A.k.a. Tattooine, after the desert planet from the Star Wars series, scenes for which were apparently shot in these Californian dunes during the filming of Return of the Jedi.

The dunes can be accessed most easily via Interstate 8, about 20 miles west of Yuma, AZ, or via California State Route 78, maybe 30 miles east of Brawley, CA. What's there? Sand. And depending on the time of the year, somewhere between a few and a few thousand goofy humans puttin' around in their off-road vehicles. At present, both the North Algodones Wilderness (most of the area north of SR 78) and 49,310 acres of the dunes between I-8 and SR 78 are off-limits to off-road vehicles, due to the serious threat posed to the rare ecosystem, and especially to the Peirson's milkvetch, which is considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Of course, the dunes are over 150,000 acres in area, so there's still plenty of play space for ATV'ers. (lazy fucks)

For the most intense dune experience, you'd perhaps like to go to the dunes during the middle of July, when there's not a cloud in sight, and temperatures get past 120 F during the day. If you do this, you will need:

  • Traveling companion, in case you didn't eat breakfast, and pass out somewhere
  • Footwear -- don't try to be a hero, the sand is extremely hot
  • Sunglasses, to reduce the risk of going blind if you plan to be out for a while
  • Suntan lotion, unless your skin is sufficiently fortified with melanin due to your ancestory
Of course, you could always go at night or during some other part of the year, but you stand a much greater chance of having the serenity broken by the sound of a hundred engines. Over Halloween weekend, 2000, approximately 30,000 people visited dunes. Three of these were killed in off-road vehicle accidents, and three more were paralyzed from the chest down.

The US Bureau of Land Management's National Law Enforcement Office has found the Algodones Dunes to be "...unsafe for family recreation activity due to the use of drugs and alcohol, and the problem of lawlessness that occur with such use."

It's my understanding that the Colorado River used to sometimes flow through the area that now constitutes the dunes, alternating between that route and its current one every several years. Then, once upon a time, some humans decided it would be more convenient if the river stayed in one place, and made it so. Without that source of water, the once river-bed became drier than a bone.

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