Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park was first established as a national monument in 1936 before being designated a national park in 1994. It is named for the unique tree that reminded Mormon pioneers of the Biblical story where Joshua reaches up to the sky as he prays. The park consists of over 800,000 acres desert, brush, and oases that support a wide variety of plant and animals. The park is open year round but visitors tend to visit Spring and Fall seasons when temperatures are cooler. Hiking, backpacking, and camping are some of the activities visitors can do in the park. Visitors should be aware that the park has few facilities and is mostly wilderness.
The Joshua Tree gives the park its name. They can grow up to 15 feet high and live for hundreds of years.
Backstory and Context
On the Eastern Half of the park is the Colorado Desert, which has the rare creosote bush. Once this plant dies off, it takes years for them to grow back, so the bush is a significant part of the desert area. This half of the forest is at a lower elevation, which allows more plants, such as bushes and cacti, to grow.
The Mojave Desert, the western part of the park, is at a higher elevation where it is cooler and where the Joshua Tree is able to live. Legend has it that Mormon pioneers described the trees as the arms of Joshua leading them to the promised land. While others, like explorer John Fremont, claim they are the most repulsive tree in the vegetable kingdom.
While animals like the bighorn sheep and the golden eagle add some life to this desert by day, nighttime is where most of the animals come out to gather food and find refuge from the hot sun. Exploring this park gives you insight into the harsh conditions the animals and plants live in and what people experienced when crossing the deserts.
In 1936, Joshua Tree became a national monument and in 1994, it was upgraded to a national park. According to The National Park Services website, cattlemen of the 1800s brought their cows for the grass and water. Miners dug into the area in search of gold. Homesteaders started building cabins and planting crops here in the 1900s. The park's museum keeps over 100,000 items from the houses.
"History and Culture." National Park Service - Joshua Tree National Park. Accessed February 23, 2014. https://www.nps.gov/jotr/learn/historyculture/index.htm.