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Burk's Bench — even better than Fonts Point

Palm Springs developer lost interest in Borrego

There is a bench to sit upon to rest and to contemplate how Fonts Point was uplifted.
There is a bench to sit upon to rest and to contemplate how Fonts Point was uplifted.

Most folks who drive or hike up Fonts Point Wash head to the spectacular viewpoint 4.8 miles from Highway S-22. It is one of the most scenic and popular viewpoints in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which was named for Pedro Font, a Spanish padre who was on the second Anza Expedition to California in 1775–’76. The expedition brought the first colonists to California on a trail that crossed Borrego Valley en route to San Gabriel Mission from the Colorado River.

The sand, mudstone, and sedimentary rocks were once part of the Santa Rosa Mountains.

Font was selected to join the expedition because of his navigation skills. He was not impressed with the area, with the leader of the expedition — Juan Bautista de Anza — or with the many colonists who planned to ultimately settle in the San Francisco Bay area. It seems odd that such a beautiful and dramatic landscape was named for someone who did not appreciate it. He was, however, observant and was the first to note the presence of desert bighorn sheep.

These sediments contain fossils of Pleistocene animals.

It may come as a surprise that there is another location with a view of the badlands from a different perspective and even a bench to sit upon to rest and to contemplate how this landscape evolved and how Fonts Point was uplifted. Best of all, it is only half the distance to this viewpoint.

If driving, pick up your vehicle at the Burks Bench/Fonts Point wash intersection.

The sand, mudstone, and sedimentary rocks were once part of the Santa Rosa Mountains more than 500,000 years ago. These sediments also contain fossils of Pleistocene animals, which include camels, horses, ground sloths, and mammoths. The eroded mountain sediments originally flowed down to the south until the area was uplifted. Fonts Point Wash now flows north toward Clark Valley, which is about 700 feet lower in elevation from Fonts Point.

From the parked vehicle in the main wash at 1.2 miles, follow a small wash heading right (south) for 0.6 mile, and then follow a fork to the right, or southwest, for another 0.3 mile for a surprising discovery—a bench atop a knoll about midway between Fonts Point Wash to the east and Inspiration Wash to the west. A short steep climb of 0.1 mile leads to the bench that has a plaque on it that commemorates the 1974 gift of 1600 acres of surrounding land from the Burks family.

Dana Burks was a Palm Springs and Los Angeles real estate developer who saw the potential of developing Borrego Valley. He purchased thousands of acres of land after the Great Depression. The slow economic recovery following the Depression made him lose interest in the area. His heirs still owned 1600 acres in 1974 when they decided to donate it to the state. The bench overlooks the donated lands. While sitting there, you might want to give thanks to those who donate lands to the state that are inholdings within the boundary of the park so that future generations can enjoy them.

After enjoying the view, retrace the mile hike back to the parked vehicle. If hiking to the bench from S-22, it will be a 4-mile trip.

An option to this walk is retracing your steps to the main Fonts Wash then turn right (south). Keep to the west wash branch to see Inspiration Point before going further to Fonts Point.

Note: If driving, pick up your vehicle at the Burks Bench/Fonts Point wash intersection and drive south to the parking lot at Fonts Point. There may be a place to pull over at Inspiration Point. This is an active area for towing; we recommend both 4WD and experience driving on soft sand.

Distance from downtown San Diego: About 95 miles (Anza-Borrego Desert State Park). Allow 2 hours and 15 minutes driving time. First drive about 85 miles to Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs. From Christmas Circle, go east about 10 miles on the Salton Seaway, Highway SR-22, to Fonts Point Wash at milepost 29.3. Turn right into the broad, sandy wash. Drive south 1.2 miles and park by a small side canyon/wash to the right (west) that continues south. High clearance or 4WD recommended in the wash because of sand, or park at the entrance of Fonts Point Wash and walk to this point.

Hiking length: 2 or 4 miles out-and-back.

Difficulty: Moderate, with a steep climb to the bench. Elevation loss/gain 300 feet. No facilities. No dogs allowed on this route.

