U.S. National Park Service
Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail View of Imperial County
The view of Imperial County southeast of San Sebastian

Photo: Vladimir Guerro
  Imperial County - Across the Desert to San Sebastian

Counties on the trail from south to north: 

To download as a PDF, click here (1 Mb). Viewable with Adobe Acrobat Reader 
Map of Juan Bautista de Anza trail in Imperial County
Desert and dunes near Yuha Wells The desert and dunes near Yuha Wells offer a stark contrast to the cactus-filled deserts near Tubac and Tucson.
Photo: NPS


Driving Directions for Auto Route

Continuing on the auto route from Yuma County, at Yuma, Arizona, the historic route dips into Baja California, Mexico, and then turns north through the California desert on Bureau of Land Management land to arrive at the San Felipe Wash. The auto route takes the driver from Yuma to the San Felipe Wash on roads well east of, but parallel to, the historic route. Follow I-8 west from Yuma to CA 98. In Calexico, turn north from CA 98 to CA 111. At Heber Road, turn west on CA 86. Turn west on CA 78 which parallels San Felipe Wash, the historic trail. The climate of this route is one of the most extreme anywhere along the Anza Trail. Summertime temperatures frequently reach over 120 degrees for extended periods of time. To continue on the auto route, see San Diego County.

Hiking/Biking Ideas

Thirty-eight miles of the Anza Trail are marked within Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in the Yuha Desert area west of El Centro. Always carry drinking water, and seek shade if needed. The Plaster City and Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Areas allow off road vehicles in designated areas. The Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge is a great place for bird watching.

Statue of Father Garces
Father Garcés and a Native at Mission La Purísima Concepción.

Photo: Ron Ory


For December 17, 1775, Father Font writes, "...At night, with the joy at the arrival of all the people, they held a fandango here. It was somewhat discordant, and a very bold widow who came with the expedition sang some verses which were not at all nice, applauded and cheered by all the crowd...the fandango, which lasted until very late." Today, less than 10 miles away at the Salton Sea, over 30, 000 white pelicans give visitors an equally exuberant and flamboyant spectacle as they migrate to the area each year. The Salton Sea International Bird Festival in February celebrates over 380 species of birds.

Mission La Purisima Concepcion
Mission La Purísima Concepción

Photo: Ron Ory
  About Your Visit to Imperial County

Anza followed the Colorado River south into what is now Mexico. The 1775/76 colonizing expedition remained south of the present border for several days to rest before crossing the desert in three groups (plus a fourth with the cattle). They looped back into what would become Imperial County, California 132 years later. They then continued north to the San Sebastian Marsh, turned west and followed San Felipe Creek. (See the historical background.)


Sites of Interest

A. Mission Purísima Concepción and Expedition Camp #42
Expedition Camp #42 was just south of Pilot Knob. Along their way, Font and Anza paused at a granite bluff to view the Colorado River plain on December 4, 1775. Nearby, in 1780, Father Garcés founded Mission Purísima Concepción, only to have it destroyed by the Quechan uprising of July 1781. In the process, Father Garcés, Fernando de Rivera y Moncada, and many soldiers and settlers were killed. The mission site (32░43.833'N 114░36.937'W) is probably where the St. Thomas Indian Mission stands today (on Picacho Rd, Fort Yuma, 1 mile South of Winterhaven).

B. Santa Olalla and Expedition Camps #43-46 (Baja California)
Although these camps in Baja California are not part of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, they are marked as Ruta Histórica (Hwy 2). Camp #44 (Santa Olalla) was where Anza wrote a letter to Viceroy Bucareli during the 1774 expedition, telling of its difficulties and the trustworthiness of the Quechan and their chief (Palma). During the 1775/76 expedition, the second fandango was held here, and Anza wrote five letters. In one to Bucareli, he tells of two births, the one death, and the expedition's difficulties. It was here that the local natives (probably the Cocopah and Cajuenches tribes) gave the colonists fish and watermelons which Anza thought improved the health of those who were sick. It was also here that the expedition split up into three groups to cross the desert without depleting the watering holes.

C. Wells of Santa Rosa (Yuha Well) and Expedition Camps #47 and #48    (See Father Font's map in new window)
The well, called Santa Rosa de las Lajas (Flat Rocks) by Anza, was used on March 8, 1774. On December 11-15, 1775, the three divisions of Anza's colonizing expedition used this site as the first good watering spot beyond the Colorado River. It is about 7 miles northwest of Mexico's Mount Signal, on the southwest side of Dunaway Rd. in the Yuha Desert. California State Historic Landmark No. 1008 plaque is found at the Eastbound Sunbeam Roadside Rest Area, between Drew and Forrester Rds., on I-8 near Seeley. The Vista de Anza Historical Marker is found off Hwy 98 northwest of Calexico, 6 miles south of Coyote Wells. Camp #48 was near the Plaster City OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) area.

