Joshua Tree National Monument - History
By Sarah Lane
Jan 31, 2005, 12:47

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Joshua Tree National Monument - History

What may appear to some as a vast, dry desert, is really a complex ecosystem with many contingencies. The balance of plants, animals, and weather is a delicate one, and like many of our other National Parks, Joshua Tree would not have survived to flourish if it weren’t for people respecting the land when they visit. Simply follow the ‘Leave No Trace’ rule and you’re sure to enjoy the park without contributing to its downfall.

So what is a Joshua Tree? The Joshua Tree, or rather the Yucca brevifolia, is a member of the Lily family. In the 1850’s a group of Mormons passing through the Mojave Desert on their way to San Bernardino remarked that the trees evoked an image of the outstretched arms of the biblical Joshua, beckoning them to the Promised Land. The trees themselves live for hundreds of years and grow very slowly. The tallest tree in the park is over 40 feet tall and is estimated to be over 1,000 years old!

What creates the multitude of weather patterns and life forms is the culmination of two separate deserts, the Mojave and Colorado at Joshua Tree. The weather is as unpredictable as the habitats due to the large discrepancy in elevation. The Colorado Desert, which is primarily below the 3,000 feet level, makes up the eastern part of the park with its cholla cactus, ocotillo, and creosote bush. The Mojave Desert is higher, wetter, and a bit cooler. This is the habitat that houses the namesake of the park, the Joshua Tree.

Aside from the vegetation and desert animals lurking in the park, Joshua Tree is a very popular place for year-round rock climbing. The park’s 794,000 acres offer rugged climbs for the experienced and trails for the timid. Located in Southern California between I-10 and Hwy 62, the park headquarters is in Twentynine Palms. If you would like to know more about this desert and the beauty within, be sure to check the resources and tourism pages in this section.

Joshua Tree was designated a National Park in 1994, but has been a National Monument since 1936. The park was labled a Biosphere Reserve in 1984.

Source:       National Park Service, Eco-Photo Explorers

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