Ironwood Canyon Hike with Frank Colver

Sunday, October 18, 2015 - 9:30am to 3:00pm

Leader: Frank Colver
$25 / $20 for ABF Members

While plentiful in some parts of the Sonoran Desert (of which the Colorado Desert is a sub-section), desert ironwood trees are scattered thinly in parts of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and are non-existent throughout the rest. Ironwood Canyon and Ironwood Wash near Canebrake have a noticeable concentration of these trees.

It was discovering the ironwood trees in this drainage system that inspired park enthusiast and ABF supporter Frank Colver to apply for official geographic names for this system of canyons and washes through the US Government. The process took about a year and a half but on March 17, 2010, these names were officially approved by the US Board on Geographic Names: Ironwood Canyon, Ironwood Wash, East Fork Ironwood Canyon, and East Fork Ironwood Wash. Ironically, there are no ironwood trees in the East Fork system, just in the main canyon and wash. An initial count of the ironwood trees in the drainage was recorded at 103. Unfortunately, two young trees were destroyed by a large water flow in the big summer storms of 2013.

The canyon is entered after about two miles of walking up the alluvial fan with braiding washes. The first desert ironwood trees are encountered just before entering the mouth of the canyon. The entire area is in designated California Wilderness, so foot travel is your only option for entry.

The canyon wall (made of sandstone and mudstone) is varied from sloping hillsides to vertical cliffs and is cut by a variety of short side canyons. Most of these become narrow slots before they reach their upper end. In one of these side canyons there is a small arch high on the face of the cliff.


Hike Difficulty: Moderate, mostly due to the long distance of between 7.5 and 9 miles. We will decide as a group when to turn around. The gradient is shallow for several miles and then begins to steepen as the flank of Whale Peak is approached. The hiking is in desert wash terrain (sand & rocks). Total elevation gain is a little under 1000 feet to the further of the turnaround points.

Meet: the June Wash Road turnoff, at about mile marker 41.5 on Hwy S-2 South. We will gather there and carpool the half mile up to the starting point.

Bring: Water, snack, lunch, water, sturdy hiking shoes, and layers of clothing suitable to hiking in the desert during the shoulder season (it could be very warm or quite comfortable).