The Rice Valley Wilderness is a forty-thousand acre BLM property in central California. The wilderness lays completely within one of the most arid regions of North America, the Mojave Desert. The wilderness has a landscape that encompasses extensive desert plains, fields of sand dunes and part of the Big Maria Mountain Range. To the west, the wilderness is bordered by the Colorado River Reservation and to the south by the Big Maria Mountains Wilderness. The Rice Valley Wilderness is an area with scant vegetation, no flowing water sources, and minimal wildlife.
Hiking in the wilderness should be undertaken with precaution by hikers experienced or knowledgeable about desert survival. The Rice Valley Dunes which lay adjacent to the Rice Valley Wilderness were once used for off-roading with dune buggies, but the BLM has now closed the area to motorized vehicles for conservation purposes and no vehicles are permitted inside the boundaries of the wilderness itself. Dispersed tent camping is allowed, although it's recommended to undertake the activity during the winter months when the temperatures are more agreeable. With no RV campgrounds in the near vicinity, a good option for somewhere to pitch camp is the Lake Havasu State Park or the Buckskin Mountain State Park just across the border in Arizona.
Although the BLM managed lands of the Rice Valley Wilderness are remote from any large urbanization, they can be reached relatively easily from the CA 62 which runs from east to west along its northern border or from the I 10 which runs along its southern border. Turn off the main highways to get closer to the wilderness boundaries and you'll need to change your rig to a four by four as they're not suitable for any other vehicle. Even if you're heading to the wilderness in a four by four, you need to be aware that all vehicles should be left thirty feet away from the boundary signs on dirt roads and if there's a sign stating road closed it's there for a reason so don't drive down it.
If you're heading to the Rice Valley Wilderness from Palm Springs in the east of the state, you'll have around three hours of motoring in your rig to get there. You'll get some desert experience along the way as the route takes you through the Joshua Tree National Park. If you've been over in Arizona having a different desert camping experience in the Sonoran Desert National Monument, you'll be behind the wheel for three or four hours depending on the route you take.
There are just under fifty campsites at the Lake Havasu State Park suitable for RVs. Each pitch is fitted with a fifty amp electricity hook-up, fire ring and picnic table. The campground has basic amenities including water, showers, flush toilets and a dump station. An additional fee is charged for the sites that are along the beachfront. Stays at the campground are limited to a maximum of fourteen days and from April through to September minimum stays must be two days or more. Reservations should be made prior to arrival via the Arizona State Parks website.
The eighty campsites for RVs at the Buckskin National Park are located alongside the Colorado River. All the campsites are fitted with water and electricity hook-ups as well as picnic tables and grills. Fifteen of the pitches have an additional sewer hook-up. There is no maximum length limit for RVs either so if you're motoring to see the Rice Valley Wilderness in a big rig, this could be the ideal campground for you.
If the vast expanses of dusty dry desert of the Rice Valley Wilderness don't entice you to slip on your hiking boots and trek across the sand, you can still get a fairly decent, close up look from your vehicle. Head for Rice, a ghost town located just off the CA 62 and just before you reach it, you'll come across a strange free-art sculpture on the side of the road. The Rice Shoe Fence is, as the name suggests, a fence where passers-by hang shoes. It is a weird and wonderful thing.
Right by the shoe fence, you'll find a turn-off for Midland Road. The road runs along the west side of the wilderness to the ghost town of Midland. There's not much left to see in the old mining community, but you'll get a good look at the wilderness and if it's summertime at least you'll be able to keep your vehicle's air-conditioning on.
Every landscape has its photographic attributes and the Rice Valley Wilderness, as barren as it is, still provides the opportunity to snap off some unique shots if you have a good dose of the creative muse when you're there.
The light and shade on the dunes can be an interesting subject, as can the patterns created in the sand by the wind or the swish of a reptilian tail. The creosote bushes can cast interesting shadows, or if you're there at the right time of year, you can catch some detailed close-ups of the bush's stunning yellow blooms or unusual fluffy white seed pods.
If after visiting the Rice Valley Wilderness you feel the need to see wildlife by the water, head north-west over the border into Arizona. After a two hour drive, in the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge, you'll find a completely different landscape to the one you left behind.
Although it's still classed as part of the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, alongside the river are extensive riparian corridors lined with shady willows and cottonwoods that are teeming with birds, mammals, insects, and reptiles. It's such a contrast from the wilderness, it's hard to imagine they're both part of the same world.
If you want to combine your trip to the Rice Valley Wilderness with some fishing then camping at either the Buckskin Mountain or the Lake Havasu State Park will suit you just fine. The Colorado River runs through the Buckskin State Park and is renowned for its bass, catfish, and panfish. Cast a line from the shores or from a craft into Lake Havasu and you could reel in any one of the trophy-sized bass species that populate the tranquil waters.
If your visit to the Rice Valley Wilderness left you feeling dehydrated and in need of the sight of copious amounts of water, head over to the Parker Dam just across the border in Arizona. Parker Dam impounds the forty-five miles of Lake Havasu and is the deepest dam in the world.
While only around a quarter of the three-hundred and twenty foot dam is visible, the rest is submerged, it remains an impressive sight and an incredible feat of engineering that's hard to comprehend.
There's one place where the grass grows green in a desert environment and that's at the Emerald Canyon Golf Course near Parker. The pristine greens of the unique eighteen hole course are surrounded by arid rocks and dry desert-scapes and are bordered on one side by the Colorado River. The course is illuminated for twilight tee-offs, has a putting green, practice greens and a pro-shop.