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Desert Tortoise Capital of the World

Ghost town in the Mojave

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Goffs is the "Desert Tortoise Capital of the World", and a Ghost Town on the 1926 to 1931 alignment of Route 66. Must see sights: the Historic Goffs Schoolhouse, over 100 years old, the derelict Goffs General Store and the old alignments of Route 66: 1926 road to Goffs and the The 1931 Alignment to Essex.

Goffs CA

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All about Goffs

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation 2,595 ft (791 m). Population 23 (2010).
Time zone changes as you cross the Arizona - California State Line. Time zone: Pacific (MST): UTC minus 8 hours. Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7).

Goffs is a ghost town in western San Bernardino County, in southeastern California. (Map of Goffs).

View of the Goffs General Store

The General Store in Goffs in 2008
View of Goffs General Store a few years ago. Google
Click on image for Street View

History of Goffs

Check our Needles page for the early history of the area.

The Huntington and the Southern Pacific (SP) laid a line from Barstow to Needles across the Mojave in 1883, passing through what would later become Goffs station. The following year they were forced to sell it to the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad (which later became the AT & Santa Fe Railway).

The station was founded in 1893 but it was originally named Blake after Isaac Blake, who built the "Nevada Southern Railway" from there, northwards.

Nevada Southern Railway Co.

This railroad was incorporated in 1892 and laid its tracks north, from Goffs (which was named "Blake") to a ranch area known as Barnwell and renamed Manvel (after the owner of the company) it carried goods to the mining districts of Goodsprings, Ivanpah and Eldorado.

At Goffs it linked with the AT & Santa Fe Railway.

In 1895 it changed its name to the "California Eastern Railway", extending into Searchlight, NV. In 1911 it was acquired by the AT & SF. only to be abandoned in the 1920s.

In 1902 the station was renamed Goffs, an odd name for which there is only one explanation (which is applicable to all the stations between Amboy and Needles:


The AT &SF named these stations following an alphabetical order - there were exceptions: the small sidings between those stations, shown below between brackets:

Amboy, (Saltus), (Altura), Bristol, Cadiz, (Siam), Danby, (Arimo), Essex, Fenner, (Piute), Goffs, Homer, (Bannock), Ibis, (Klinefelter), Java, Khartoum.

The name: Goffs

Goff derives from Welsh, the nickname for a red-haired person (Gough). Also, in English (of Cornish and Breton origin) it was applied to the horse-smith. In Ireland it can be found as McGoff.

Where did it get the final "s" from? Perhaps from the possessive form Goff's.

The station was located just west of the railroad divide (2,584 ft), on the northern tip of the Piute Mountains and the southern mouth of Lanfair Valley. It had a deep well providing water for the steam engines. In 1915 it was described as "... an old settlement supported mainly by gold, silver and copper mines in the mountains.".

By that time, the National Old Trails Highway (N.O.T.) had been built from Barstow to Needles and went through Goffs. Route 66 was aligned along the N.O.T. highway in 1926, but the village would remain on the Mother Road for a short period of time: in 1931 US 66 was realigned further south, bypassing the town for ever.

Where to Stay near Goffs

Lodging close to Goffs: Needles:

> > Book your Hotel in nearby Needles

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Motels and Hotels close to Goffs, California

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>> Check out RV campground near Goffs

The Weather in Goffs

Latest Goffs, California weather
Route 66: Needles, CA location map
Location of Goffs on Route 66

Tornado risk

Goffs is well beyond the Rocky Montains so there are virtually no tornados in the area.

Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.

During summer make sure you stay hydrated. The hot and dry desert climate can dehydrate you quickly. Drink plenty of water and dress for the heat. Read more.

Not much rain falls in Goffs, only 6.8 in. (173 mm) per year with only 25 rainy days per year with April to July being the dryest period. Snow is very uncommon.

Goffs is at a reasonable altitude so it is not so hot in summer as the lower areas (like Needles) nevertheless, it has very hot summers. The area has a "Subtropical desert climate". Dry and hot, with strong thunderstorms during the summer monsoon season.

Summer average high (Jul) 109.4°F (43°C) and average low 78.8°F (26°C). During winter, the average high (Jan) is 68°F (20°C) and the average low 42.8°F (6°C).

Getting to Goffs

You can reach the town driving along old Route 66 or I-40 at Exit 107, and also from Las Vegas, Nevada, along US 95.

