Joshua Tree National Park – once called Joshua Tree National Monument – was established in 1936. In 1994, as part of the California Desert Protection Act, Congress renamed the area Joshua Tree National Park . This park protects 792,510 acres & it is where the Mojave and Colorado deserts come together. It’s called the ‘transition zone’ where the two deserts converge. Since deserts don’t have firm boundaries, much of the park lies in the overlap between the Colorado and Mojave deserts. It has a diverse population of plants and animals from both desert ecosystems.
The Mojave Desert makes up the western half of the park at elevations above 3000 ft. What tells you that you are in the Mojave Desert are the Joshua Trees. They can grow over 40 feet tall (about an inch per year). They almost resemble palm trees but they aren’t actually trees. They are part of the yucca species. Its clusters of cream-colored flowers bloom February through April – branching occurs after flowering. If you come in through the entrance at Twentynine Palms, you’ll see the Joshuas right away. If you come in through the southern entrance, you won’t see them until you reach the Mojave Desert area of the park.
The Colorado Desert makes up the eastern half of the park at elevations below 3000 ft. This habitat of the lower Colorado River valley is part of the much larger Sonoran Desert (which spans southern Arizona and western New Mexico).
We entered the park from the south entrance – directly off I-10 at Cottonwood Spring, 25 miles east of Indio. The drive through the park from the southern entrance was beautiful. 🙂
There are many, many things to see at this park – one of them being the Fortynine Palms Oasis. When you’re at one of the parks oases, you’re atop a crack in the Earth’s crust. Geological faults crisscross the park area. When groundwater hits a fault plane, it rises to the surface and creates conditions for an oasis.
Another point of interest is Cholla Cactus Garden. This ‘garden’ is dominated by jumping cholla, named for its tendency to attach itself to the unwary traveler.
There is plenty to see and do at this park – we only had a few hours to explore but you could easily spend an entire day (or 2). Most of the information I put in this blog post came from their brochure and newspaper we got at the visitors center. Now, get out there and explore! Find the Joshuas! 😉