Things to know and do when working with a class down in the Mojave River Wildlands

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.
- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (1949)

Wildlands Etiquette

  • Before leaving campus to go to the “Wildlands” check in with [___________] at the [____________], and let her know of your plans.
  • Whenever possible travel in groups of two or three. Three is preferred. Always remember to carry either a cell phone or a campus field radio with you when visiting the river bottom. Field radios can be checked out from [___________] and/or [___________].
  • Use the attached the Wildlands trail map during your walk.
  • Remember to use the restroom before you leave. Facilities are not available in the “Wildlands”.
  • It is recommended that each “Wildlands” walker carry with them at least a bottle of water if they plan to spend more than an hour at the river bottom. All water in the Wildlands is not potable/considered safe for human consumption.
  • Use only maintained trails whenever possible. When you can’t, split larger parties into groups of 4-6 and only travel on durable surfaces.
    • Durable surfaces include established trails roads, rock, gravel, sandy washes, or dry grass.
  • Protect riparian areas by not walking through streams, on erodable stream banks or streamside vegetation whenever possible.
  • Leave What You Find
    • Do not disturb sites in which student research or fieldwork is being conducted. Consult the attached “Wildlands” map, Mr. Huffine, Mrs. Deppe, Mr. Deppe or Mrs. Gaidzik for more information about current student study/fieldwork sites.
    • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
    • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
    • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
    • Preserve the past: if uncovered during an outing, examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Respect Wildlife
    • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
    • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
    • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
    • Control/leash pets at all times, or leave them at home.
    • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
    • Be Considerate of Other Visitors.
    • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
    • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
    • Take breaks away from trails and other visitors.
    • Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
    Guidelines for Planning and Conducting Group Outings within the Mojave River Wildlands

Planning a Wildlands Outing:

  • Check [___________]’ “Wildlands” use schedule at the [____________] to see if the area(s) you want to visit will be available for use on the day and time you are planning a visit. Check for information about seasonal or area closures .
  • Prepare a brief list of goals and objectives that you wish to meet while on the trip.
  • The person(s) planning the outing is highly recommended to make a trip just prior (24 hours) to going out into the designated “Wildlands” area that will be visited. During this trip check for unusual and recent reptile, bee, mammal or human activity that may put the outings participants at risk. If any potentially hazardous observations are made during this “pre-outing check” please inform one of the “Science Team” members (M. Deppe/ B. Deppe/D. Gaidzik/Huffine/Armstrong/Nyhoff) about your concerns. It is not a bad idea to check with them prior to any outing to learn about known and existing hazards.
  • Prepare a list of the equipment that you will need to accomplish your goals and objectives. Plan to bring bag for picking up trash during your outing. These can be checked out from Mr. Huffine at the "Science Room A132" patio of building A.
  • Prepare a list of the things that participants will need to bring or wear during the trip (i.e. hat, special shoes, sunscreen, water, snacks, field notebook, pencil, back pack, special clothing, special medication with specific instruction for use, etc.)
  • At least 24 hours before a planned and scheduled outing, inform all participants about the goals and objectives of the trip, the items they will need to bring or wear, and the specifics about when and where the travel party will be meeting. Use this time as well to review “Wildlands Etiquette”. If the activity will require parental permission, provide the permission slip/waiver form(s) to the eligible participants at least 3 days before the outing.
  • Ask student to try and not wear “loud colors” and to refrain from wearing perfumes or body scents as these may disturb and even scare away wildlife. They should also be asked to refrain from bringing food items or sodas. If drinks are to be carried into the “Wildlands” these should be restricted to water bottles.


  • Before leaving the classroom make sure all students understand the days goals and objectives for visiting the Wildlands.
  • Ask students about any special need (allergies, early pick-up, medications etc.) or make a list at the beginning of the quarter and check to see if you/they are prepared for any hazards or emergencies that might arise.
  • Check to see if another group is already in the Wildlands. If so, try to schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
  • Obtain an instructors backpack from the science lab and check for:
    • First aid kit, binoculars, emergency bee/snake bite kit, sunscreen.
    • Check-out any field guides that might needed from Matt Huffine
    • Get a laminated copy of the existing points of access and usable trails. Please stay on the existing trails and out of the areas designated as “Wildlands Wilderness)
  • Make sure you have a cell phone or get a field radio from [___________] at the [____________]. Be sure to get instruction on how to contact and communicate with the MCR base station. The office phone number is 946-5414 (useful phone extensions include 271 (Mrs.Casella), 280 (Science Lab, room A132) 238 Mr. Huffine's office.
  • Group participants are expected to arrive at the west facing patio of Building A at least 15 minutes prior to the beginning of the outing and check / sign-in.
  • Let [___________] know about outing plans while submitting a class list for her to use if a parent calls and has to either contact their student or take them off-campus.
  • Please make sure members of the travel party have used the restroom before leaving. At the date of this printing, restroom or portable facilities are not available in the “Mojave River Wildlands”.
  • Make sure all participants are wearing appropriate clothing and have the supplies needed for the outing. Make sure all participants are wearing work clothes and shoes appropriate for the activity and the weather. Outings are often led rain or shine. Click here for the current weather.
  • Participants may be expected to stay in the “Wildlands” for up to 2.5 hours at a time and should plan accordingly. Participants should not expect to be able to walk back to the campus and return during an outing on their own when they want to.

