Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Infobox_protected_area | name = Joshua Tree National Park
iucn_category = Ib

caption =
locator_x = 34
locator_y = 110
location = Riverside County & San Bernardino County, California, USA
nearest_city = Twentynine Palms, San Bernardino
lat_degrees = 33
lat_minutes = 47
lat_seconds = 18.22
lat_direction = N
long_degrees = 115
long_minutes = 53
long_seconds = 53.60
long_direction = W
area = 789,745 acres (3,196 km²)
established = October 31, 1994
visitation_num = 1,256,421
visitation_year = 2006
governing_body = National Park Service

Joshua Tree National Park is located in south-eastern California. Declared a U.S. National Park in 1994, it had previously been a U.S. National Monument since 1936. It includes over 1,234 mi² (3,196 km²) of land. A large part of the park is designated to wilderness area; some 914 mi² (2,367 km²). Straddling the San Bernardino County/Riverside County border, the park includes parts of two deserts, each an ecosystem whose characteristics are determined primarily by elevation. Below 3,000 feet (900 m), the Colorado Desert encompasses the eastern part of the park and features natural gardens of creosote bush, ocotillo, and cholla cactus. The Little San Bernardino Mountains run through the southwest edge of the park. The higher, moister, and slightly cooler Mojave Desert is the special habitat of the Joshua tree ("Yucca brevifolia"), from which the park gets its name. In addition to Joshua tree forests, the western part of the park includes some of the most interesting geologic displays found in California's deserts. The dominant geologic features of this landscape are hills of bare rock, usually broken up into loose boulders. These hills are popular amongst rock climbing and scrambling enthusiasts. The flatland between these hills is sparsely forested with Joshua trees. Together with the boulder piles and Skull Rock, the trees make the landscape otherworldly. Five Washingtonia fan palm oases in the park are the few areas where water occurs naturally and wildlife abounds.

At least 240 species of birds have been observed in the park. A good place to view wildlife is at Barker Dam, a short hike from a parking area near Hidden Valley. Desert Bighorn Sheep sometimes stop by the dam for a drink. Tours of the Barker Dam area are available.


Recreation in Joshua Tree National Park


Nine established campgrounds exist in the park, only two of which (Black Rock Canyon and Cottonwood) provide water and flush toilets. A fee between $10-15 is charged per night for each camping spot. Backcountry camping, for those who wish to backpack, is permitted with a few regulations. Campers must park at one of the twelve backcountry boards and leave their car information and camping itinerary. Backcountry campsites must be at least one mile from any road and 500 feet from any trail. Fires are only permitted within the established campgrounds and only in the provided fire rings.


There are several hiking trails within the park, many of which can be accessed from a campground. Shorter trails, such as the one mile hike through Hidden Valley, offer a chance to view the beauty of the park without straying too far into the desert. A section of the California Riding and Hiking Trail meanders for 35 miles through the western side of the park. The lookout point at Keys View, towards the south of the park, offers views of the Coachella Valley and Salton Sea. Geology road is a dirt road in the south of the park which provides a self-guided tour for those visitors with a four-wheel drive vehicle. There are seventy two stops on the tour showcasing the region's geology.


The park is extremely popular with rock climbers (who often refer to it as "JT" if they are locals). It was originally a winter practice area while Yosemite Valley and other parts of the Sierra Nevada were snowbound, but later became an area of interest in its own right. There are thousands of named climbing routes, at all levels of difficulty. The routes are typically short, the rocks being rarely more than 70 m (230 ft) in height, but access is usually a short, easy walk through the desert, and it's possible to do a number of interesting climbs in a single day. The rocks are all composed of quartz monzonite, a very rough type of granite made even more so as there is no snow or ice to polish it as in places like Yosemite.


There are over 250 species of bird in the park including resident desert birds such as the Greater Roadrunner and Cactus Wren as well as Mockingbirds, Le Conte's Thrasher, Verdin and Gambel's Quail. There are also many transient species that may spend only one or two seasons in the park. Noted birding spots in the park include: fan palm oases, Barker Dam and Smith water Canyon. Queen Valley and Lost Horse Valley also provide good birding but with a different range of species because of the lack of water. These are often good places to see Ladder-backed Woodpecker and Oak Titmouse.

External links

*Official site: [ Joshua Tree National Park]
* [ Geologic travel guide] from American Geological Institute
* [ "“Keys Ranch: Where Time Stood Still”", a National Park Service Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson plan]
* [ Joshua Tree National Park Photos]


*"Birds", Joshua Tree National Park Association

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