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Homestead Valley (which includes the communities of Landers, Flamingo Heights, Johnson Valley and Yucca Mesa) is a rural area north of Yucca Valley along Route 247.  Here you will find small cabins dotting the landscape, a reminder of the Five-Acre Homestead Act of the early and mid-1950s.  Homesteaders received a five-acre parcel of desert land from the federal government if they built a small cabin on it.  Many did, and while some homestead cabins have been incorporated into larger homes, more stand abandoned, waiting patiently for their owner’s return, part of mid-20th century desert history.

Today, the communities collectively known as Homestead Valley are home to some of the more unique historical attractions and outlandish stories of this part of the California deserts, as well as our area’s largest annual event.

The Landers Earthquake of June 28, 1992 wreaked havoc on the area.  But that’s not the only natural—or supernatural—forces at work here, if early Landers resident, George Van Tassel is to be believed.  Van Tassel took up residence in 1947 in a home carved out under Giant Rock, an enormous freestanding seven-story boulder.  Van Tassel, who had worked at Douglas Aircraft, Hughes Aircraft, and Lockheed, began repairing airplanes that landed on the dry lake bed nearby.  His wife became somewhat of a celebrity for her delicious apple pies, and Hollywood types, including Howard Hughes, reportedly began to fly out to visit with the Van Tassels at their big rock in the desert.

Not surprisingly, while at Giant Rock in 1951, Van Tassel began to experience alien encounters.  In 1952, Van Tassel was visited by Venutians who encouraged him to construct a wooden, domed, cellular rejuvenation machine using principles along the lines of Nikola Tesla’s work.  Near Giant Rock, Van Tassel began construction of the dome—the Integratron.

Van Tassel, a “contactee” (aliens didn’t evidently begin abducting humans until later), began hosting The Giant Rock Spacecraft Convention from 1953 to 1978.  As many as 10,000 contactees and UFO fans made the trek to Giant Rock each year during that time.  By the time of Van Tassel’s somewhat mysterious death in 1978, the Integratron was nearly complete.  Reportedly, “men in black” stripped the technology from the Integratron, and the Bureau of Land Management obliterated the home under Giant Rock, destroying local history in the process.

In 2000, Giant Rock split, either a sign of the new millennium, or due to a roaring campfire built alongside the enormous boulder on a frigid winter night.  In the desert, there are two stories for just about everything.  You choose which one to believe.

Things to Do

The Integratron, Landers
Sound baths and special events regularly take place at the Integratron, which to this day seems to be a powerful energy vortex of the sort only the desert can provide.

The Dream Wanderer, Landers

The Dream Wanderer is a virtual reality installation based in a bus, with changing experiences for desert wanderers.

Gubler Orchids, Landers
Gubler Orchids (across the street from the Integratron), offers tours of their greenhouses where award-winning orchids—and carnivorous plants—are grown commercially, and is also home to the annual Orchid Festival.

Giant Rock, Landers  
You can visit Giant Rock where Van Tassel once lived.  A 4WD and high clearance vehicle is recommended.  Watch for UFOs!

Rock Corral, Johnson Valley
Out in Johnson Valley was where the legendary Willie Boy manhunt of 1909 came to its conclusion (almost—he really got away), and you can find the Rock Corral where cowboys used to water horses and cattle in the early 1900s.  A nice location for a picnic or hike.

Off-Road Recreation, Johnson Valley
Off-road recreational fun awaits visitors to the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area.  Here you can enjoy adventures on four, or two wheels, rock crawling, camping, hiking, rock hounding, and wildlife watching.  At nearly 200,000 acres, there’s plenty to explore!

Johnson Valley is home to our largest annual event, King of the Hammers.   Known as the ultimate desert race, KOH, as it is often referred to, runs every February, bringing in more than 50,000 racers and fans for a week of desert racing and rock crawling.  If you’re into off-roading, this is the event to see.

Portions of the Off-Highway Vehicle Area are closed from time to time for Marine Corps military exercises.  Check with our local visitor centers for information.

Don’t forget to pay your respects to King Clone Ecological Preserve where you can see some of the oldest plants on the planet.  Some of the creosote rings here date back 9,000 years.  And the king?  He is possibly the oldest creosote bush in the Mojave Desert, and may be nearly 12,000 years old, one of the oldest living organisms on the planet!  Always respect your elders!

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