Departures & Walkabouts:

  • Make a nose count of all participants before leaving the Building A patio.
  • Encourage all group participants to be sensitive to their own safety and the safety of others, making sure they are warned not to run or otherwise behave recklessly at any time during an outing.
  • It is possible for outing participants to be left behind during “Wildlands” walks. Therefore, all participants are to walk and work in teams of three called triads. In the case of an emergency in which one member in a triad, for example, sprains an ankle, the second member will stay and lends immediate assistance, while the third member goes ahead and contacts the instructor or outing leader.
    • Acceptable gender groupings within triads include three females, two females and one male, or three males.
    • Designate an outing group member that will stay at the head of the group that will maintain a steady pace, and one for the rear of the group that will make sure no one is left behind and who can gently speed up slower members when needed.
      q In popular areas
    • Concentrate use on existing trails.
    • Walk single file in the middle of the trail even when wet or muddy.
    • Focus activities in areas where vegetation is absent.
    • Follow the project/activity/outing guidelines. Do not disturb wildlife or pick or destroy plants if not instructed to do so. Upon Arrival at the Outing Destination(s)
    • Have participants assemble into their “triads” and do a nose count of all participants to make sure no one was left behind on the walk in.
    • When working near or around designated Wildlands Wilderness areas:
    • Disperse use to prevent the creation of a permanent work areas or trails.
      • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.Upon Leaving the Outing Destination(s)q Walk it in, walk it out. Inspect your work site or destination and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter. Use the reusable handbag.
      • Have participants assemble into their “triads” and do a nose count of all participants to make sure no one will be left behind.
      • Have participants scour the surrounding areas during the walk back for trash; use reusable handbag for disposal upon return to the west "Science Room" patio of Building A. Remind all participants to exercise caution when attempting to pick up soiled, sharp or heavy items. Upon arriving back to the campus have participants assemble into their “triads” and do a nose count of all participants to make sure no one was left behind on the walk out.
      • Check in with [___________] and return the field radio. Check for any messages directed to any of the returning groups participants.
      • Return any materials (back pack, reusable trash bag, field guides, etc.) to the individual that they were borrowed from.
      • Debrief all participants concerning the trip highlights, and bring closure to any lessons learned during the outing.
      • Report to any member of the Science Team (M. Deppe/ B. Deppe/D. Gaidzik/Huffine/Armstrong/Nyhoff) any potentially hazardous situation that was observed during the outing. If the issue is vagrancy and or present overt misuse, inform Mr. Soholt of the situation ASAP or call in the situation from the field using a cell phone or field radio.

Wildlands WILDLIFE Notices

Concerning Birds of Prey: The presence of raptors, such as peregrine and prairie falcons, eagles, and many hawks and owls, are indicators of the health of any ecosystem. Avoid nesting sites on or near the Mojave Narrows Outcrops in the spring and early summer. Watch the birds as they circle and land near their nests to identify places to avoid. If you encounter nests while walking or climbing, don't touch them. Human contact may cause the adults to abandon the nest and its eggs or young. Adhere to seasonal closures; you can always find another place in the Wildlands to explore.

Wildlands OUTING Notices:

Work and Travel on Durable Surfaces Some of the “Wildlands” areas may lie above steep slopes that can be easily eroded, in fragile desert scrub or along riparian zones with fragile vegetation. With an increase in the number of visitors that the Mojave River Campus will undoubtedly attract to the Mojave River Narrows Wildlands, random access creates serious erosion and trampling problems. Please read and abide by the following Wildlands use guidelines.

