite noticeable. On the one hand, it sucks for the people who are responsible and appreciative of the ability to free camp. On the other, I have heard enough stories recently about terrible boondocking behavior - dumping tanks onsite, leaving trash behind, etc., that I can kind of understand a new owner not wanting to deal with that. With an endless supply of new RVers taking to the road, and the supply of campgrounds not keeping up, I think these problems are going to get worse before they get better. Unfortunate, all around.... Thanks for the update on this area.

    1. You are so very right Laura, we have all experienced poor behavior from irresponsible boondockers. But by far I think most of us are good custodians and respect our campsites.


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