Joshua Tree National Park

Adventure to Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park is about 140 miles east of Los Angeles, near the resort and retirement region around Palm Springs. It is situated at the eastern end of Southern California’s Transverse mountain ranges. The eastern side of the park is bounded by the low lying Colorado Desert and the western side of the park is Mojave desert country.

The desert is immense and infinitely variable, yet delicate and fragile. It is a land shaped by sudden torrents of rain and climatic extremes. Rainfall is sparse and unpredictable. Streambeds are usually dry and water holes are few. This land may appear lifeless, but within its parched environment are intricate living systems, each fragment performing a slightly different function and each fragment depending upon the whole system for survival.

Two deserts, two large ecosystems whose characteristics are determined primarily by elevation, come together at Joshua Tree National Park. Few areas more vividly illustrate the contrast between high and low desert. Below 3,000 feet, the Colorado Desert, occupying the eastern half of the park, is dominated by the abundant creosote bush. Adding interest to this arid land are small strands of spidery ocotillo and jumping cholla cactus. The higher, moister, and slightly cooler Mojave Desert is the special habitat of the undisciplined-looking Joshua tree, extensive strands of which occur throughout the western half of the park. Standing like islands in a desolate sea, the oases provide dramatic contrast to their arid surroundings. Five fan palm oases dot the park, indicating those few areas where water occurs naturally at or near the surface to meet the life requirements of these stately trees. Oases once serving earlier desert visitors now abound in wildlife.

Joshua Trees

The Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia, is a giant member of the lily family. Like the California fan palm, Washingtonia filfera, the Joshua tree is a monocot, in the subgroup of flowering plants which also includes grasses and orchids. The Joshua tree provides a good indicator that you are in the Mojave Desert, but you may also find it growing next to a saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert in western Arizona or mixed with pines in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Years ago, the Joshua tree was recognized by Native Americans for its useful properties; tough leaves were worked into baskets and sandals, and raw or roasted flower buds and seeds made a healthy addition to the diet.The local Cahuilla tribe has long referred to the tree as “hunuvat chiy’a” or “humwichawa;” both names now rest with a few elders still fluent in the language.

Guided tours

Up the game on your Joshua Tree National Park experience by bringing an expert into your group. From Jeep off-road adventures to self-guided tours, you are sure to have a great time. 

Leave a Reply



Sign in

Send Message

My favorites