Cool Runnings in the Dusty Desert: Whitewater, CA

A river runs through Whitewater, CA.

While on one of our impromptu weekend getaways to the desert, we finally took time and turned off Interstate 10 at the Whitewater exit. We’d heard about Whitewater on Huell Howser’s California’s Golden Parks several years ago, which is where we hear about most of California’s hidden gems, or as Huell calls them, California’s Gold (white gold in this case perhaps?).

This semi-ominous sign greets those whom turn onto Whitewater Canyon Road off of I-10 on the way to Whitewater Canyon Preserve (CA). However, don’t let the signage scare you off, RMT’ers, as there’s much to see at the end of this dusty, desert road!

Perhaps the grass is greener on the other side of this desert road that leads to Whitewater Canyon Preserve (CA).

Just one of several gorgeous views of the canyon rockscapes at Whitewater Canyon Preserve (CA).

One of the original signs marking the foundations of the now-named Whitewater Canyon Preserve (CA).

Located about 10 miles east of the Desert Hills Premium Outlets (which we’ve stopped at numerous times on our desert excursions), Whitewater at the surface looks like nothing more than the road to nowhere. Truth is, it’s waters run far deeper than that; Whitewater is home to a hidden oasis of unexpected natural treasures at the end of a five-mile dusty detour. Founded as Whitewater Trout Company in 1939, Whitewater now falls under the protection of the Wildlands Conservancy as the Whitewater Canyon Preserve. The protected parkland portion of Whitewater sprawls across 2,800 acres and is surrounded by the Bureau of Land Management’s San Gorgonio Wilderness and includes the Whitewater River. The river flows year-round thanks to a hefty snow pack thousands of feet above and beyond the preserve’s canyon walls.

T and C checking out one of the trout ponds along the paved path at Whitewater Canyon Preserve (CA).

A close-up of the trout that call Whitewater Canyon Preserve (CA) home. These are now protected trout that are part of limited catch-and-release programs at various intervals throughout the year, usually just for the kids. Can’t wait to go back in a few months and give fishing a try again (our luck looks pretty good here)!

The view back to the ranger station along the walking path at the fishing ponds of Whitewater Canyon Preserve (CA).

Another lovely view along the path at Whitewater Canyon Preserve (CA).

Unlike the surrounding dry, desert landscape, Whitewater River is cold, deep, and fast-moving, all which are perfect conditions for rainbow trout. While all fishing now at the Whitewater property is limited to catch-and-release programs at various times throughout the year (the next event will be Fall 2012 per the ranger we spoke with, and our outlook on catching something looks really good here versus our last fishing excursion!), visitors are more than welcome to walk the grounds year-round and enjoy the refurbished fishing ponds. Closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Days (and any other day rangers deem it dangerous for visitors to trek the property due to flash-flooding), families also can set up camp on property to enjoy a few days of hiking and swimming at the preserve’s designated swimming hole.

T touches the COLD (about 60′-65′ F) water at the Whitewater Canyon Preserve (CA) swimming hole. This is not part of the trout ponds but a separate, sheltered, shallow swimming area that’s been set up at the park for campers and other visitors to splash around in while enjoying time at the preserve.

The map at the trailhead leading out from the Whitewater Canyon Preserve (CA) ranger area. Be sure to read the signs and make sure you don’t need any special use permits for your day-hikes!

The engraved marker at the start of the trailhead leading out from Whitewater Canyon Preserve (CA) to the Pacific Crest Trail.

Across from the Whitewater ranger station is a trailhead for the expanse Pacific Crest Trail, which leads to points well beyond Whitewater and the surrounding desert. Hiking beyond Whitewater isn’t something we’ll be doing ourselves anytime soon, especially not in the desert-high heat of the summer! But should you decide to hit trails for the long haul, be sure to sign in with the ranger station and get your Special Day-Use Permit if needed.

Don’t forget to check in with the ranger station if you set out from Whitewater Canyon Preserve (CA) on a hike!

Not hiking on-permit or camping overnight on-property? Then aside from the gas costs of getting out there, which is why it’s a perfect detour off the I-10 from your existing road trip, visiting Whitewater is free of charge. Just don’t forget your water and sunscreen!

Father and son, seeing America along the path at Whitewater Canyon Preserve (CA).

Don’t forget to turn off the highway every once in a while and really see America, RMT’ers!