Mo’ Mud (Palisades)

After getting my eyes on the Mud Palisades for the first time in December 2019, I was eager to return and explore this fascinating part of Anza Borrego Desert State Park that lies at the end of Olla Wash.

Thankfully, I was able to get Peter interested in the area as well, and he took us there with his trusty 4WD Toyota 4Runner, in January 2020. High clearance is a must on the miles and miles of dirt road in Fish Creek wash and I had previously driven almost the entire distance with my 2WD Honda CRV, but you never know the exact conditions of this “road” so I was glad for the safety of 4WD and Peter’s confidence in getting us there.

We chose an afternoon for this exploration and while the sky was mostly clear and blue, it was surprisingly cold at the Mud Palisades. Peter let me borrow a spare windbreaker, and without that it sure would have been a rather unpleasant experience!

Olla Wash splits into dozens of little tributaries at the Mud Palisades and we wandered into the nearest one – it didn’t lead us very far in, but after we backtracked and took another side-arm, we ended up in a short, but really impressive slot canyon. After scrambling over some large granite boulders, a dry fall marked the end but above me, an enormous granite boulder was stuck between the slot canyon walls – I had never seen anything like it.

One could easily spend an entire day exploring all the different branches and slits that lead further into the Mud Palisades. What an incredible place! It was getting late in the afternoon, the sun had disappeared behind the mountains to the west already, and we came out of this sandstone labyrinth just in time for that beautiful light on the landscape, absent of direct sun, and instead illuminated by the indirect light from the sky.

It was getting really, really windy and also very, very cold – at some point, it became quite impossible to get a steady photo from the tripod, due to the wind. We went back to Peter’s car and used the last light of the day to navigate Fish Creek wash, through the narrows at Split Mountain, and had dinner in Borrego Springs.

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Next: November 2020 End Notes

3 thoughts on “Mo’ Mud (Palisades)”

  1. What a beautiful and interesting place! Your photos are wonderful and make me want to get there and visit. Love the colors in the rock. My husband does 3D photography, he would love the slots!

  2. Ah, pre-COVID adventures! I really enjoyed seeing the rock, the pretty Ocotillo (I remember those from Arizona & Joshua Tree) andthat beautiful landscape. The slot canyons and the idea of danger brought on by those stuck rocks made me think of Aron Ralston…I bet you read his book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Danger is on my mind with several high wind episodes up here lately, lots of huge, downed trees and at least one seriously rearranged shoreline. I’m glad you had such a great day…the best friends have spare parkas. ;-) (I love that sandstone formation and the pastel rocks on the slopes, beautiful!)

  3. Sounds like a fantastic day! And the landscape has an almost unreal look to it, otherworldly. There’s so much out there to see. I love the variety in these photos, both of lighting and scenery. For whatever reason one of the photos that really stands out to me is of the lighter toned slopes of Olla Wash, soft light illuminating a rock slide that weaves its way downhill, with a darker barrel cactus in the foreground, mid-ground, and again in the background, standing out nicely against the lighter colored rocks, and a couple spent agave blooms down below near the center.


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