El Mirage Dry Lakebed is one of my favorite dry lakebeds in Southern California; it is less than two hours from Los Angeles. The surface is dry and flaky made of clay, surrounded by mountains. The access road is paved and the approach to the lakebed is easy. The only problem is rain, when El Mirage receives rain, the lake can be closed for days or weeks. Recently that problem can up, it rain two days before our shoot; my client was informed that her film permit was declined because of the closure of the lake. She was very upset, the photo shoot was about to get cancelled, we started to look at alternative locations, then I had a brilliant idea, I called Dan Taylor (909.888.9011) at the Inland Film Commission, this department handles permits for BLM properties. I explained our problem and Dan came up with a solution for us; the lakebed maybe closed but the roads leading to the lake are opened (Mountain View Road, Bella Vista Road and Colusa Road). Since I did not have any pictures of those roads on file, my client hired me to scout the locations the next morning. I used my iPhone 4S to take and send pictures to my Client; by 10am we locked down the location and had our film permit. I also learned from talking to the ranger that you can shoot the lakebed from Lake Road, accessing it from Colusa Road if you talk to the ranger first. From experience just bring the vehicles that you need to Lake Road, do not bring any large rigs unless you really need it; those vehicles can easily get stuck in the clay surface if it rains. You can park the rest of the crew on Mountain Road just past the asphalt on the dirt road.
Shooting at El Mirage without a motorhome or a trailer can be an unwise decision; the restrooms are crude and stinky and are located at the entrance to the lake. If you decide to film in the center or the northern sections of El Mirage, it is a good commute to the bathrooms. In the summer it can exceed a hundred degrees, in winter it can drop to the low thirties. The sunrise is incredible; the sunsets are even better at El Mirage. If you want some privacy, during the week is a better time to shoot at the lake, weekends and holidays are always busy times. Because of
The surface of the lake is brown and smooth; the perfect place to see if your vehicle can hit 200 miles per hour, just watch out for the ruts in the road. There are some basic rules I learned from Barbara the ranger about El Mirage, arrange in advance to haul out your trash. If you don’t have a film permit you will be asked to leave, even if it is a student film. Film permits are relatively cheap. Lastly, a ranger will usually inform you about the rules, read the film permit it contains a lot of information about the regulations.
With that said, El Mirage is a great place to do your next project. If you have any questions about this location or any other dry lakebed in the area please feel free to contact me (Mike Green) at 818 317 7099.