Joshua Tree National Park
A Study in Scarcity
|Area||1,235.4 sq mi|
3,199.6 sq km
|Location||San Bernardino County|
The Park’s Social Media
“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
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
Joshua Tree straddles two deserts, and varies highly in elevation. No matter where you go, though – it’s definitely dry!
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.
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.
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.
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!