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There is a bench to sit upon to rest and to contemplate how Fonts Point was uplifted.
There is a bench to sit upon to rest and to contemplate how Fonts Point was uplifted.

Most folks who drive or hike up Fonts Point Wash head to the spectacular viewpoint 4.8 miles from Highway S-22. It is one of the most scenic and popular viewpoints in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which was named for Pedro Font, a Spanish padre who was on the second Anza Expedition to California in 1775–’76. The expedition brought the first colonists to California on a trail that crossed Borrego Valley en route to San Gabriel Mission from the Colorado River.

The sand, mudstone, and sedimentary rocks were once part of the Santa Rosa Mountains.

Font was selected to join the expedition because of his navigation skills. He was not impressed with the area, with the leader of the expedition — Juan Bautista de Anza — or with the many colonists who planned to ultimately settle in the San Francisco Bay area. It seems odd that such a beautiful and dramatic landscape was named for someone who did not appreciate it. He was, however, observant and was the first to note the presence of desert bighorn sheep.

These sediments contain fossils of Pleistocene animals.

It may come as a surprise that there is another location with a view of the badlands from a different perspective and even a bench to sit upon to rest and to contemplate how this landscape evolved and how Fonts Point was uplifted. Best of all, it is only half the distance to this viewpoint.

If driving, pick up your vehicle at the Burks Bench/Fonts Point wash intersection.

The sand, mudstone, and sedimentary rocks were once part of the Santa Rosa Mountains more than 500,000 years ago. These sediments also contain fossils of Pleistocene animals, which include camels, horses, ground sloths, and mammoths. The eroded mountain sediments originally flowed down to the south until the area was uplifted. Fonts Point Wash now flows north toward Clark Valley, which is about 700 feet lower in elevation from Fonts Point.

From the parked vehicle in the main wash at 1.2 miles, follow a small wash heading right (south) for 0.6 mile, and then follow a fork to the right, or southwest, for another 0.3 mile for a surprising discovery—a bench atop a knoll about midway between Fonts Point Wash to the east and Inspiration Wash to the west. A short steep climb of 0.1 mile leads to the bench that has a plaque on it that commemorates the 1974 gift of 1600 acres of surrounding land from the Burks family.

Dana Burks was a Palm Springs and Los Angeles real estate developer who saw the potential of developing Borrego Valley. He purchased thousands of acres of land after the Great Depression. The slow economic recovery following the Depression made him lose interest in the area. His heirs still owned 1600 acres in 1974 when they decided to donate it to the state. The bench overlooks the donated lands. While sitting there, you might want to give thanks to those who donate lands to the state that are inholdings within the boundary of the park so that future generations can enjoy them.

After enjoying the view, retrace the mile hike back to the parked vehicle. If hiking to the bench from S-22, it will be a 4-mile trip.

An option to this walk is retracing your steps to the main Fonts Wash then turn right (south). Keep to the west wash branch to see Inspiration Point before going further to Fonts Point.

Note: If driving, pick up your vehicle at the Burks Bench/Fonts Point wash intersection and drive south to the parking lot at Fonts Point. There may be a place to pull over at Inspiration Point. This is an active area for towing; we recommend both 4WD and experience driving on soft sand.

Distance from downtown San Diego: About 95 miles (Anza-Borrego Desert State Park). Allow 2 hours and 15 minutes driving time. First drive about 85 miles to Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs. From Christmas Circle, go east about 10 miles on the Salton Seaway, Highway SR-22, to Fonts Point Wash at milepost 29.3. Turn right into the broad, sandy wash. Drive south 1.2 miles and park by a small side canyon/wash to the right (west) that continues south. High clearance or 4WD recommended in the wash because of sand, or park at the entrance of Fonts Point Wash and walk to this point.

Hiking length: 2 or 4 miles out-and-back.

Difficulty: Moderate, with a steep climb to the bench. Elevation loss/gain 300 feet. No facilities. No dogs allowed on this route.

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