Ask any sport ATV rider (and more than a few utility riders) and they’ll tell you that getting out to the dunes to shred some sand is tops on their list of fun. Ask companies like Alba Action and LRD and they’ll tell you that many customers come to them to have work done on dunes-only machines. Two-strokes are alive and well in the dunes, with Banshees naturally being the number-one choice. All manner of four-strokes, from Z400s to Bombardier DS650s, also burn up the sand.
If you have the itch, and only sand can scratch it, make sure you put Dumont Dunes on your list of places to ride. Located in California, out in the middle of a desolate volcanic landscape Southwest of Las Vegas, Dumont is known as one of the ultimate places to pit sand against man.
The material at Dumont was laid down by the erosion action of the Amargosa River over millions of years. The result is a fine-textured sand that stands today in huge dunes. The largest dune, Competition Hill, is nearly 480 feet tall. Yes, that’s the same as a 48-story building. It’s quite a moment when you’re jamming up the face of a huge Dumont dune, and after a while you realize that even at your current speed, the summit is still a long way off! Then you start to think about what going down will be like, and the butterflies start to flap their wings in your stomach. You will literally be dwarfed by the Dumont sand dunes—they are huge.
Like most sand areas, be it Michigan, Oregon, or Namibia, the wind is constantly changing the features of the dunes. One day it will be smooth as silk, the next there will be tiny ridges and furrows in the sand, making riding rough. It can be difficult to judge distances while riding in the sun’s glare, and drop-offs may appear suddenly. Ride with caution and keep your eyes peeled for other OHV enthusiasts.
The “angle of repose” for sand is always the same, which means that the backsides of dunes will be the same steepness. At Dumont, that equals steep and deep. Ever gone skiing and dropped in on a big bowl? It’s the same thing on a quad at Dumont. You’re in for a long drop to the bottom, so stay in control and gentle but steady on the brakes, or let the engine to the braking.
FACILITIES AND FEES
In 2004, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will be collecting a fee to ride at Dumont. This is to help keep the land safe and clean for the ever-increasing number of riders. The fee is $20 per primary vehicle and/or campsite when purchased onsite at Dumont Dunes, or $18 if purchased in advance from the BLM or online. The Barstow Field Office is located at 2601 Barstow Road in Barstow and the online site is www.ThePermitStore.com. The Easter weekend (April 7-13) will require the dues, and then the program is off until October, when it will become permanent.
The parking and camping areas have basic pit toilets, but that’s about it. It can get windy out there, and the camping areas are unsheltered, so be prepared for blowing sand. Don’t drive Dad’s prize 1957 Corvette out there, either. Temps range from warm in spring to blazing hot in summer, so come prepared. Emergency medical help is not near at hand, either. Always ride with a buddy and have extra water with you in all seasons, but especially in the hot summer months.
The usual rules apply to riding at Dumont: your ATV must have a mast and flag, helmets are required, and so are spark arresters. Further, if you are a California resident, you need a “Green Sticker” registration on your ATV. If you are not a resident of California and your OHV is not registered in your home state, you are required to have a “Nonresident” OHV permit, issued by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, to legally operate your vehicle in the state of California. These Nonresident permits ($20 for one year, for each OHV) may be purchased in a variety of ways, including from the Wills Fargo Country Store (72129 Baker Blvd.), in Baker, California (just off Interstate-15), or by writing to California State Parks, Non-Resident OHV/OSV Permits, P.O. Box 942896, Sacramento, CA 94296-0001. Questions can be directed to the OHMVR Division by calling (916) 324-4442.
HOW TO GET THERE AND WHERE TO RIDE
The riding area is south of the Amargosa River and east of State Highway 127, about 31 miles north of Baker, California. There are two ways of getting to the dunes. Take Highway 15 until you see the exit for highway 127. The Little Dunes staging and camping area is directly off Highway 127, conveniently located for immediate staging. One mile north of there, just off Highway 127, is Dumont Road, a dirt road that follows and crosses the river, leading to the main field of large dunes.
The Kingston Range Wilderness borders the riding area to the north. This area is closed to motor vehicles. Travel outside the riding area to the south and east is permitted only on designated routes and only with street-legal vehicles.
The riding is epic, the dunes are challenging, and the scenery is wild and beautiful. If you’re ready for some of the greatest sand dune riding the United States has to offer, head your trucks to Dumont Dunes. Tell ‘em Dirt Wheels sent ya!
Official BLM site: www.ca.blm.gov/ barstow/dumont.html o