The Map of U.S. 66 in Goffs, California

Check out Goffs on our California Route 66 Map, with the complete alignment and all the towns along it.

Goffs Map

The following color key applies only to Goffs.

Pale Blue: the "old 1926 to 1931" alignment of Route 66 to Fenner and Essex via Goffs from US 95 Arrowhead Junction and Exit 133 of I-40. And for the Needles - to Exit 133, it is the 1926 to 1970s road.
Black is the missing section at I-40 in Fenner.
Blue: The post 1931 alignment of Route 66 from Mountain Springs to Essex, bypassing Goffs.

Route 66's alignment in California: the Historic Route 66 into Goffs

Route 66 logo

Route 66 across California

U.S. Route 66 does not have any Byway or Historic designation in California despite the survival of long sections of original roadbed between Needles and Santa Monica.

Click Here for an overview of Route 66 across the state of California.

Below you will find detailed information on Old Route 66 in Goffs.

What to see in Goffs, California

A Fading village...

Almost a Ghost town on Old Route 66

Desert Tortoise Capital of the World

Goffs is located on the 1926 to 1931 alignment of Route 66. See its +100 years old Historic Goffs Schoolhouse, its General Store (falling apart) and drive the 1926 and 1931 US 66 alignments in the Mojave Desert, in this, the self styled "Desert Tortoise Capital of the World".

Desert Tortoise

The desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) is a rugged denizen of the desert. It digs underground burrows 3 to 6 ft. deep (90 - 180cm) to escape the extreme heat and cold of the Mojave desert.

They hibernate underground from Nov. to Feb. and resurface in spring (Mar. to May) to mate and enjoy the summer and fall rainy season.

They are herbivores and absorb water from the plants they eat.

Important: Watch our for tortoises on roads

They may drink water in puddles on roads or shoulders and can be hit by cars and killed. Drive with caution and watch for tortoises on the road or near it.

They are listed as threatened by the federal government.

Photograph them from a distance, don't touch them or disturb them. They are a protected species. If frightened they may empty their storage bladders and loose precious water, risking death.

A Desert Tortoise in the Mojave

Desert Tortoise in the Mojave, California
A desert tortoise in the Mojave, California, by

Historic context, the classic Route 66 in Goffs

When Jack DeVere Rittenhouse drove along Route 66 in 1946, collecting information which he included in "Guide Book to Highway 66", it was already 15 years since Goffs had been bypassed when Route 66 was realigned six miles south of the village. We have no reference from Rittenhouse regarding Goffs, as he writes about the later, post-1931, road from Needles to Essex, which we describe below (The 1931 Alignment).

However the town has its interesting sights, restored or rebuilt, to rescue the past:

Goffs Schoolhouse

National Register of Historic Places

37198 Lanfair Rd., Goffs. (See location map), on the western side of the tracks, just south of the railroad crossing.

As the town grew and mining increased, more families moved to Goffs, and their children needed a school. This led to the establishment of a school in town in 1911 in rented quarters.

Three years later, the Shoolhouse at Goffs was built by San Bernardino County. It opened in 1914. It is a one-room, one-floor building designed in Mission Revival style by architect Anthony Beimer.

It also served as the local library and the community center.

Goffs School in an 1914 photo

A 1914 photo of Goffs School (Click for larger image)

A Restored Goffs School today

The restored Goffs School, nowadays (Click for larger image)

It was a fairly large single-classroom (800 sq. ft. - 74 m2) with one teacher instructing children until 8th grade (they had to go to Needles for higher education).

During the depression, as mining declined and the town was bypassed by the paved alignment of US 66, population fell and the Goffs School District merged with the one in Needles. The school closed in 1937.


World War II gave it a new use as a canteen for the troops training in the Desert Training Center.

There is a marker with a plaque mentioning the fact that Goffs was the Headquarters of the 7th Infantry Division in 1942, and later fought in the Pacific Theatre against Japan.

After becoming private property and falling into disrepair, the Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association (MDHCA) rebuilt it and has turned it into a museum (do drop by and visit it), and the local cultural center.

Don't miss the cottonwood trees on the sothwestern side of the building, carefully planted and watered in the desert.

Replica of Goffs' station (Depot)

Walk 700 ft. (210 m) west from the school.

