Mojave National Preserve – Kelso Depot


What? : Built in 1924 by the Union Pacific Railroad, the old, non-operative, and impressive Kelso Depot has been renovated and transformed into Mojave National Preserve’s principal information center, with museum exhibits, historically furnished rooms, a theater, and bookstore.

The Kelso Depot Visitor Center is currently close, Reopening anticipated Spring 2023.

Visitor services are available at Hole-In-The-Wall Information Center Friday to Monday 10am to 4pm.


Now, when the visitor center is close, this is no more than a short stop on your way, park your car take few pictures of the building and the outside “jail” and you will continue with your trip.


Related blogs:

Mojave National Preserve – Baker

Mojave National Preserve – Lava Tube

Mojave National Preserve – Kelso Dunes

Mojave National Preserve – visit planning, 2 days trip itinerary

Mojave National Preserve – Visit Planning


Where? :

From I-15, exit at Kelbaker Road (Baker, California, exit 245) and drive south 35 miles to Kelso.

From I-40, exit at Kelbaker Road (exit 78) and drive north 22 miles to Kelso.

Google Map Link


When? : Late fall, winter and spring is the preferred time to visit the Mojave desert, summer is just too hot.


Due note 1: Water - Always take more than what you think you need, this is desert and temperature can be hot, in summer this is extremely hot environment.


Due note 2: Drive with enough fuel, no gas station in Mojave National Preserve


Due note 3: No cellular reception in Mojave National Preserve (you may have receptions near the main Highways). If you are using cellular map with GPS make sure you download the map in advance where you have cell reception (Wi-Fi connectivity is preferred).


Due note 4: During winter month, bring with you few warm cloths, you may get warm during the day and the hike, but you will need them once the sun is going down in a cold evening.


Due note 5: Only few paved roads cross the Mojave Desert, most main dirt roads are in good conditions, but some may be impossible to pass after heavy rain. There are many off-road, 4x4 only trails, make sure you know what you are doing and what your car can handle safely.


The visit:


The Kelso Depot, once a train stop, a restaurant, and employees hotel, now the Mojave National Preserve Visitors Center, located in the heart of Mojave National Preserve.


In early 1923 the railroad began construction of the new "Kelso Clubhouse & Restaurant" which opened the next year. The Kelso Depot was built to provide services to passengers and railroad employees, and a water stop for the steam locomotives.

The facility served interstate passenger and shipping traffic and the transport of ore from local mines, especially the Vulcan Mine.


In 1994 the Mojave National Preserve was established, and the depot was transferred to the National Park Service. A historical restoration and adaptive reuse project followed in 2002.

The Kelso Depot now serves, since 2005, as the main Visitor Center of the Mojave National Preserve.


Once back to be operative, the Kelso Depot Hours of Operation 9 a.m. to 5 p.m daily, Restrooms and water are available at Kelso Depot.


The nearest gas station is available on I-15 at Baker (35 miles) and at the Cima Road exit.