The Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert, two dissimilar desert ecosystems, merge in Southern California’s Joshua Tree National Park. With elevations from 536 feet on the desert floor to 5,814 feet at Quail Mountain, the park’s nearly 800,000 acres provide habitat for 813 higher plant species, 46 reptile species, 57 mammal species and more than 250 bird species.
Petroglyphs and pictographs from Native American groups who lived in the region can be found among the rocks, along with remnants of ranches and mines. The Barker Dam Loop is a popular hike leading to a small reservoir (which tends to disappear in the dry season).
Now about that name. The story goes that Mormon settlers traveling through the Mojave Desert thought the Yucca brevifolia, with its branches pointing skyward, resembled the biblical character Joshua with his pleading hands raised in prayer. The Mormons were not listening to U2’s album “The Joshua Tree” when they first spotted the ubiquitous plant. (Rumor has it that the tree pictured on U2’s famous album cover was located 200 miles from Joshua Tree National Park.)