JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, California 92277-3597
Joshua Tree National Park is immense, nearly 800,000 acres, and infinitely variable. It can seem unwelcoming, even brutal during the heat of summer when, in fact, it is delicate and extremely fragile. This is a land shaped by strong winds, sudden torrents of rain, and climatic extremes. Rainfall is sparse and unpredictable. Streambeds are usually dry and waterholes are few. Viewed in summer, this land may appear defeated and dead, but within this parched environment are intricate living systems waiting for the opportune moment to reproduce.
Two deserts, two large ecosystems primarily determined by elevation, come together in the park. Few areas more vividly illustrate the contrast between ?high? and ?low? desert. Below 3000 feet (910 m), the Colorado Desert, occupying the eastern half of the park, is dominated by the abundant creosote bush.
The higher, slightly cooler, and wetter Mojave Desert is the special habitat of the undisciplined Joshua tree, extensive stands of which occur throughout the western half of the park. According to legend, Mormon pioneers considered the limbs of the Joshua trees to resemble the upstretched arms of Joshua leading them to the promised land. Others were not as visionary. Early explorer John Fremont described them as "?the most repulsive tree in the vegetable Kingdom."
The park encompasses some of the most interesting geologic displays found in California?s deserts. Rugged mountains of twisted rock and exposed granite monoliths testify to the tremendous earth forces that shaped and formed this land. Arroyos, playas, alluvial fans, bajadas, pediments, desert varnish, granites, aplite, and gneiss interact to form a giant mosaic of immense beauty and complexity.
In the late 1800s cattlemen came to the desert. They built dams to create water tanks. They were followed by miners who tunneled the earth in search of gold. They are gone now, but they left behind the Lost Horse and Desert Queen mines and the Keys Ranch. In the 1930s homesteaders came seeking free land and the chance to start new lives. Today many people come to the park?s 794,000 acres of open space seeking clear skies and clean air, and the peace and tranquility, the quietude and beauty, only deserts offer.
Desert vegetation, often appearing to have succumbed to this hot sometimes unrelentedly dry environment, lies dormant, awaiting the rainfall and moderate weather that will trigger its growth, painting the park a profusion of colors. At the edges of daylight and under clear night skies lives a number of generally unfamiliar desert animals. Waiting out daytime heat, these creatures run, hop, crawl, and burrow in the slow rhythm of desert life. Under bright sun and blue sky, bighorn sheep and golden eagles add an air of unconcerned majesty to this land.
For all its harshness, the desert is a land of extreme fragility. Today?s moment of carelessness may leave lasting scars or disrupt an intricate system of life that has existed for eons. When viewed from the roadside, the desert only hints at its hidden life. To the close observer, a tiny flower bud or a lizard?s frantic dash reveals a place of beauty and vitality. Take your time as you travel through Joshua Tree National Park. The desert provides space for self-discovery, and can be a refuge for the human spirit.
Junior Ranger Program:
Visiting students can earn a Junior Ranger badge by completing a number of activities as they explore the park. The Jr Ranger workbook is available at park entrance stations and visitor centers. Workbook activities include drawing, writing, attending a ranger program, and picking up trash in the park.
Local student groups earn Junior Ranger recognition through a comprehensive study of seven units that involve an exploration of the National Park Service, Joshua Tree NP, and their local desert. Students also complete a service project in their local area and attend a ranger-led program.
While the Joshua Tree area has been inhabited by humans for at least 5,000 years, by the late 1920s the development of new roads into the desert had brought an influx of land developers and cactus poachers. Minerva Hoyt, a Pasadena resident who was extremely fond of desert plants, became concerned about the removal of cacti and other plants to the gardens of Los Angeles. Her tireless efforts to protect this area culminated in 825,000 acres being set aside as Joshua Tree National Monument in 1936.
The monument was administered by the superintendent of Yosemite National Park until James Cole was appointed as the first superintendent in 1940. The eastern portion of the historic Oasis of Mara was deeded to the National Park Service by the Twentynine Palms Corporation in 1950. That same year the monument's size was reduced by 265,000 acres to exclude some mining property.
As part of the Desert Protection Bill, Joshua Tree National Monument was elevated to park status on October 31, 1994. The bill also added 234,000 acres. The new park boundary follows natural features and includes complete ecological units such as entire mountain ranges. Previous boundaries divided these ranges along survey lines. The additions provide better resource protection with easier boundary identification and monitoring and important habitat for desert bighorn sheep. Elevations in the park range from a low of 536 feet to a high of 5,814 feet at Quail Mountain.
In 1976 Congress designated 420,000 acres within the monument as wilderness. Of the park's current 794,000 acres, 585,000 is designated wilderness.Joshua Tree provides habitat for 712 higher plant species, 40 reptile species, 41 mammal species, and 240 bird species. The federal register lists one park reptile, the desert tortoise, as threatened and one park plant species, the Coachella Valley milk vetch, as endangered. In addition there are 26 species of special concern being protected within the park.
Joshua Tree has one paleontological area and potentially eight more. The park protects 501 archeological sites, 88 historic structures, 19 cultural landscapes, and houses 123,253 items in its museum collection.Park staff maintain 88 miles of paved roads and 81 miles of unpaved roads, nine campgrounds with 523 campsites and two horsecamps, and 10 picnic areas with 38 picnic sites. There are 32 trailheads and 191 miles of hiking trails throughout the park. Park staff greet visitors at three entrance stations, two visitor centers, and one nature center.
Behind the scenes the park maintains 10 water treatment facilities, nine solar power stations, four maintenance facilities, eight employee housing units, and 95 vehicles.
There is a 30-day camping limit each year. However, only 14 nights total may occur from October through May.
Campsites are limited to six people, three tents, and two cars. Group sites acommodate 10 to 60 people.
At Hidden Valley and all group sites, motorhomes and trailers cannot exceed 25 feet. At White Tank Campground the 25-foot limitation includes the towing vehicle.
Obtain reservations for sites at Black Rock, Indian Cove, and all group sites by calling 1-800-365-2267 or online. Other campgrounds are first-come, first-served and fill quickly on weekends and during spring break. Camp only in designated campsites.
There are no hookups for recreational vehicles
Water is available at Oasis Visitor Center, Indian Cove Ranger Station, West Entrance, and Black Rock and Cottonwood campgrounds. Showers are not available.All vegetation in the park is protected. If you want to make a campfire, bring your own firewood.
Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Generator use is limited to six hours a day: 7 to 9 a.m., noon to 2 p.m., and 5 to 7 p.m.
Food-storage containers capable of preventing access by wildlife are required in the campgrounds. Any scented or odorous items must be similarly stored.
Per night camping fees range between $5-10 depending on the campground.