Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area
The Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area (DTRNA) is 39.5 square miles of prime natural habitat set aside for the local wild population of desert tortoise, the official California state reptile. The preserve boasts a rich flora and fauna representative of the intricate Mojave Desert ecosystem. In 1980, the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of Interior, recognized the significance of the DTRNA by designating it an “Area of Critical Environmental Concern” and as a “Research Natural Area”. There is no cost to visit the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area but donations are greatly appreciated!
Please note that pets are not allowed past the fence at the DTRNA.
The Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area lies in the northwestern Mojave Desert on the western edge of the Rand Mountains in eastern Kern County. It is northeast of California City- a two-hour drive north from Los Angeles or east from Bakersfield.
The Interpretive Center, with parking lot, information kiosk, restroom, and access to self-guiding trails is located about 4 miles northeast of California City just off the unpaved Randsburg Mojave road — marked by the red marker on the map.
Please bring a hat, water, sunscreen, and close-toed shoes for your adventure on the hiking trails.
Hours of Operation: Every day: 8am – 5pm
From CA- 58 (California City Blvd. exit): Take California City Blvd. North until you reach the first traffic light. Best Western will be on your left as you approach the light. Continue straight and travel 1.3 miles until you reach a fork in the road at the large gazebo. Turn left onto Randsburg- Mojave Rd. Follow this dirt road for approximately 4 miles until you reach the entrance to the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area.
From California City proper: Take California City Blvd. East until you reach the edge of the golf course. Best Western will be on your right as you approach the light. Turn left and travel 1.3 miles until you reach a fork in the road at the large gazebo. Turn left onto Randsburg- Mojave Rd. Follow this dirt road for about 4 miles until you reach the entrance to the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area.
THE INTERPRETIVE CENTER
The Interpretive Center, with a parking area and a kiosk containing descriptive panels, shelter and benches, was dedicated April, 1980. The spring months (mid-March to mid-June) are the best times to visit the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area because of the milder temperatures. A Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee naturalist is present during these months for site protection and interpretation. If you would like to plan a group field trip or special presentation with the Naturalist, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Interpretive Center is the trail head for the self-guiding trails that are the inspiration for this virtual field trip.
WILDLIFE IN THE NATURAL AREA
There are many other animals present including the threatened Mohave ground squirrel, desert kit fox, coyote, badger, jackrabbit, desert woodrat, and kangaroo rat. Some of the lizards present are the collared lizard, the side-blotched, leopard lizard, chuckwalla, and the western whiptail. Examples of birds to be seen are the cactus wren, LeConte’s thrasher, ash-throated flycatcher, red-tailed hawk, and ladderback woodpecker. Snakes common to the area are coachwhip, gopher, sidewinder, and Mohave rattlesnake.
Wildlife is best observed in the spring months. Some species are most abundant during years when there are carpets of wildflowers as a result of a wet winter. There are over 160 different kinds of plants: desert candles, Mohave asters, primroses, blazing stars, coreopsis, lupines, phacelias, thistle sage and gilias, to name a few. Among the flowering shrubs, the creosote bush is conspicuous for its height and abundance, and essential for providing shelter for wildlife.
Take our Virtual Field Trip on our Main Loop to discover more about the flora and fauna of the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN VISITING
DO NOT RELEASE CAPTIVE TORTOISES!!
It is illegal to release captive tortoises or relocate wild tortoises in the natural area or anywhere in the desert. They may carry diseases that could infect resident tortoises. Also, pets do not adjust easily to the desert and are more likely to die from starvation, dehydration, improper burrow preparation, or predation.
ALWAYS CHECK UNDER YOUR CAR AND IN FRONT OF TIRES BEFORE LEAVING THE DTRNA
Tortoises will seek the shelter of any source of shade. Because of this, they can be found avoiding sunlight under the protection of vehicles. Please make sure you check that a tortoise is not hiding under your vehicle before leaving.