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Camels on the Mojave Road

Camels on the Mojave Road

By Alan and Claudia Heller

The Mojave Road, also known as Old Government Road (formerly the Mohave Trail),

 is a historic route and present day dirt road across what is now the Mojave...

Trudging along the Old Mojave Road, it was as though we were going back in time to the day camels occupied the California desert, in an effort to replace the burro. This failed experiment originated in the 1850s on the premise that these beasts of burden were already acclimated to the challenges of desert travel and could carry much more than burros. More than 60 dromedaries (one of the existing species of camel) were imported and took up their duties in aiding the military. After the experiment was deemed a failure (many say it was a political decision), the camels trekked along the Old Mojave Road, headed for San Pedro then Fort Tejon.

Fast forward to present day, overshadowed by Covid, the camel remains a force to contend with as private owners cling to camel history and strive to keep it alive. A re-enactment of a portion of past camel treks across the California desert took place recently as several camel owners transported their beasts in trailers to Goffs on Old Route 66. After a stay among the historic stamp mills, the camels and owners camped on the Old Mojave Road and trekked along a portion of that ancient path, reliving the days when camels were a common sight. Stopped at the famed “penny can,” the group rendezvoused while the camels socialized, some loudly complaining. “They are very vocal, and have lots to say,” says Nance Fite, organizer of the event. Nance is a retired deputy sheriff, best known for her one- time assistant deputy, Bert the camel. She now owns Trouper, her current camel, which was an active force on 

the camel re-enactment along with his trainer Jason.

Bent on keeping camel history alive, Nance belongs to several camel organizations and plans events to promote camel lore. “I’m excited to show others and ride again on part of the Mojave Road. The historical road spans 132.9 miles, starting at the Colorado River, across from Fort Mojave, ending at Camp Cady. Our trek will cover about 30 miles in three days in the Mojave National Preserve.” says Nance.

 Included on the trek was a variety of participants, each with a connection to this historic road. In 2018, Arioch Greene said goodbye to his water polo days at Glendora High School and headed for college at CSU Monterey Bay. He was thriving there, surrounded by water, but his life today is far different. Arioch is the student resident volunteer at Goffs on Old Route 66, home of the Mojave Desert Historical and Cultural Association. Among his variety of projects includes helping maintain guzzlers for Big Horn Sheep. However, the most recent project was participating in the camel trek.

Goffs is open for public tours which start at the remodeled 1914 schoolhouse which was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 11, 2001. After visiting the historic exhibits at the schoolhouse, visitors may leisurely tour the grounds and enjoy the antique cars, the library and stamp mills to name a few. There is also a nature trail and cemetery. A guide explaining all the exhibits is available at the schoolhouse.

For directions and other information, log on to, or e-mail Laura Misajet, Executive Director. Goffs is truly a California gem and embodies the Mojave Desert Heritage & Cultural Association which is dedicated to the preservation of the history of the area.