The Mojave Desert Archives Library is housed in a building which is a replica of the Goffs Santa Fe Railway Depot, built in 1902 and demolished in 1956.

It houses the archives of the Association and was dedicated in 2008.

Replica of the 1902-1956 Goffs Depot

A replica of the old Goffs railway Depot, Route 66, Goffs, California
"A replica of the old Goffs railway Depot, Route 66, California, by

Goffs General Store

Route 66 and railroad. Just before the crossing, east side of town.

It was (and is) the town's largest building but is in a sad state of disrepair. It was completely refurbished in 2000, but a few years later had been abandoned and is gradually getting worse.

The march of time is a relentless and unforgiving one...

Goffs Store in a 2000 photo

The store in 2000, in fair shape (Click for larger image)

General Store at Goffs today

The store now, in ruins (Click for larger image)

Tours and Nearby places to visit

The Alignment of Old Route 66 from Needles to Goffs and Essex

route 66 shield California

The 1926 to 1931 Route 66

West of Needles lie the Sacramento, Piute and Old Woman mountains which run with a NE to SW direction, more or less parallel to the Colorado River. They had to be crossed to reach the coastal areas of California.

The first to do so was the railway, which chose a long wide arch, towards the north. The National Old Trails (N.O.T.) road followed the tracks in the early 1910s. In 1912 it already had gasoline and by 1924 it had a hotel and a garage. The N.O.T. guide printed in the 1920s informed that the village had "Free ice water, splendid store, camp ground garage, a cool place on Mojave Desert", the next stop mentioned towards the east was Amboy, clearly all other places along the road did not exist at that time.

When U.S. Highway 66 was created in 1926, it was aligned along the N.O.T. roadbed.

See the 1926-1931 Route 66 map from Needles to Essex.

In those days, Goffs was on the main road between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, because the corridor now used by I-15 did not exist.

Traffic went through Goffs and then took a right along a dirt road that went to Utah passing through Searchlight and Las Vegas in Nevada.

The road to Nevada and Utah split from Old Route 66 at "Arrowhead Junction" (on what now are Route 66 & US 95) and this road was known as "Arrowhead Highway" (Arrowhead Junction map).

The 1931 alignment of Route 66

In the early 1930s, route 66 was realigned, shortening it and paving it, improving bridges and shoulders. The Needles to Essex section was no exception.

A shorter alignment six miles south of Goffs was built across the Piute Mountains. It had a steeper grade than the older road, but cut off 8 miles from the original 1926 alignment.

The new road opened on Dec. 4, 1931, and Goffs was bypassed.

It followed the earlier alignment up to Klinefelter Spring, and then headed straight west, passing through Mountain Spring Camp and met the 1926 alignment 3 mi. south of Fenner and 2 mi. north of Essex.

See the 1931 - 1970s Route 66 map from Needles to Essex.

This was the road used by Rittenhouse, who describes it as follows: the road went along the west bank of the Colorado River and then turned west towards the mountains, crossing them 20 mi. from Needles via the South Pass (2,650 ft.) (here was a gas station there).

1940s Roadtrip adventures

In those days cars had no airconditioning, they were slower and tended to overheat. So Rittenhouse recommended that during summer "it is advisable to make the drive from Needles to Barstow, over the Mojave Deser, either in the evening, night or early morning hours"; he suggested carrying extra water in case the car overheated.

Ten miles after the pass, Route 66 reached Mountain Springs (now gone) with gas, lunchroom, cabins and a garage. Surprisingly Water had to be paid for unless you loaded gas. The road then dropped down towards the Mojave Desert and, 44 miles from Needles, it reached Essex with 55 residents, gasoline, diner, small grocery and a post office...


> > See the previous segment Topock AZ to Needles

> > See the next segment Amboy to Essex

Outdoors, National and State Parks

Mojave National Preserve

Kelso Dunes in Mohave Preserve California

Kelso Dunes in Mohave Preserve California, "Mike" Michael L. Baird

The Mojave National Preserve protects almost 1.6 million acres of desert habitat; it is a scenic National Park located just west of Needles, between I-40, I-15 and the California - Nevada state line.

Observe wildlife like the Desert Tortoise or Bighorn Sheep. Visit the "Hole in the Wall" area, the Cinder Cones, Cima Dome and Kelso Dunes.

Read more at the National Parks website.

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Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.

Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.