The Mojave Desert

In just a few short weeks we will be taking a small group out to the USA to trek a section of the Mojave Road through the Mojave National Preserve.  We will be trekking about 100 miles section across the breathtakingly stunning, Mojave National Preserve, carrying all our kit with us.  The route we are following is an old Native American track across the desert linking up the springs and has remained virtually as it was from the days of the first European settlers to arrive in the area.  This blog gives you a little bit more information about this remarkable place.

Located in the south western corner of the Unites States it is the driest of the three North American deserts (Great Basin to the north and Sonoran to the south and east).  Covering an area of over 47,000 square miles, it includes Death Valley and the Grand Canyon and ranges in altitude from 85m below sea level at Badwater in Death Valley to 3633m on the top of Charleston Peak near Las Vegas.

 

Devils Golf Course – Death Valley

 

Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon

 

It is a rain shadow desert, in that all the moist air coming off the Pacific dumps its rain in the Tehachapi, San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains which boundary the desert to the west and south.  The Joshua Tree (a species of Yucca) is only found in the Mojave and defines the deserts boundaries.

Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)

The desert is rich in flora and fauna with several distinct zones which have their own mix of plants and animals.  Soda lakes occur at the lowest altitudes then as you progress up,  you go through a Chaparral or Sage Brush zone, then there is a zone with an array of cacti and yucca. Above this the Joshua Tree is found and at the highest levels you find Pinyon Pine and Juniper. The are also areas of sand and also several dunes systems including the singing dunes at Kelso, which generate a deep droning sound.

Kelso Dunes

Most of the 13 inches of annual rainfall tends to fall in early Spring, which results in a riot of colour in late April and May as the desert blooms into life with flowers both from lots of annual plants that suddenly emerge, flower and seed before it starts to get too hot but also many of the different cactus species choose to flower at this time.

Desert in Bloom

The desert also hosts a wealth of wildlife including Coyotes, Jack Rabbits, Mule Deer, Mountain Lion, Big Horn Sheep, Turkey Vultures, Chuckwalla lizards, the endangered Desert Tortoise to perhaps some less like animals such as Tarantula spiders, Desert Hairy Scorpions, and the Mojave Green Rattlesnake.

Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii)

 Here are a few more pictures taken in the Mojave National Preserve