Route 66 in the Mojave Desert

Although I’m working today in the photography studio at Studios on the Park in downtown Paso Robles, California, I wanted to add a brief post to my web blog of two very interesting places I encountered while exploring historic Route 66 in California’s magnificent Mojave Desert. The first image below depicts one of the numerous salt evaporation (solar) ponds located near the deserted town of Amboy in San Bernardino County, California. Amboy is located on the National Trails Highway along the original U.S. Route 66 and is home to the famous but now defunct Roy’s Motel and Cafe, a great example of mid-century modern architecture.

Amboy, California, Salt Evaporation Ponds

A Salty Dog

Located a few miles south of Amboy along Amboy Road (enroute to the desert towns of Twentynine Palms and Palm Springs), this is one of dozens of ponds operated and mined by the National Chloride Company of America to produce calcium chloride. Salt evaporation ponds, also called salterns or salt pans, are shallow artificial ponds designed to produce salts from sea water or other brines. The seawater or brine is commonly fed into large ponds and water is drawn out through natural evaporation, which allows the salt to be subsequently harvested. In this case, however, the naturally occurring underground brines from Bristol Dry Lake allow the harvesting of salt by digging deep canals or pits into the dry lake bed. The ponds are commonly separated by levees and make wonderful photographic subjects. Dozens of these ponds can be seen from the road, which appear to be lush swimming pools in the otherwise harsh desert.

The Historic Abandoned Roy's Motel and Cafe, Amboy, California

No-Tell Motel

Pictured above is Roy’s Motel and Cafe, a defunct motel, cafe, gas station, and auto repair shop in Amboy, located directly on old Route 66. This historic site is a prime example of roadside, mid-century modern Googie architecture, and is a great example of architecture influenced by car culture and the space/atomic age. Plans have been underway for many years to remodel and reopen the old cafe; however, these plans have yet to come to fruition. If you are traveling in the Mojave Desert, I highly recommend taking a detour and visiting Amboy.

5 comments


  • [...] Route 66 in the Mojave Desert – a wonderful brief study on the current state of Amboy, California after the decline of the famous Route 66.  Renée Besta does a fabulous job here of both documenting this photographically as well as sharing some of the historical details which in turn adds context. [...]

    March 08, 2012
  • Nice set of images. Tried to get there last time but never could. Next time!

    March 06, 2012
    • Thanks for your comments and taking time to read my post. Amboy is indeed a great place to take a detour on old Route 66 and photograph. There is also a crater nearby to explore.

      March 06, 2012
  • Great post here, Renee, I just love this sort of thing! What an interesting back-story here, my friend, I am literally one flipper away from jumping in the convertible and heading down your way to check this out! :)

    March 06, 2012
    • As always, your comments are most appreciated, Toad. Yes, I understand the urge to jump into a convertible and go road-tripping. So many cool places to photograph. Amboy is very unique and definitely worth taking a detour off the Interstate to visit. I love all things mid-century modern, vintage, and retro.

      There is also a nearby crater – Amboy Crater – to visit and photograph. I am behind in my image processing and need to add more images to these posts.

      March 06, 2012

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