At remote wilderness locations that show little or no obvious impact, try to keep it that way. Where no trails exist, spread out on durable ground, such as rock, or gravel to avoid creating new paths. Avoid fragile areas, such as steep hillsides or the black, castle-like cryptogram that's found in some desert scrub locations. Making approach routes with cairns or flagging takes away the thrill and challenge of route finding people seek in these remote areas.

At access areas that see frequent traffic, the natural impulse is to make a beeline up through the brush or rocky outcrops to the desired area. Instead, take a moment longer to seek out and follow established paths and trails. A few footsteps off the trail may cause significant damage to the vegetation and attract further trampling and erosion, so remaining on existing paths is crucial. Try not to use trails that have been closed and respect rehabilitation efforts.

Choose work sites carefully. Work in existing areas designated on your Wildlands map as “outing work areas”, if possible, to center your activities on already barren areas. If no established sites exist, try to choose work site at least 25-50 feet from water on durable ground. Consider sites where either the vegetation is very resilient, (e.g. grasses), or the ground is bare (e.g. rock, gravel or sand). Avoid working and congregating on delicate flowers and woody ground covers as they are easily crushed.Try not to "improve" destinations by moving things around. If you move a few rocks to make a flat place to sit or work, put 'em back before you leave.

During muddy seasons and after rains, soft trails and roads are easily rutted and damaged, accelerating erosion during future runoff. Consider postponing your trip or choosing a different route to avoid the muddiest days. Keep four wheel-drive vehicles and mountain bikes on routes designated for such Wildlands’ access. Driving your vehicle off established routes in a pristine spot will leave a path that may tempt others to do the same. Use only established routes and parking sites instead.

How to Spread Out Use and Impact in Pristine Areas There may be situations when you are forced to select a work site above the high water line or where no one has worked before: a "pristine" site.

Use durable ground for these work sites. This is the most important consideration in determining where to set up equipment or tables on pristine sites.Non-vegetated areas such as slickrock, rock outcrops, gravel bars and sand beaches are the best. Forest duff is reasonably resistant for one day's use, but avoid crushing plants or seedlings, as forest floor vegetation is fragile. Grassy areas and dry meadows can also make good pristine work sites. They are quite resistant and capable of recovering rapidly from the effects of one or two days of minimum-impact use. When deciding whether to work in a meadow, consider your potential impact on wildlife.

Minimize the number of times any site is used. Spread out student teams (triads), avoid repetitive traffic routes and move work sites often. Wear soft-soled shoes when possible, and watch where you walk to avoid crushing vegetation. Take alternate paths when you enter and leave the work area to reduce impact. Move and work in an area as if a predator was tracking you.Try to leave no trace or trail pointing to your presence.

Protect riparian areas. The riparian zone is the fragile, green area along the banks of the river or any side streams. Wildlife depends on the riparian zone for food, water, cover and shelter. The riparian area is also a natural travel route for migratory birds and animals. If you can't camp on a sand beach or in an established site, a good rule of thumb is to work at least 25 feet from the river, and 50 feet (approximately 18 adult steps) from side streams and springs. This will help protect the fragile Mojave River ecosystem.

Naturalize the work site when leaving. Covering scuffed up areas with native materials, such as dried leaves, brushing out footprints, and raking matted grassy areas with a stick will help the site recover. This extra effort also helps hide any indication that your group has worked there, and makes it less likely that other Wildlands travelers will work in the same spot. When leaving site, make sure it is clean. Pick up all litter and food scraps-leave only footprints.

Avoiding Pristine Work Sites or Destinations Where Impact is Just Beginning Most pristine work sites or destinations located above the high water line can withstand some use and still recover. However, a threshold is eventually reached where vegetation cannot grow fast enough to keep pace with the trampling that occurs, and areas of bare ground are created. Once this occurs, the site will expand rapidly and deteriorate with continued use. This turning point for a particular site is affected by many variables including climate, soil type, vegetation, elevation and aspect. For some dryer location along the Mojave River, this level of use may be as little as one or two visits a season.Avoid non-designated, pristine sites that show slight signs of use.

Pristine work sites that show slight use are best left alone. With time and rest, these work sites may revert back to their natural appearance. Unfortunately, the effects of continued trampling on these sites often encourages growth of non-native and noxious weeds that provide poor forage for wildlife. It often takes active revegetation efforts to regrow native plants, a time-consuming and expensive process. If you see such areas while in the field, mark the area on your “Wildlands” map and get the information to one of the Science Team members (M. Deppe/ B. Deppe/D. Gaidzik/Huffine/Armstrong/Nyhoff).

