"Ocotillo" Ocotillo by malecon

Ocotillo Travel Guide: 12 reviews and 26 photos

Character Over Beauty

Some towns are like books; not to be judged by their cover. That would be a mistake with a town like Ocotillo that isn't the most aesthetically pleasing but but has a heck of a lot of character. The kind of character typical in small desert communities with a few too many trailers and old trucks rusting away. Add to that crumbling buildings and burnt out homes and you have Ocotillo.

It sounds bad, but the reality is far less severe. This is a proud town that has survives despite the blight and economic hardships. Some had written it off as completed destroyed after Hurricane Kathleen flooded the town killing three people in 1976.

Crossroads to the Anza Borrego

The bigger disaster came when Interstate 8 replaced US 80 which ran through town. Businesses slowly failed while the buildings the inhabited remained vacant for years until rot caused there collapse. Their carcasses still remain to this day, but the town survives.

It clings to life not from the interstate necessarily but S-2 or what is referred to as the Imperial Highway still passes through; a link between Imperial Valley and the Los Angeles area. It runs through the Anza Borrego desert where caravans in their RV's and jeeps pass through, including the casual visitor, like myself, searching for the unusual, the intriguing.

Passing Through You Must Stop ...at the stop sign.

I'm intrigued with Ocotillo after passing through it so many times. I started to wander down its streets and photograph the burnt out houses, noting the names of the streets; Opal, Smoke Tree, and Shade. I've been down to the Miller Garage on old US 80, a crumbling building whose roof has collapsed. The old highway is a pale, cracked and seldom used frontage road now. Amazingly, this is just a few yards and in clear view of the interstate.

Ocotillo remains small with one stop sign on the north end of town, the last before heading into the Carrizo Badlands and the great Anza Borrego. And so is the one thing this town has in abundance - wide open land. And for that reason, Ocotillo is heaven on earth.

Pros and Cons
  • In a nutshell:This town has more character than many cities.
  • Intro Updated Apr 28, 2008
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