This is what dune buggies were made for.
The Algodones Dunes, our subject this Travel Tuesday on Minnesota Transplant, is in southern California, just west of Yuma, Arizona, where my Beloved and I wintered for a couple of months earlier this year.
The dunes have sand but no beach. Wind but no islands. Waves but no water. These dunes are roughly 45 miles long by six miles wide and extend along a northwest-southeast line correlating with the prevailing winds. Because we humans of European descent feel the need to claim even useless pieces of land, the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area is the part of the dunes managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Ever hear the phrase, “Move along … nothing to see here”? Despite initial appearances, it doesn’t actually apply to the Algodones Dunes if for no other reason than to understand how vast they are.
The dunes north of California Route 78 are off-limits to vehicular traffic, but riders of motorcycles, sandrails, ATVs and four-wheelers of all sorts flock to the Imperial Sand Dunes making it the largest sand dunes open to off-highway vehicle use in the United States. Boondocking (defined last week in our conversation about Quartzsite) is permitted, and tens of thousands of campers call this wasteland home on some weekends.
For folks in search of aesthetics instead of adventure, the dunes offer a massive and constantly changing landscape sculpture (so big, they can be seen from space!). So even if you’re not into bouncing over sandy hills to the hum of a dune buggy, the dunes are worth seeing (one drives along the dunes for miles on Interstate 8 between Yuma and El Centro, Calif.). A number of movies have been filmed on this other worldly scenery. While we were there earlier this year, there was an unofficial Star Wars fan photo opportunity held at the dunes (Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens was filmed in a similarly sandy desert near Abu Dhabi).
So in the past few weeks, we’ve established Yuma is a great place to enjoy everlasting sunshine but is otherwise surrounded by various deserts, dunes and defense installations. Next week, we’ll learn more about the bone-chilling detention center that put Yuma on the map.
Next Travel Tuesday: Yuma Territorial Prison