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Joshua Tree National Park

Posted: Wednesday, December 05, 2012
Joshua Tree National Park
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  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Joshua Tree National Park
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Joshua Tree: more than just a U2 album. Nearly 800,000 acres more. The infinitely variable national park envelops some of the most enamoring natural formations California's Colorado and Mojave Deserts have to offer. Set within the convergence of the two, Joshua Tree widens eyes and drops jaws with its twisting and jagging mountains, and flora straight out of a Tim Burton movie that sways against strong winds, and cowers beneath sudden, yet sparse, torrents of rain. Climatic extremes keep streambeds dry, and most of the park true to its austere desert roots. However, microclimates filled with intricate and colorful living systems also sit 'round bends and down paths, awaiting their chance to surprise and inspire visitors with their lovely hues of low brush and fan palm oases. Arroyos, playas, alluvial fans, bajadas, pediments, desert varnish, granites, aplite, and gneiss intermingle and come together to depict the grandiose, almost intimidating, forces of earth that shaped Joshua Tree's incomparable slice of land.

Go to Joshua Tree National Park If You're Looking for...

Striking desert landscapes and a comprehensive outdoor experience. An extensive network of dirt roads make the acreage a prime target for mountain bikers, and the exposed granite monoliths attract rock climbers from all over the world. Joshua Tree has 9 campgrounds with tables, fire grates, and toilets, as well as several picnic areas up for grabs during the day. Ranger-guided activities, such as walks, hikes, and campfire talks leave at scheduled times posted at the entrance stations, visitor centers, and on campground bulletin boards.

Joshua Tree National Park Highlights

  • The Joshua Tree. Yucca brevifolia is a member of the Agave family and a prime indicator that you have entered the Mojave Desert. It is characterized by its dark green, linear, and bayonet-shaped evergreen leaves and, from February to late April, greenish-white bouquets of flowers. The tallest Joshua trees reach about 49 feet, but most of the park's strangely dotted population hovers at much lower heights to shape the iconic landscape.
  • High and Low Desert Convergence. Two desert ecosystems--one "high", one "low"--come to a head in Joshua Tree National Park, which is rare in its ability to so vividly illustrate their contrast. Below 3,000 feet, the arid Colorado Desert features an abundance of creosote bush, spidery ocotillo, and cholla cactus. Higher up, the namesake Joshua Tree reigns supreme in the slightly cooler and damper Mojave Desert. Colorado Desert experiences lie predominantly on the park's east side, and Mojave phenomena on the west.
  • Desert Oases. The draw of Joshua Tree National Park sees further enhancement from its five fan palm oases--the only areas where water exists naturally at or near the area's surface.
  • Desert Bighorn Sheep. The total population throughout the desert mountains of eastern California, Nevada, northwestern Arizona, and southern Utah is about 13,000. Joshua Tree National Park gives shelter to around 250.
  • Keys Ranch Guided Walking Tour. A 90-minute, 1/2-mile jaunt through the ranch that Bill and Frances Keys spent 60 years cultivating with their five children. In addition to the main house, its school house, store, and workshop still stand, and the cars, trucks, mining equipment, and spare parts the family used remain on the property to complete the effect of the Desert Queen Ranch story.

Best Time to Go to Joshua Tree National Park

The park is open year-round, though ranger-guided activities take place in the slightly more climatically dependable and pleasant months of the spring and fall. Summer can be oppressively hot, and winter blasted with heavy winds (great for the miles and miles of wind power generators planted in the surrounding areas) and spontaneous downpours.

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