Joshua Tree National Park

closeup view of a spiky bush in joshua tree national park

This page is dedicated to my favorite patch of changing earth – Joshua Tree National Park.


Area1,235.4 sq mi
3,199.6 sq km
790,636 acres
LocationSan Bernardino County
Riverside County
EcosystemsMojave Desert
Colorado Desert
And for the zinger… the park was established in 1994!
The Park’s Social Media

A Study in Scarcity

Environment

Joshua Tree is, without a doubt, quite dry.
More on this soon.

History

“A mountain range extends from San Bernardino Mountain in a southeasterly direction nearly, if not quite, to the Colorado. Between these mountains and the mountains of the Mohave nothing is known of the country… I am inclined to the belief that it is barren, mountainous desert composed of a system of basins and mountain ranges. It would be an exceedingly difficult country to explore on account of the absence of water and there is no rainy season of any consequence.”

U.S. Railroad Survey Scout
1853

The park was first regarded in the way that many desert spaces appear – a dead, barren place where humans should not tread. Or, at the least, they wouldn’t be very comfortable.

An oasis named Mara, home to a few natives tribes, was renamed to Twentynine Palms in 1855. Prior to its renaming, tribes such as the Serrano, the Chemehuevi (sometimes called the Southern Paiutes), and the Cahuilla made it their home. The area of Joshua Tree was a large gathering ground for all manner of natural resources – plant, animal, and mineral.

Among other plant resources, acorns, mesquite pods, pinyon nuts, seeds, berries, and cactus fruits were available for the taking. The natives used plants for making bows and arrows, cordage, baskets, mats, seed-beaters, and other articles as well as for medicines. They hunted bighorn sheep, deer, rabbits, birds, amphibians, and reptiles.

NPS History

Adventures

Joshua Tree straddles two deserts, and varies highly in elevation. No matter where you go, though – it’s definitely dry! Posted here are a collection of my hikes in Joshua Tree. There’s so much desert to explore, and always something new and strange going on. I can’t help but want to learn more!

A familiar scene at Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree: After Hours

I recently headed over to Joshua Tree, hoping to catch some stars or some snow. Neither of my hopes came true. The sky stayed overcast the whole evening, and the ground dry. And it was perfect and still and I loved every minute.

Looking over Lost Horse Mine Trail

Open Desert

I don’t know how long the weather and the traffic will be clear, so now’s the moment. Take a chance to enjoy the desert while everything’s blooming!


The Living Plants

While well known for its namesake, Joshua Tree has quite a few more pieces of greenery (and pink!) that call the desert home. Up until the recent past, 121 plant species in the Joshua Tree area were used for food, medicine, or raw components for making other items.

Cactus Bones

Cholla cacti have wood skeletons. After they die and the water evaporates, after the skin falls off and the desert critters move in – they leave behind some wood. I never connected the plants as alive to how they were when dead.

Opuntia basilaris cactus - the Beavertail Prickly Pear

Wrinkled Beavertail Cactus

The Beavertail Prickly-Pear Cactus (Opuntia basilaris) is a mainstay in Joshua Tree and much of the rest of the Mojave. Learn about it here!


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