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In the days of steam trains, the town of Kelso was a critical watering spot for locomotives. Built in 1924, the elegant Kelso Depot is Spanish Mission style, with the requisite red-tile roof and graceful arches. At its peak, during World War II, the town supported 2,000 residents, and the depot's diner, the Beanery, served customers 24 hours a day. Once slated for demolition, the depot has been restored by the National Park Service for use as the preserve's visitor center. The Beanery now serves sandwiches, chili, and ice cream from 9am to 5pm daily.

Skirting the preserve's northern boundary is the whistle-stop town of Nipton. Founded in 1885, Nipton was a true ghost town, until nearly a century later, Los Angeles transplants Jerry and Roxanne Freeman began restoring its dilapidated buildings. At its height, Nipton was at the center of Mojave industry, providing railroad access for miners and ranchers; silent film star Clara Bow was a visitor. Call tel. 760/856-2335 or visit www.nipton.com for additional information on Nipton.

At the preserve's western boundary, on the shores of the stark white Soda Dry Lake, is Zzyzx (a cryptic name, pronounced Zeye-zix, that's puzzled generations of motorists). Reached by taking the Zzyzx Road exit from I-15 and carefully negotiating a 4-mile rocky dirt road, the springs have a colorful history. In addition to being an important watering hole for those crossing the desert, the site was an American Indian camp, a military outpost, a wagon station, the headquarters of a Hollywood radio evangelist, and a trendy health resort (with the fanciful name of Zzyzx Mineral Springs). The springs are still active, feeding the elegant pools left over from the resort's heyday and supporting an entire ecosystem of wildlife at the lake bed's edge. You can stroll among the buildings, now used by California State University's Desert Studies Center (http://biology.fullerton.edu/dsc), and learn more about the area's history from interpretive signs on a .25-mile trail around Lake Tuendae.

Throughout the preserve are remnants of the historic Mojave Road, a 19th-century wagon route to the West Coast. Check with preserve rangers for tips on where to find sections of the old road.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.