Joshua Tree National Park has become increasingly popular in recent years. Bird-watchers find the area particularly attractive in the spring; rock climbers test themselves among the giant boulderlike formations of quartz monzonite; and hikers enjoy such wonderful trails as the four-mile path to Lost Palms Oasis, where the rare California Fan Palm can be seen. Joshua Tree is one of the most interesting national parks on the West Coast, and certainly one of the best introductions to the quiet splendor of the Mojave Desert.
Joshua Tree National Park Photo Opportunities
Joshua Tree National Park has much to offer the nature photographer. Its plant life, unusual geology, and critters present many opportunities to snap the perfect picture. Here are a few ideas:
- Lost Palm Oasis: One of the park's five natural oases, Lost Palm Oasis is home to the rare California Fan Palm.<
- Eureka Peak: Along with Keys View, Eureka Peak is part of the Little San Bernardino Mountains. A hiking trail to the peak takes visitors to a ridge that overlooks the often snowy peaks of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio and presents majestic photo opportunities.
- Keys View: On clear days, the vistas atop Keys Point stretch across Salton Sea and into Mexico.
Joshua Tree National Park Wildlife Observing desert wildlife can be a challenging endeavor. Many animals are nocturnal, coming out of their hiding places only at night to hunt or gather food. Others tend to be shy, skittering away as soon as you approach.
Birds are perhaps the most commonly seen animals here. In addition to species that reside in the desert year-round, there are a variety of birds that migrate through the park in spring and fall or spend the entire winter.
Less visible are the park's many reptiles. Although small lizards are often seen scooting across the rocks, most reptiles -- including several species of snakes, some poisonous -- are rarely encountered (and many visitors prefer it that way). Occasionally seen is the slow-moving desert tortoise, one of the few threatened or endangered species that reside in the park.
Consider yourself lucky if you spot one of the park's large mammals. Coyotes, perhaps the cleverest critters in the West, are sometimes seen loping across a road or hiking trail. Bighorn sheep keep their distance on the park's rocky slopes. Rarely seen bobcats prowl about in the mornings and evenings. Jackrabbits and a variety of rodents, including ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, and white-footed mice, scamper across the desert floor.
As always, it's wise to shake out boots and sleeping bags in order to remove unwanted guests such as scorpions, which pack a painful, though rarely fatal, sting.
Joshua Tree National Park has a long and interesting history. On the next page, we'll discuss this aspect of the region.