By working and walking only on durable surfaces in remote areas and staying in well-established work sites in popular areas, it is possible to minimize changes to the landscape and prevent the proliferation of unnecessary work sites.

Working Along the Mojave River Bottom
River corridors are narrow strips of land and water where there is little room to disperse human impacts. Each season hundreds of people visit, play along, and travel the same magnificent but fragile desert corridor created by the Mojave River. At the present time use along the Mojave River corridor is largely unregulated above and below the Mojave Narrow River Wildlands managed by the LCER/AAE/MRC.

Potential hazards do exist. Due to the proximity of the rail lines (western boundry), switching yards and train station (through the “Narrows” and down river - north – about one mile), the perennial water source, and the tall trees and closed canopy, in the river bottom, vagrants find the Wildlands an attractive place to camp. Please be aware of this potentiality and report any “camp” sighting to Mr. Soholt and Mr. Huffine ASAP.
This area is also prime habitat for encroaching swarms of European and Africanize honeybees. Snakes also stalk small fish, amphibian, rodents, and insects in and along the wet riparian margins. Practice cautions and be observant when walking along the river bottom. Use established sites and beaches when available.

Select a work site. Selecting an appropriate work site for use as an outdoor classroom is an important aspect of minimum-impact river use. Generally it is best to work on beaches, sandbars or non-vegetated sites below the high waterline. These areas are the most resistant to impact, and when the river floods, signs of your stay will be washed away. Be aware that the Mojave River is a dam-controlled river in a flashflood prone watershed; therefore, high water lines may change daily, and that heavy rainstorms or snowmelt can cause water levels to rise rapidly and unexpectedly. Watch the river!When it's not possible to work on beaches or sandbars due to high or changing water levels, work at sites that are well established above the high water line. These areas can be found along the Apple Valley wash that paralles the eastern wash access trail below “Cottonwood Camp Staging Area”, and are obvious because they have already lost their vegetation cover. Further careful use of these areas will cause very little additional impact.

Place any equipment on areas that are already hardened by use. Never pull out vegetation or break off tree limbs for more comfortable working spots: this changes the natural look of an area. If you have to move rocks or downed logs, put them back where you found them.

Select a common eating spot. Just like in your home, this location is the spot where people tend to congregate. On riverside outings, this area will receive the most impact. Try to put your group eating area in the most resistant location possible. A large sandy beach is best – they are highly resistant to impact. When leaving your eating and work areas make sure they are clean. Pick up all litter and food scraps so these sites are attractive to the next visitors. Large “lunch” blankets or tarps make cleanup easy.

Avoid making new trails. In any work area, especially with large groups, traffic between the groups can quickly cause trails to form. Stay on already-established trails, even if it means going a bit out of your way. It only takes a few people traveling a new route through vegetation to create a noticeable path. The objective is to confine impact to places that already show use and avoid enlarging areas of disturbance.

The ABCD’s of a Safe “Wildlands” Experience

A stands for…

  • Always check in with [___________] and Matthew Huffine before doing the advanced planning for any wildlands event.
  • Always walk through the area(s) in the “wildlands” that you anticipate visiting in advance (at least 24 hours before your visit).
  • Assess any allergy/allergic condition(s) of the participants in your group before leaving on an outing. Make sure that you have permission from a parent/or guardian for each minor inattendance.
  • Always be alert to any change in weather, student or animal behavior during the outing and act according to the best interests of all concerned.

B stands for…

  • Be prepared for your “Wildlands” outing by bringing the suggested items (an instructors backpack containing a first aid kit, binoculars, emergency bee/snake bite kit, sunscreen, reusable trash bag, field guides (if needed) a laminated copy of the existing points of access and usable trails a field radio or personal cell phone ).
  • Brief your class about bees, bites, boundaries and blocks (closed toe shoes,hats, long pants (when needed) sun block)

C stands for…

  • Use caution & care when planning and conducting your outing,
    Check-in with [___________] ahead of time to get your outing on her “wildlands
    calendar of events”
  • Carry a Communication device (cell phone or campus field radio)

D stands for…

  • Debrief the outing with your staff, parent and student participants for +’s & -‘s
  • Describe any dangerous situation to Mr. Soholt and Mr. Huffine
  • Drop-off or deliver all the item barrowed (i.e. backpack, science equipment, radio, maps) to either [___________], [___________] or Matthew Huffine when you a finished with them.


"In the end,
We will conserve only what we love,
We will love only what we understand,
We will understand only what we are taught."
Baba Dieum