Dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the scientific, historical and cultural heritage of the Mojave Desert.

About the

Mojave River Valley Museum

The Mojave River Valley Museum is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the scientific, historical and cultural heritage of the Mojave River Valley.

Through the efforts of a group of interested residents, the Museum was founded in 1964 and established as a nonprofit corporation in 1973. Donations of money, time and labor have resulted in the present Museum facility located at the corner of Barstow Road and Virginia Way.

The Museum continues to operate through the efforts of its members and by donations from the public.

Mark Your Calendars!

March General Meeting

7:00 pm, Wednesday, April 26

From Whiskey Pete’s (Las Vegas) to the Cajon Pass; from Joshua Tree to Death Valley: Mojave Desert Bootlegging

On April 26 at 7:00 pm, Cliff Walker’s 2nd Edition of One Eye Closed, the Other Red: The California Bootlegging Years is available with the biggest chapter on bootlegging in the Mojave Desert, discussing desert moonshining and bootlegging.

A surprise will occur as he introduces a former moonshiner who made booze while attending Newberry Springs school. Also David Romero will show his historic skill at making moonshine with free samples available to those over 21 years old.

The Mojave Desert was wild in the Prohibition Years; it wasn’t New York or Chicago, but it was wide open with booze made on deserted or rented farms, in abandoned mine shafts, in tunnels dug in the hard sand of the Mojave River bed. Airplanes landed on at least five dry lake beds to deliver sugar alcohol made in Mexico. Trucks carried booze not only from desert stills, but on the old National Trails and Route 66, Arrowhead Highway and Highway 91 in their race through the desert to supply California cities.

In those “Dry” years California was indeed “Wet” and the Mojave Desert helped thirsty Californians satisfy their need for liquor or their need to s defy a law they disagreed with. In the 1700s Count Montesquieu wrote in “The Spirit of the Laws” stressing that if a law violated the Spirit of the Law, it would not be enforced. Americans used his idea to break from Great Britain and Americans felt the Prohibition Law, Amendment 18, violated the spirit of the law for Americans. Prohibition ended in December 5, 1933. But the years were sure wild from 1919 to ‘33 and the Mojave Desert had it’s Roaring Twenties.

One former state senator investigating illegal operations in southern California said after seeing booze everywhere and girls available, said, “There is no law in Victorville.”

Constable Penny Morrow of Oro Grande didn’t try to find bootleggers—though the store next door sold illegal booze—the constable said he’d have to arrest half his friends.

This period in California history was sometimes sad with bad booze, Jake’s leg, blindness— like modern drugs causing some families sad results. But the Roaring Twenties was a wild time in California as well as in the rest of the country. The cleverness of Californians in making, stealing, selling, hiding, and drinking created hilarious antics.

Walker interviewed almost 200 people about their involvement in making, selling, transporting or enforcing–or trying to enforce—the law. He talked to moonshiners, sellers, bootleggers, family members, policemen, three border patrol agents—all but some family members have passed away now.

Walker’s grandfather made fig wine in his basement and his two sons drank too much of it and had dates that night. They took off their work clothes and were so drunk they put on each other’s dirty clothes. Grandfather Walker was mayor of Menlo Park for awhile until a “clean government committee” voted him out. He had opened up a speakeasy in Redwood City south of San Francisco.

Walker’s book is 630 pages, with a couple thousand names for California genealogists to discover what their grand and great grandparents did in those fun days. Walker is proud that in over 22 years of research he captured so many of their stories and saved this heritage of Californians and especially proud that many stories captured this humorous and historic part of the Mojave Desert.

Learn about Whiskey Pete and Death Valley Jack—partners then bitter enemies—and about other desert bootleggers and have some special refreshments. And good laughs!

Exhibits & Archives:

The Museum houses a series of displays and exhibits that portray the history of the Mojave River Valley from the arrival of Father Garces in 1776 on through pathfinders, pioneers, miners, railroads and the present space program.

Our archive of local area newspapers dates back to 1911 and our photo collection contains over 20,000 photos.

Location & Directions:

We are located in Barstow at 270 E. Virginia Way at the intersection of Barstow Road and Virginia Way. Exit I-15 at Barstow Road, go north two blocks then turn left.

Click here for a map

Open everyday except Christmas from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is always free.


Join us in helping to preserve the heritage of the desert. Your membership and participation are always welcome.


We have four levels of membership (see Membership Application). Membership benefits include receiving Desert Tailings, (our monthly newsletter,) participation in all field trips, and a 10% discount in our bookstore.

Membership Application

General Monthly Meetings

Our General Meetings are at 7:00 pm at the Museum (270 E. Virginia Way) on the last Wednesday of each month except:

    July and August: Meetings are cancelled due to our hot summers.
    November: Meeting is one week earlier than usual due to Thanksgiving.
    December: Meeting is cancelled due to the Christmas Holiday.
The Meetings feature guest speakers who cover a broad range of subjects related to our desert heritage. Meetings are open to everyone.


Special Section

Of Mines and Mules: A History of Daggett

The quiet, unassuming town of Daggett, California, nestled in the desert south of the Calico Mountains near Barstow, has a big history to tell. From silver rushes to borate refining, Daggett’s economy depended on mining. While historians disagree about when the former boom town was first settled, there is no doubt that its real beginning came in 1882 with the arrival of the railroad. For decades, the cluster of buildings with cottonwood and pepper trees would be a sight for the sore eyes of travelers crossing the inhospitable desert.

All that Remains: Daggett’s Borate Archaeology

Along the side of Route 66 east of Barstow, California sits the little town of Daggett. This settlement flourished for a few decades starting in the 1880s before losing its train station to Barstow in the early 1900s. During its heyday, Daggett boasted an active borate mining industry unsurpassed in the Mojave Desert. Visitors today can still find evidence of Daggett’s mining past. Archaeologists have recently conducted studies of the large mill site of the American Borax Company, recording what remains. More than 130 years later, information is still coming to light on this important period in southern California’s heritage.

270 E. Virginia Way
Barstow, CA 92311

Open everyday except Christmas from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is always free.

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Annual Mini-BBQ


Educational lectures

Field trips