When taken in small doses, nothing's prettier than a desert.
Located in southern California (near Palm Springs) Joshua Tree National Park is the combination of two deserts (independent ecosystems), the Mojave and Colorado (also known as the Sonora desert). The Colorado desert is the eastern portion of the park, which is also below 3,000 feet sealevel. The Colorado desert's key plants are the creosote bush, ocotillo and cholla cactus.
The Mojave is in the west, and it's moister and cooler, due to its higher height. The Mojave is the place to find the wonderful plant that the park was named after in the first place, the Joshua Tree (found in packs). The deserts also host a large variety of animal life, such as bighorn sheep, bobcats, roadrunners, and golden eagles.
After a strange hunting and gathering character named Pinto Man (an ancient human whose bones were found at Joshua Tree), Indians were the first settlers in Joshua Tree. The white man first steps on the scene in the late 17 century, when a bunch of miners and cattlemen ventured off into the desert. They've made their mark, with mines and ranches that are still in the park. Homesteaders came in the 30s, tempted by the free land. Minerva Hamilton Hoyt, a woman belonging to the wealthier side of California society, always enjoyed her trips to Joshua Tree. She wasn't alone, and other Californians brought increased traffic to the site, and brought back cacti as their souvenirs. Hoyt was wise enough to influence Franklin D. Roosevelt to proclaim it a National Monument (Aug 1936). 58 years later it became a National Park, thanks to the California Desert Protection Act.
The most striking thing about Joshua Tree are the rock formations. Huge, irregular piles of rock (usually with a climber or two) that happen to be located in the middle of a desert in southern California. But aliens didn't put 'em there, there is a scientific explanation for it. Over a million years ago, magma from the bellow the Earth's crust made its way up, but cooled before reaching the surface. This is now referred to as monzogranite. Over time the mozogranite developed three sets of rectangular joints, which were oriented horizontally, vertically and vertically (but at an angle). Ground water changed some of the minerals to clay, and this helped speed up the erosion. (More) Recent climate has eroded the ground away, leaving the boulders as towering structures. This cannot account for all of the rock formations in Joshua Tree, but it gives a decent idea of how it happened. Floods, windstorms and every other significant climatic event change landscape.
In the end, Joshua Tree is a treat for both those adrenaline devils (rock climbing) and those introspective souls.
as of September 23, 2000:
Non-Federal Land - 63,505.35
Acres - 1,017,748.03
Visitation - 1999
Total Recreation Visits - 1,316,340
Open all year
: $10 per private vehicle, $5 for walk-ins and bicyclists.
Golden Eagle Passports
: $50 12 months free entrance to national parks around the nation
Passports: $10 life-time pass for American citizens
, 62 years and over.
Passports: Free for Americans with a permanent disability
(who are also eligible for federal aid)