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Desert Studies Center

Location and Facilities


How to Get to the Desert Studies Center

The Desert Studies Center is located at Soda Springs (a.k.a. “Zzyzx”), on the western shore of Soda Dry Lake, and in the northwest corner of the Mojave National Preserve.  We are accessed via Interstate 15, the main highway between the Los Angeles area of Southern California, and Las Vegas, Nevada.  From the west, take I-15 North towards Barstow and Las Vegas.  About 58 miles past Barstow, take the Zzyzx Road exit, and turn right.  From the Las Vegas area, take I-15 South towards Baker/Barstow/Los Angeles, and take the Zzyzx Road exit (about 6 miles past Baker, California) and turn left.

Once on Zzyzx Road, continue south to the DSC - at road’s end - about 4.3 miles.  The road is paved along most of the route (wildlife water along the short dirt section – please drive SLOWLY).  Guests with reservations may pass through the entry gate, turn left and follow signs to the parking area.  NOTE:  visiting members of the public must park in the National Park Service parking area, on the right just before passing through our gate.  Visitors are free to explore the area on foot during daylight hours. Dogs must be on leads while visiting, and are not allowed in the buildings.

The Area

The Center is situated on the shore of Soda Dry Lake at an elevation of 237 meters (938 feet) and at the western edge of the Mojave National Preserve. As such it serves as a convenient departure point for groups visiting the Death Valley National Park, the Kelso Dunes, the Afton Canyon riparian areas, the Cima Dome and Volcanic area, the historic Mojave Road, the Early Man Site at Calico, the Providence, New York, Granite, and Clark mountains, and many other interesting features and localities in the East Mojave Desert.

Instructional & Research Facilities

In addition to living accommodations, DSC guests have access to both classroom and laboratory space.  Two meeting rooms are available, each able to accommodate about 30 people, as well as the Main Hall, which although usually configured as the dining room, can be reconfigured for meetings of up to 60 people.  Chalkboards, dry-erase boards, flip charts, VCR/DVD players and monitors, 35mm and overhead projectors, LCD projectors, windows and Mac laptops, wireless presentation controls/laser pointer, and screens are all available for guest use.  A moderately equipped laboratory is available for individual or group use (lab equipment/supplies and field equipment lists available on request), as are our herbarium, invertebrate and vertebrate collections.  A modest library is also available, focusing on reference materials, maps, research reports and theses pertaining to the region. The center has wifi internet access, available at the discretion of the manager.   Qualified individuals may have access to our telescopes for astronomical observations. The DSC Managers are familiar with much of the region, as well as the needs of instructors and researchers working in it, and are available for consultation before or during your visit. 


The Center can accommodate up to 75 individuals in dormitory style rooms each holding two to twelve persons.  A small number of private/faculty rooms are also available. For those intending to utilize the facility for an extended period of time, two long-term researcher residences are available. Each is equipped with its own full kitchen and bathroom with enough space to accommodate up to five individuals. All rooms are equipped with single, double or bunk beds with mattresses; guests must supply their own bedding or sleeping bag and pillow.  All dorm rooms have heaters, and are cooled by evaporative coolers in the warmer months.  The community bathhouse provides sinks, hot showers and flush toilets.  There are no camping facilities at the Center, however, camping is permitted in the Razor Open Area approximately four miles south of the facility, accessible from the Razor Road exit off I-15. RVs can be accommodated with approved advanced notice, however, there are no utility hookups or dump station at the DSC.

Food Service

The following options are available for food service while staying at the DSC:

  • Arrange for catering, either through the DSC (groups of 10 or more) or independently (see below)
  • Utilize the kitchen facilities at the DSC for self-service of group meals (see below)
  • Dine at one of the several restaurants in Baker (20 minutes from the DSC)
Catering - Those wishing to arrange catering through the DSC should request this option during the reservation process.  Prices for this service will vary depending on the number of meals and menu requested.

Self-service - Groups choosing to provide their own food service using the DSC kitchen facilities or their own equipment must comply with certain federal regulations as required by the National Park Service and the County of San Bernardino. Contact the Administrative Coordinator for a permit forms and instructions. The DSC will pay your permit fee and the process can be completed by Fax.  Individuals who are not part of a group may prepare their own meals at the DSC without permit, but access to kitchen facilities may be limited.  There are both outdoor and indoor dining areas at the DSC along with access to gas barbecues on our patio.  

Dine Out - A list of restaurant facilities in is available on request from the administrative office.

Utilities at the Desert Studies Center

The DSC is located in a remote area not served by utility companies.  As such, we provide our own utility systems.  Water at the DSC is produced from a well and naturally contains several mineral salts, rendering it non-potable (not drinkable), but suitable for all other purposes such as showering and dishwashing.  We purify our own drinking water on-site by reverse osmosis, and this water is provided to guests at specific locations.  Electrical power is supplied primarily by a photovoltaic (solar) power station, supplemented by wind generators and propane/diesel generators.  Power is supplied to guests at a standard 110 VAC @ 60Hz, but must be conserved to stay within generating capacities.  Outside lighting is usually terminated by 10 P.M. and guests are encouraged to conserve power when possible and avoid the use of high demand items such as hairdryers.

Additional Facilities

Those staying for longer periods may use our laundry facility (automatic washer, and clothesline drying).   During free time you may relax around the campfire ring, toss horseshoes, use the basketball hoop, or soak in our small pool (season permitting!).  A small gift store is also available, with DSC T-shirts, hats, and cups, as well as postcards, notecards, and books about the region.


Most facilities at the Center are wheelchair accessible.