Joshua Tree - A Desert Park
from the road, Joshua Tree National Park only hints at its vitality. Closer
examination reveals a fascinating variety of plants and animals
that make their home in this land shaped by strong winds, unpredictable
torrents of rain, and climatic extremes. Dark night skies, a rich
cultural history, and surreal geologic features add to the attraction
of this place.
Joshua Tree - Spring Birding
Spring is an excellent season for birding in Joshua Tree National Park. In
addition to year-round residents, spring brings an influx of transients
and summer nesting species. A birding check-list is available
at visitor centers. Joshua Tree National Park's resident bird species,
such as greater roadrunner, phainopepla, mockingbird, verdin,
cactus wren, rock wren, mourning dove, Le Conte’s thrasher,
and Gambel’s quail can be sighted in the park throughout
the year. The park’s winter migrants: white-crowned sparrow,
dark-eyed junco, sage sparrow, cedar waxwing, American robin,
and hermit thrush will remain in the park into March. Along about
the time the winter migratory species are departing, other species
will begin to migrate into the area for spring and summer. This
group includes summer nesting species such as Bendire’s
thrasher, ash-throated flycatcher, western kingbird, Scott’s
oriole, northern oriole, and western bluebird.
Joshua Tree - Wildflower Viewing
season usually begins with the large, cream-colored blooms of
the Joshua trees in late February, followed by colorful annuals
at the lower elevations around the south boundary of the park.
Sometime in March, the bloom will follow rising temperatures into
the higher elevations of the park. Cacti usually wait until April
or May to produce their bright, waxy flowers. The extent and timing
of spring wildflower blooms in Joshua Tree National Park may vary
from one year to the next. Fall and winter precipitation and spring
temperatures are key environmental factors affecting the spring
blooming period. Normally desert annuals germinate between September
and December. Many need a good soaking rain to get started. In
addition to rains at the right time, plants also require warm-enough
temperatures before flower stalks will be produced. Green-leaf
rosettes may cover the ground in January; however, flower stalks
wait until temperatures rise. Wildflowers may begin blooming in
the lower elevations of the Pinto Basin and along the park’s
south boundary in February and at higher elevations in March and
April. Desert regions above 5,000 feet may have plants blooming
as late as June.
Joshua Tree- Climate
Days are typically clear with less than 25 precent humidity.
Temperatures are most comfortable in the spring and fall, with
an average high/low of 85 and 50°F (29 and 10°C) respectively.
Winter brings cooler days, around 60°F (15°C), and freezing
nights. It occasionally snows at higher elevations. Summers are
hot, over 100°F (38°C) during the day and not cooling
much below 85°F (29°C) until the early hours of the morning.
Did You Know?
North America is moving westward over the Pacific Plate at one
or two inches per year. When tension builds in rocks from this
collision, the strain is released along faults in the form of
earthquakes, as the rocks finally break.
Joshua Tree National Park is crisscrossed with hundreds of faults, and is a
great place to see raw rocks and the effects of earthquakes. The
famous San Andreas Fault bounds the south side of the park, and
can be observed from Keys View. Blue Cut Fault in the center of
the park can be seen from the hilltop behind Lost Horse Mine.
The fault forms the straight, abrupt base of the Hexie Mountains
east of Queen Valley.
Fault zones are important factors in localizing natural springs.
Movement by faults causes impervious zones of shattered rock fragments
to form an underground dam forcing ground water to rise. The Oasis
of Mara at the visitor
center in Twentynine Palms marks the Pinto Mountain fault. The
park has four other fault-caused oases that support the native
palm tree, Washingtonia filifera. These oases supply food and
water to a wide variety of wildlife and point to the connection
between the park’s geology and its wildlife habitat.
Will Joshua Tree National Park experience a large earthquake
anytime soon? Despite a great amount of recent seismic research,
no one can yet predict earthquakes with any accuracy. The earth
will continue to shake in Southern California, and most earthquakes
will be small - "felt" by seismographs, rarely by people.
Occasionally, a larger one will occur, but when or where remains