D. San Sebastián Marsh/San Felipe Creek and Expedition Camp #49    (See Father Font's map in new window)
San Sebastián Marsh is the site of prehistoric villages and represented a stable water source in the desert environment. It was a campsite for both the 1774 and 1775-76 expeditions. Named for Anza's Indian guide, Sebastián Tarabal, it is located 18 miles northwest of Westmoreland in the vicinity of the junction of state highways 86 and 78. Ironically, the nearby Salton Sea, formed when a canal broke in 1905, is today a 35 mile long desert oasis and includes a National Wildlife Refuge.

  Learning On The Trail in Imperial County

Questions on the Trail

Native American in Anza Trail logoSebastián Tarabal was an American Indian from Baja California who accompanied Portolá on his 1769 expedition. He was later taken to Mission San Gabriel. He escaped with his wife and another native across the desert, reaching a frontier outpost of New Spain while Anza was preparing to leave for his 1774 expedition. Anza took Sebastián along with him as a guide. For his help in crossing the treacherous desert, Anza named camp #49 after him. Anza took Sebastián with him again on this 1775-76 expedition, and left him at the Yuma Crossing together with Fathers GarcÚs and Eixarch. Sebastián later accompanied Father Garcés on a remarkable trek to California through the Mojave Desert and the Sierras during the same year. Anza called him el Peregrino, the traveler/pilgrim.

Question: Name one American Indian who might be honored in the Anza Trail Logo. From Yuma County, name another.

Question: Did Sebastián Tarabal and Father Garcés make it to Mission San Gabriel? To find out if Sebastián was a witness at Maria Feliciana Arballo's wedding in April 1776, see Los Angeles County or this excerpt from the book of marriages at Mission San Gabriel. (The excerpt will open in a new window. Please close that window when finished.)

Tiles outside Pacific House in Monterey


On the CD: Desert Fandangos

Cattle on the move (recorded on a Sinaloa Cattle Drive);
Chacona, "To the Good Life" by Juan Arañés (guitar);
Music for the Fandango: El Minuet de Cuatro (guitar)

The campsite for December 6-8, 1775 was at Santa Olalla south of Imperial County in Baja California. When the herd of cattle caught the sight and smell of the water at their destination, they rushed for the water to drink. It was here that the second Fandango was held. It was also where Anza decided to divide the march through the desert into three groups, plus a fourth consisting of the vaqueros and the cattle.

The diaries do not record the music played during the Fandangos. One can be sure that it did not include the same religious music mentioned by Father Font. Perhaps the highly popular Chacona, used in plays and in the theatre in Spain during from the 16th century onward, was imitated on whatever instruments were available. After they crossed the desert, the third Fandango (December 17) was held at San Sebastián, a camp named after Anza's Indian guide, Sebastián Tarabal. Font later censures the young widow Feliciana Arballo here for the lyrics of a song she sang while dancing.

Click to play Fandango MP3 audio file

Play MP3 file of Desert Fandangos: Cattle Drive, Chacona, El Minuet de Cuatro.
Lance Beeson (Guitar)
(playing time 4 minutes 36 seconds)

Additional Resources

St. Thomas Indian Mission - Indian Hill on Picacho Rd., Winterhaven, CA 92283;
tel.: 760-572-0992

Fort Yuma Quechan Nation - P.O. Box 1899, Yuma, AZ 85366;
tel.: 760-572-0213;

Cocopah Indian Reservation - County 15th and Avenue G, Somerton AZ 85350;
tel.: 928-627-1992,
web: cocopah.com

BLM El Centro Field Office -1661 South Fourth St., El Centro, CA 92243;
tel.: 760-337-4400,
web: ca.blm.gov/elcentro

Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge - 906 West Sinclair Rd., Calipatria, CA 92233 9744;
tel.: 760-348-5278,
web: fws.gov/saltonsea

Remember that entering the U.S. or Mexico without using a port of entry is dangerous and illegal. For example, use the Port of Entry at Mexicali or Algadones -
tel: 760-572-0089, and
web: cbp.gov

Click to see Anza Roll CallClick to learn more about the Anza Trail in the California desert. View Father Font's map, an 1891 map and information on remote sensing. This will open in a new window, that you can close when finished.

Back to Juan Bautista de Anza Trail Guide Homepage.

Listen to tracks on the Anza Trail Guide CD.

Learn more about the Anza Trail CD and Music.

Learn more about the Anza Trail Guide Project.

Look up names, locations and terms in the Glossary.

Disclaimer Accessibility Privacy Policy FOIA Notices USA.gov