Cuyama Badlands

With the fog’s unrelenting grip on the immediate coast yet again this summer, I drove out to the Cuyama Badlands the other day to enjoy some heat and blue skies. It had been a year since my last venture specifically to the area. A previous trip up Apache Canyon early this last spring was stopped short due to storm damage to the road, the Forest Service was driving out after locking the gate just as I happened to be heading in.

The San Rafael and Sierra Madre Mountains cast a rain shadow over the Cuyama Valley region, which helps create an area of high desert badland terrain with pinyon pine and juniper woodland. It is quite unlike anything else around these parts. From plants to rocks, once I’m far back in the arroyos and in among the canyons and folds of land, it all seems so out of place for the tri-county area, as if a chunk of land from the American Southwest was scooped up and plopped down in California. Lush Matilija on one side of the mountains and badlands on the other.

Panorama view (click to enlarge) of Cuyama badlands from Highway-33 on the north slope of Pine Mountain. Mount Abel, Sawmill Mountain and Mount Pinos are seen in the distance. (August 2011)

The Cuyama River bed winding along on the left and into the distance alongside Highway-33 toward Ventucopa. Mount Abel is seen on right in the distance. (May 2011)

Another view of the Cuyama Badlands showing the upper reaches of Cuyama River leading out of a shallow canyon and past Dome Springs Camp. (May 2011)

Dome Springs area panorama made up of the following four photos below.

Overlooking Dome Springs Camp in Dry Canyon (August 2011). The camp’s name is a misnomer, according to “A Camper’s Guide to the Tri-County Are” by Bob Burtness, there is no spring at this camp. Although, there is a spring labeled on maps I have.

A view from higher on the hill overlooking Dome Springs Camp hidden among the pinyon pine.

Looking down canyon.

Looking up canyon.

A canyon floor view showing Great Basin sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) in the foreground. The Cuyama River bed runs along the foot of the ridge.

Apache Canyon (August 2010):

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