The Wildlands Conservancy lands have officially moved to the top of my list of favorite wild spaces. After taking our annual family fall hike through the Oak Glen Preserve — which is also part of the Conservancy — the ranger talked us into heading to Whitewater Preserve near Palm Springs.
Wow! I’m so glad we extended our adventure to check out this beautiful place. The weather was perfect. [NOTE: It can be scorchingly hot here, or very windy, or dangerous due to flash flooding – so call ahead for conditions and so you can time your visit right.]
You take Interstate 10 towards Palm Springs and exit at Whitewater right after the 111 to Palm Springs. Go left over the interstate and take the road almost 5 miles until it dead ends. You might be feeling skeptical when you come upon the massive turbine wind farm and a view up the road that looks like this:
Eventually you’ll get a good view of the “white water” as you cross over it.
Finally, you’ll find a small parking lot, ranger station and the ponds that make this place really special. The contrast of the wet turquoise colors with the dry desert is striking.
You’ll find some friends in the pond – just for looking. The kids will LOVE this part. You can see them super up-close and all the details are breathtaking. Even the littlest kids I saw were mesmerized. I read that fishing is “limited to organized catch and release programs for kids in which all equipment is provided.”
Ah, that color! You can spend some time wandering among the 3 ponds on a paved path. The kids will love the sense of discovery because you won’t know what’s coming next until you round the next corner.
You can’t touch the ponds near the ranger station, but you can get your feet wet in the wading pool on the other side of the parking lot. It’s fed by a little stream:
There are fun rock islands around the pool. The water is maybe a foot deep.
We have to take these opportunities to SLOW DOWN. The kids grow up so fast (mine were 2 and 6 when I started this blog – look at them now)!
- ONLY open 8am-5pm. Otherwise the gates are closed.
- Completely FREE. (But, donate something! Seriously!)
- Get trail maps and info from the rangers inside the station. This spot hooks up with the Pacific Crest Trail.
- Be prepared to enjoy the wading pool and even the river. Bring a spare pair of clothes AND shoes (because they will probably get wet).
- This is a WILD place so watch for snakes, bears, cougars, etc. Read up on the warnings so you can be prepared.
- Bring a picnic!!! Food, water, and other services are scarce at these wildland outposts. So make sure you’re fully-stocked up for the whole family. The picnic area is beautiful and you’ll want to laze around and enjoy your surroundings.
- Official Whitewater Preserve website
Read about a few family-friendly Palm Springs area activities:
- The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens Displays Sonoran Desert Life
- Cafe at Shields Date Garden for an Outdoor Lunch
Originally published in October 2013.