Title Image

Title Image


This blog is predominately about camera trapping in California. We camera trap to save our souls and to teach primary school students about biology and conservation. We will also touch on other camera trapping news and musings, sets from afar, mediocre herpetology, sucky birding, and other natural history discussions.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Desert Freaks


Zzyzx Road
Creative Commons photo by Flickr user slworking2
Yeah that is right.

Not a misspelling.

West coast desert rats know it well.

Or maybe you saw Swingers and or some other Hollywood flick where the protagonists head from LA to Las Vegas. I doubt you saw the misspelled Zyzzyx Road, staring Katherine Heigl, considering its US gross was $30.

Yes 6 people saw this movie in the theaters.

I wish I was one of them, but sadly it was only showing in Texas. Netflix?

Or maybe you saw Zzyzx, the correctly spelled version. Another low-budget thriller set in the Mojave. Yeah, didn't think so.

Zzyzx is a California State University University of California research station in the eastern Mojave desert.


The research center is home to Vermillion Flycatchers in the Summer. I have not seen one mostly because I suck at birding. It is also home to the Mohave Chub, Gila bicolor mohavensis, an endangered fish. I have seen one Mohave Chub in my life. It was in the beak of a Kingfisher. Obviously a Kingfisher that doesn't give one shake about the law. Damn Rebel.

Sometimes in the desert you run into bizarre hippie shrines. Considering Zzyzx used to be a "health spa" it is not surprising that one can find shrines in the area. This one is just north of Zzyzx Rd. You can even see the road in the second photo. We were not looking for shrines but lizards. Sadly it was overcast and very few lizards were out. Though that beats 2010 when it was raining on our last day and we had to call off the Zzyzx portion of Mojave loop.



That is one of the many eponymous Soda Lakes of California. How many are there, does anyone know? Gotta be a handful.




Maybe this Summer I will try and make this a proper panorama shot.

Notice the AWESOME donuts in the dry lake bed.  I hope the guy that did that impressed the girl.

And I hope she gave him herpes.


If you can't tell why this shot is the best of the series then you need to change your priorities.

UPDATE: This is the last of the posts form our 2011 trip


  1. Nice series! Is the last one a "shrine" by a woodrat?

  2. I <3 this place! I worked and taught out of here for a couple of years. And embarrassingly, I had seen Zzyzx road. There are actually a few other movies and documentaties (PBS and BBC) shot out here. There are MANY small mammals that inhabit this area. Also, when there is drought, the big-horn sheep come to the station for the reliable water and forage. Five years ago we saw them by the tens!

    One correction though, it is a California State University operated facility rather than the University of California (UC). UC runs the The Jack and Marilyn Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center on the east side of the MNP.

    @ Bay Laurel, if it is a woodie, then it is certainly Neotoma lepida. They love to set up middens in igneous rocks and cholla.

    Thanks for giving it a shot out!

  3. Christopher: Thanks for the correction I will fix that. I am familiar with the Granite Mts. field station too. We find a lot of good herps near there. I have stayed at neither though. I always keep my eyes open for the bighorns but have yet to see them near Zzyzx. The only ones I saw were on Hwy 40 doing 75mph and just happened to catch their silhouette at the skyline.

    BL: You got it. There was a hippie Neotoma up there too.