Monday, October 11, 2010

Rock at Joshua Tree National Park

The author of this photo describes, "Rock and Juniper at Joshua Tree National Park in Infrared... a tall thin rock and a juniper (I think) at Joshua Tree National Park..."

The Joshua Tree National Park in southeastern California was declared a U.S. National Park in 1994 vide The California Desert Protection Act. It is named for the Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) forests native to the park, which includes parts of two deserts: the higher Mojave Desert and lower Colorado Desert. The rock formations of Joshua Tree National Park were formed 100 million years ago from the cooling of magma.

The higher Mojave Desert is the special habitat of Yucca brevifolia (Joshua tree), which grows in patterns forming dense forests to distantly spaced single trees. The main geologic features of The Joshua Tree National Park landscape are hills of bare rock, usually broken up into loose boulders, or looking as artistic as sculptures, and the vegetation, mostly of desert plants providing a perfect artistic combination to the rocks and Joshua trees. Together with the boulder piles and the Skull Rock, the trees make the landscape otherworldly.

Though Joshua trees dominate open spaces in Joshua Tree National Park, among the rock outcroppings are found piƱon pine and California juniper (Juniperus californica), as seen in the photo above.

The Colorado Desert encompasses the eastern part of Joshua Tree National Park and features habitats of Creosote bush scrub; Ocotillo, desert Saltbush and mixed scrub including Yucca and Cholla cactus (Cylindropuntia bigelovii). The lower Coachella Valley is on the southeastern side of the Park.

There are several hiking trails within Joshua Tree National Park. Shorter trails, such as the one mile hike through Hidden Valley, offer a chance to view the beauty of the park without straying too far into the desert. The lookout point at Keys View, towards the south of the park, offers views of the Coachella Valley and Salton Sea.

Joshua Tree National Park is very popular with rock climbers. It was originally a winter practice area while Yosemite Valley and other parts of the Sierra Nevada were snowbound. The climbing routes are typically short, the rocks being rarely more than 230 feet in height.

The Geology Motor Tour is located in the south of the park and provides a self-guided tour for those visitors with four-wheel drive vehicles.

There are over 250 species of birds in the Joshua Tree National Park, including resident desert birds such as the Greater Roadrunner and Cactus Wren as well as Mockingbirds, Le Conte's Thrasher, Verdin and Gambel's Quail. Main birding spots in the park include fan palm oases, Barker Dam and Smith Water Canyon. Queen Valley and Lost Horse Valley also provide good birding. These are good places to watch Ladder-backed Woodpecker and Oak Titmouse.

A nice place to view wildlife is at Barker Dam: Desert Bighorn Sheep and Mule Deer sometimes stop by the dam for a drink, while Mountain Lions and Coyotes prowl the desert hillsides.

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