54th Annual Tierra Del Sol Desert Safari

Mar. 10, 2016 By Jaime Hernandez

This year marked the 54th Tierra Del Sol (TDS) Desert Safari.  What started as a small group of friends exploring the Colorado Desert back in the Ď60s has grown into the largest 4x4 meet in the West Coast.  Itís also the longest running four-wheel drive event in the United States.  Youíll find everything from stock to highly modified Jeeps, 4x4s and UTVs running around Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreational Areas (SVRA) during the three-day event.

This year brought some new surprises. The TDS Base Camp and vendor show changed location due to a pending land management lawsuit and study being performed on the Flat-tailed Horned Lizard. At this time, the State of California is not issuing event permits for Ocotillo Wells SVRA. Tierra Del Sol had no choice but to look elsewhere.

Itís not the first time TDS Desert Safari has been moved because it couldnít get a permit.  With hard work and a lot of dedication from club members, the Tierra Del Sol Four Wheel Drive Club was able to secure an event venue on private land just 6 miles east of the original base camp, at the West Shores Marina and RV Park.

The Tierra Del Sol Four Wheel Drive Club was not able to obtain permits this year to set up base camp at their usual spot in Truckhaven, next to the 4x4 Training Area in Ocotillo Wells SVRA.

Leading up to the 54th Annual TDS Desert Safari, the club had been in talks with another Salton Sea area landowner about running the Safari trail on their private property. A potential site was surveyed, but additional cultural and land impact studies are needed. The tribe council will also need to approve before moving forward on new trail development. Unfortunately there wasnít enough time or money to put this into action for the 2016 TDS Desert Safari, so the organized trail run was cancelled. ďThis saddens us greatly but the future of the trails will be worth the wait,Ē stated Tierra Del Sol Four Wheel Drive Club via social media days before the event took place.

To their credit, the Tierra Del Sol Four Wheel Drive Club did the best they could and were still able to secure a location on private land close enough to Truckhaven without shelving TDS Desert Safari all together.  There was no official Safari run this year, but participants could still go out and enjoy THEIR PUBLIC LAND. TDS even provided maps with points of interests, including GPS coordinates at registration that make traversing to and from Truckhaven much easier.

Well-marked off-road access to the new TDS Base Camp was laid out from Ocotillo Wells SVRA using Palm Wash and the Anza Ditch as the main arteries. On road traffic could easily drive to the new TDS Base Camp from Truckhaven via S22 taking South or North Marina Dr. In our opinion, TDS went well out of their way to make the transition as smooth as possible for participants.

The new TDS Base Camp included ample room for vendors and campers, and also had great support from leading off-road manufacturers, retailers and automotive businesses.  There were several off-road obstacles built on site, as well as an R/C track. The big crowd pleaser was the Mud Pit. It brought out big tires and horsepower to the event, with many of the drivers putting on a big show for the crowds.

John Gray and Kimmeri Ness from TDS worked hard all weekend by getting people stoked on running their rigs at the new Mud Pit area. They also gave away special TDS MUD stickers to participants after getting dirty. 

This year, the famous TDS Desert Safari raffle surpassed $165K. Polaris even donated a RZR for the bucket raffle! Many walked away with tires, wheels, shocks, winches, bumpers and suspension parts for their Jeeps and trucks. After a long day of playing in the dirt, the Saturday festivities concluded with a firework show on the beach.

Tierra Del Sol Four Wheel Drive Club of San Diego is a not-for-profit, family-oriented 4x4 club that continues to use proceeds from TDS Desert Safari to fight land closures, keep trails open, and donate to worthy groups close to the off-road community. 

Show your support by coming out to the 55th Annual Tierra Del Sol Desert Safari in 2017. Itís sure to be a good time!

You can learn more about TDS at http://www.tds4x4.com/.

Open riding in Ocotillo Wells SVRA is being attacked by environmentalists.  The unique experience of exploring the desert terrain is being threatened by the notion that fencing in more areas inside the park and keeping vehicles on designated trails will solve everything.

If off-road access matters to you, itís time to put your time, money and sport to good use. Spread the word, stay informed and get involved!

Some groups actively monitoring the situation and fighting to keep public land open for off-road use include:

Tierra Del Sol Four Wheel Drive Club


Blue Ribbon Coalition (BRC)

California Four Wheel Drive Association


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