Mojave National Preserve
The desert in the Mojave National Preserve ranges in elevation from less than 1,000 feet to almost 8,000 feet. The park lies at the confluence of three major American deserts: the Great Basin, the Mojave, and the Sonoran. Although the Mojave National Preserve lies officially in the Mojave Desert, the area contains floral elements from all three deserts. Nearly 70 percent of the vascular plants known to occur in the California desert can be found in this preserve.
In addition to the ubiquitous creosote bush and other typical desert vegetation, there are many unusual plant communities or occurrences. For instance, the New York Mountains host manzanita, California lilac, oak, and silk tasselall characteristic of coastal plant communities. At the same time, the Mid Hills support sagebrush and Utah juniperspecies usually associated with the Great Basin. At the other extreme, smoke tree and ocotillo, typical Sonoran Desert species, reach into the southeastern corner of the preserve.
Other unusual plant occurrences include the westernmost known stands of white fir in southern California. These relict stands are found in the New York Mountains and on Clark Mountain in the Clark Mountains.
Mojave yucca, up to 10 feet tall, occur on the slopes of the Woods, Providence, and Hackberry Mountains. The Woods and Hackberry Mountains also support extensive stands of desert succulents, including silver cholla, buckhorn cholla, barrel, hedgehog, pin-cushion, beavertail, and prickly pear cactus. Piute Creek, the only perennial stream in the eastern Mojave, supports cottonwood and other riparian vegetation.
Wildlife is nearly as varied as the plant life. More than 300 different species of animals roam the area. This includes 47 mammalian species such as 500 to 600 desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, porcupine, mountain lion, bobcat, rock squirrel, and wood rat. In addition there are 36 species of reptiles including the Gila monster, Mojave fringe-toed lizard, regal ring-necked snake, and desert striped whip snake. The endangered desert tortoise is also found here in good numbers. Some 200 species of birds have been recorded and these include golden eagle, several types of hawk, Bendire's thrasher, crissal thrasher, gray vireo, and Lucy's warbler. The elf owl, a state endangered species, was reintroduced into Piute Creek Canyon to reestablish the species in this region.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication