The number One Hundred And Thirty Four carries weighty significance to travelers passing through Baker, California, even though they may not know it. Add “degrees” to this number and you have the highest temperature ever recorded in North America. The small desert community of Baker at the corner of the Mojave National Preserve is the gateway to where this temperature was recorded back in 1913–Death Valley National Park.
This number should serve as a reminder to travelers and those pursuing desert recreation that the Mojave Desert can get pretty darned hot, and not to forget the sun block, a wide-brimmed sun hat, and plenty of water if you plan to explore these desert treasures.
The Bun Boy restaurant (Now Bob’s Big Boy) had been serving food, fuel, and supplies to travelers since 1925 when Las Vegas was linked to the rest of the world with a dirt road over Mountain Pass. They wanted to be sure that their customers were prepared for the extremes of the desert environment, so in 1991 they decided to build a thermometer next to their restaurant.
Not just any ordinary thermometer, mind you, that would mundanely tell the temperature to passersby. They built this one to a height of–you guessed it–134 feet, entering the record books as the World’s Tallest Thermometer.
It’s 4,943 lamps, pulling over 2,000 amperes, has become a Baker landmark, displaying the desert’s temperature for miles up and down Interstate 15 and from Route 127 into Death Valley.
Formerly at the base of the thermometer, the Mojave Desert Information Center has moved to the restored Kelso Depot. From Baker, continue 35 miles southeast on Kelbaker Road to Kelso.
The renovated Kelso Depot is now the primary Visitor Center for Mojave National Preserve. Former dormitory rooms contain exhibits describing the cultural and natural history of the surrounding desert. The baggage room, ticket office, and two dormitory rooms have been historically furnished to illustrate life in the depot in the first half of the twentieth century. A 12-minute orientation film is shown in the theater.
Basement gallery space features rotating fine art collections by local artists, focusing on the cultural history and natural splendors of Mojave national Preserve.
After a nearly two decade long haitus, the Kelso Depot lunch counter, The Beanery, is back in business.