Preserve Closure Notice
Whitewater Preserve will be closed Monday, January 26, 2015, due to the risk of flash floods. We anticipate re-opening at 8 am on Tuesday, January 27, 2015.

Whitewater Preserve

Whitewater Preserve is 2,851 acres surrounded by the Bureau of Land Management’s San Gorgonio Wilderness, and includes the year-round Whitewater River. Rich riparian habitat hosts the endangered Southwest willow flycatcher and Bell’s vireo, and provides opportunity to see migrating summer tanagers and vermilion flycatchers. The canyon has a robust population of bighorn sheep, deer and bear, and is an important wildlife corridor between the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains. The Conservancy purchased an additional 3,200 acres in the Whitewater corridor that was donated to the Bureau of Land Management. These donated lands include sand dunes that are home to the endangered fringe-toed lizard at Windy Point, which lies at the confluence of the Whitewater and San Gorgonio Rivers.

The Conservancy's purchase and restoration of the 40,032 Whitewater Range Allotment has transformed a black water cattle wallow into crystal clear waters.

Conservation Outcomes

The Wildlands Conservancy’s acquisitions included 1,280 acres that had been subdivided into 40-acre parcels deep inside the San Gorgonio Wilderness. Roads to the subdivision have been removed and the integrity of the wilderness has been restored. The Conservancy also purchased the 40,032-acre BLM range allotment as a means to retire all cattle grazing in the Whitewater Watershed.

Over the past ten years, the Whitewater River has transformed from black water cattle wallows to crystal clear waters. Other restoration efforts involved removing 19 neglected houses and commercial structures at the old trout farm along with diseased non-native elm trees. These impacted lands have been restored with native sycamores, cottonwoods, flowering ash, alders, narrow-leaved willows, native shrubs and substantial wetlands. Legislation is pending to make the Whitewater River a National Wild and Scenic River.

Visitor Opportunities

The Whitewater Trout Farm's historic building has been transformed into a visitor facility and ranger station. Other visitor facilities include individual and group picnic areas and campgrounds that are overshadowed by steep vertical cliffs where bighorn sheep are often spotted. There is a trailhead leading to the Pacific Crest Trail and paver paths around the ponds for the elderly. Fishing is limited to organized catch and release programs for kids in which all equipment is provided.

The preserve is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Days, or in the event of dangerous weather conditions. Permits for preserve camping, backcountry trip parking, and afterhours hiking are available at the preserve ranger station during open hours, in person or by phone. For additional information or to make a reservation for an interpretive program or the campground, call the preserve at 760.325.7222.

Visitor Letter

Trail Map and Checklists


This scenic property lies at the end of Whitewater Canyon Road, northwest of Palm Springs, off Interstate 10.

9160 Whitewater Canyon Road
Whitewater, CA 92282

Fall and Winter Activities at Whitewater Preserve

Reservations are required for all programs at Whitewater Preserve. Contact the preserve at 760.325.7222 to reserve your space.

Wildlife Weekend

Don't miss Wildlife Weekend at Whitewater Preserve! Enjoy guest speakers on topics of wildlife and research in the local area. Download the flyer here.

Bird Walks The wetlands within Whitewater Canyon attract many local and migrating birds. Join us for a walk through different habitats while looking for some of the more than 216 bird species that frequent the preserve. Bring binoculars and scopes. Held on Tuesdays from 8 am to 10:30 am for all ages.

  • Oct 14 & 28
  • Dec 9 & 23
  • Jan 13 & 27

Youth Catch & Release Fishing Ranger- and docent-led program. The program will start with a short walk to the river and then back to the ponds to sharpen your angling skills and perhaps catch your first fish. We provide all necessary gear. Bring water and a picnic for afterwards.Two sessions per day starting at 9 am and 10:30 am, held on select Saturdays and Sundays in Fall and Winter. Ages 8 to 18.

  • Oct 18
  • Dec 6 & 28
  • Jan 11 & 31

Volunteer Projects Help us care for the preserve by joining ranger-led work projects. Projects include trail building and maintenance, invasive plant removal, general clean-up, and native plant restoration. Be prepared to get dirty! Ages 15 and up.

  • October 5
  • December 7
  • January 4

Red Dome Hike This trail is 4 miles round trip with a 50’ elevation gain and is a good introduction to hiking in Whitewater Canyon. Bring at least one liter of water, a snack, and all necessary sun protection. Those preferring a shorter, one-mile hike are welcome to turn around at the Pacific Crest Trail junction. Scheduled 9 am to 12 noon on October 19.

Canyon View Loop Hike Looking for a slightly longer hike? This trail is 3.5 miles round trip with a 500’ elevation gain and spectacular views of Whitewater Canyon. Bring at least one liter of water, a snack, and all necessary sun protection. Those preferring a shorter, one-mile hike are welcome to turn around at the Pacific Crest Trail junction. Scheduled 9 am to 11:30 pm on January 17.

Mission Creek to Whitewater Preserve Hike This is a great way to see two of our desert preserves and venture into the backcountry. The 6.5 mile moderate to strenuous hike begins at the Mission Creek Preserve gate and ends at Whitewater Preserve. Hikers will meet at the Mission Creek Preserve gate at 9 am. It is important to be on time, as we will be accessing the preserve through a locked gate. Late hikers will be locked out. A water crossing is part of the hike, so plan for wet feet. Bring at least two liters of water, lunch, snacks, and all necessary sun protection. Hikers are responsible for transportation from Whitewater Preserve back to their vehicles at Mission Creek Preserve. Hike concludes around 3 pm.

Group Programs Available by Request

  • LEAVE NO TRACE - This program reviews the seven Leave No Trace Principles in a fun and creative way that fosters cooperation and team building.
  • GET TO KNOW YOUR DESERT'S WATERSHED - This slideshow program traces water from the snows of Mt. San Gorgonio to the faucets of Coachella Valley residents and on to the Salton Sea.
  • CANYON WALK - Enjoy an introductory one-hour walk and learn about The Wildlands Conservancy as well as the ecology and natural history of Whitewater Canyon.
  • PRESERVING WILDLIFE COORIDORS - Whitewater Preserve has always been a corridor for species moving between the mountains and desert. This slideshow explores the science behind protecting land that provides species safe passage through these corridors.
  • MEET A TREE - Visit one of our largest cottonwood trees with a Naturalist. Learn the tree's story through close observation, drawing and sharing.
  • NEST DISPLAY - Join us to learn how to use binoculars and explore bird habitats and bird nests of Whitewater Canyon.
  • Group and Scout Programs - Spring 2014

If you are interested in any of these group activities please contact the Whitewater Preserve.