The BLM property of the Riverside Mountains Wilderness extends over twenty-four thousand acres of southern California along the state's border with Arizona. It's a region of the state that has a barren, arid and rocky landscape not dissimilar to the surface of the moon. The wilderness and the mountains it contains take their name from being alongside the Colorado River which runs by the eastern border, although there is no flowing water source within the wilderness itself. To the west of the wilderness is a rocky mountainous area which joins onto the Joshua Tree National Park and also incorporates two other BLM properties, the Rice Valley Wilderness and the Big Maria Mountains Wilderness. To the east of the wilderness are the wide-open lands of the Colorado River Reservation. The closest urbanizations to the Riverside Mountains Wilderness are Lake Havasu City and Parker to the north and Blythe to the south.
The extensive bajadas of the wilderness are overlooked by the dark, craggy peaks of the Riverside Mountains. The wilderness does offer some opportunities for outback hiking and horse riding in its more accessible areas. The wilderness has a sparse vegetation of cacti, including many examples of Californian barrel cactus and the rarer foxtail cactus. While hunting is permitted, wildlife is scant, with the most populous creature inhabiting the wilderness being burro deer. If you find the wilderness interesting but just too rugged to explore on foot, you can see some parts of it by taking a scenic drive passed.
There's no vehicle access to the Riverside Mountains Wilderness itself nor are there campgrounds. The closest campgrounds for RVs are situated in the Cattail Cove State Park and the Buckskin State Park plus there are Corps campgrounds at the Parker Strip Recreation Area near Parker Dam on the Colorado River just north-east of the wilderness.
The Riverside Mountains Wilderness is an isolated BLM property that has limited access roads. The few that do exist are only passable in a four by four. The US 95 runs along the eastern side of the wilderness and from there you can reach the wilderness boundaries along some short and rocky dirt tracks. On this route, you'll pass by the location of the Blythe Intaglios. The sizeable geoglyph figures feature human, animal and spiral designs.
If you're heading to the Riverside Mountain Wilderness after RV camping in the San Bernardino National Forest, you'll have a straight run along the I 10 eastbound to Blythe before joining the CA 95 to get to the wilderness or the nearest campgrounds. It's a journey that will take roughly two hours. If you've been over in Arizona camped out in your rig in the Tonto National Forest, once you're through Phoenix, you'll be on the I 10 westbound for approximately two and a half hours and all of it easy driving.
One of the best places to pitch camp in your RV to visit the Riverside Mountains Wilderness is the Crossroads Campground at the Parker Strip Recreation Area. The campground has two distinct seasons. Peak season runs from the beginning of October to the end of May during which all campsites must be reserved in advance of arrival.
From the beginning of June to the end of September the campground operates on a first-come-first-served basis. There are twenty-six unpaved pitches that can cater for vehicles up to fifty feet in length. All of the campsites are standard non-electric with no water or sewer hook-ups, though each is furnished with a grill and picnic table and some have views onto the river. The only on-site amenity is a vault toilet. Reservations during the peak season can be made via the recreation.gov website.
There are sixty campsites suitable for RVs at the campground in the Cattail Cove State Park. All the pitches have water and electricity hook-ups although only four of these are fifty amp the rest provide a thirty amp supply. The individual campsites are also furnished with picnic tables and grills. The campground accepts both reservations and walk-ups if there are free sites available.
From the beginning of April right to the end of September, all stays at the campground must be for a minimum of two nights and during major national holidays like Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend the minimum stay is increased to three nights. Reservations for the Cattail Cove State Park campground can be made by telephone to the Arizona State Parks reservation desk or via the official website.
Take a sedate drive along the US 95 northbound from Blythe and it'll follow the course of the Colorado River passing by the eastern border of the Riverside Mountains Wilderness. Take a left off the US 95 onto Agnes Wilson Road to cross over the river and join the Parker Dam Road.
The Parker Dam Road is an eleven-mile long scenic byway also known as the Thread of Life as it's an oasis in the desert lands that surround it. Don't miss stopping off at Parker Dam to see the massive construction that is the world's tallest dam.
Trekking through the Riverside Mountains Wilderness is more akin to a scramble over ground strewn with loose rocks unless you head for the Old Blythe-Vidal Road. The unpaved road is a six-mile-long trail that runs into the heart of the wilderness.
The trailhead is around twenty-five miles north of the town of Blythe and can be reached from the US 95. Horses as well as hikers are permitted on the trail.
You can't take your OHV into the Riverside Mountains Wilderness, but if you want to enjoy some off-road fun, you can at the Crossroads OHV Area in Parker Strip. The one-thousand five-hundred-acre OHV park is part of the Parker Strip Recreation Area and incorporates extensive trails running over desert and rocky terrains. If that's not enough, a few miles further north on the edge of the Copper Basin Reservoir, you'll find the Copper Basin Dunes OHV Area. Both sites have paved car parks and ramps for unloading.
There may not be any water in the Riverside Mountains Wilderness, but there's no shortage of first-class fishing opportunities nearby. Try your luck by casting a hook in the Lower Colorado River and you could land largemouth bass, crappie, walleye or channel catfish. Head up to the Copper Basin Reservoir or the Gene Wash Reservoir adjacent to it and you could be grilling up any one of several different species on your campsite barbecue as nightfall sets in over the desert.
If you want to combine your visit to the Riverside Mountains Wilderness with some boating activities, you'll find you can do that from the Rock House Recreation Area. The day-use only recreation site is located in the Parker Strip Recreation Area and has a boat ramp from where you can easily launch your craft onto the Colorado River.
Open all year round, the recreation area also has a visitor center where you can pick up maps of the region and brochures on natural history.
If your visit to the arid BLM lands of the Riverside Mountain Wilderness has left you desperate for an aquatic adventure, but you don't have a boat, head over to Wakeboard Island on the grounds of the Blue Water Resort in Parker. The wakeboarding park is set up in a similar way to a skate-park inside a marina and there you can learn the basics of the sport or practice what you already know hooked up to a cable and pulley system on two towers. It's a fun and adventurous way of getting wet.