Mojave National Preserve

By George Wuerthner

The 1.4-million-acre Mojave National Preserve takes in the eastern portion of the Mojave Desert, a vast empty quarter where boundless space and limitless vistas dominate. I-10 forms the northern border and I-40 is the southern boundary for the newly established Mojave National Preserve. Within these bounds are lava fields, cinder cones, sand dunes, playas, mesas, and at least seven mountain ranges, with nearly 700,000 acres designated as wilderness.

There are a number of notable features within the preserve. Cima Dome is a gently rounded granitic dome covered with one of the finest Joshua tree woodlands in the world. The highest point, Teutonia Peak, is a popular hiking destination. The Cinder Cones consist of at least 32 extinct volcanoes and have been designated a National Natural Landmark.

Clark Mountain, just north of I-15, at 7,929 feet, is the highest mountain in the Mojave Desert. Among the limestone crags of its summit grow one of two isolated white fir forest stands in the entire California desert.

The Granite Mountains are noted for their rugged beauty and diverse plant community, with more than 400 species recorded for the area. The Research Natural Area, operated by the University of California, occupies a small part of the range.

The creosote-covered Ivanpah Valley, which lies between the New York Mountains and Ivanpah Mountains, contains some of the best desert tortoise habitat in the California desert, with as many as 100 tortoises per square mile reported.

The Kelso Dunes are located at the southern end of the Devil's Playground. The dunes are the third tallest in North America.

The New York Mountains form the central spine of the preserve. Rising to 7,200 feet in elevation, the New York Mountains are among the highest mountains in the Mojave Desert. The mountains consist of two different regions. The area west of Ivanpah Road has a steep, deeply eroded north face. Long canyons like Caruthers and Fourth of July are on the southern flank, and are known for their unusual live oak and chaparral plant communities. To the east of Ivanpah Road are the Castle Peaks, which are striking reddish spires of volcanic rock.

The Mid Hills area of the New York Mountains contain both granitic boulder outcrops and volcanic crags and canyons. Dense stands of sagebrush, along with pinyon and juniper woodlands give the area more a Great Basin feel than other parts of the preserve.

Adjacent to the New York Mountains lie the scenic Providence Mountains. This limestone-dominated range has sheer cliffs on its northern face along with dense stands of cacti. Within the Providence Mountains lies the Providence Mountain State Recreation Area.

The Piute Range in the southeastern corner of the preserve contains the region's only perennial stream. Because of the year-round supply of water, there are numerous archaeological remains found in this area. In addition the ruins of Fort Piute, an Army outpost, are found here.

Soda Lake, in the northwestern corner of the preserve, is a relict Ice Age playa. Three springs in this area support the endangered Mojave tui chub.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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