"The Grand Canyon Of The Mojave" is the nickname for Afton Canyon and all it takes is one look to see why this is an appropriate moniker. This is one of the most picturesque scenic areas in the vast low desert and because the Mojave River runs through, it is also an important natural area where wildlife flourishes. The vivid colors of the towering canyon walls certainly are dramatic to view, especially early in the morning when the golden light paints the highlights. A lot of old west prospecting took place in this canyon too and there are a few interesting historic mines awaiting to be discovered. In fact, Afton Canyon is well known for being a premiere rockhounding destination in modern times, so for those who yearn for adventure, this definitely is a great place to go!
A previous article describes the Afton Canyon Campground, which is a good place to set up a basecamp, since the access road into Afton Canyon begins here. Those who arrive in a two wheel drive car will have to hike into Afton Canyon, because the dirt road going southeast into this scenic area is as challenging as an obstacle course. To begin with, the dirt road crosses the Mojave River under a steel railroad bridge. The road under the shallow river water is composed of a rip-rap bed, which prevents sinking into the mud and getting stuck. After crossing the river, the dirt road going into the canyon is firm, but the conditions soon change to a mix of dry wash gravel and deep sand. For this reason, a 4x4 high ground clearance vehicle is recommended, since getting stuck in this remote area can quickly turn into a survival situation, especially during the boiling hot summer season. As can be imagined, taking on this trek during the cool weather seasons is definitely the best choice.
A freight train railroad line runs through part of Afton Canyon, which definitely adds some character to the views when the long trains pass through. The towering canyon walls are heavily eroded and there are all sorts of nooks and crannies to explore. There are hard rock deposits from ancient volcanic and metamorphic events in this area, which have attracted the attention of prospectors in the past. These deposits now attract rockhounds and there is a wide variety of semiprecious stones to be found in this region. Huge chunks of Olivite can be found in this area, which look pretty after the pieces are run through a tumbler. No rock picks are really needed, since most of the semi precious gem collecting takes place on the dry wash floor.
The early morning views of Afton Canyon certainly are memorable, so camping right next door is definitely the best option when making plans. For photographers, capturing great images will be a challenge early in the day, because the dynamic range varies from pitch black to intense glowing light. The Grand Canyon Of The Mojave is guaranteed to be a memorable experience, so be sure to chalk this destination high on the list when planning a grand tour of the Mojave Trails National Monument!
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