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For the indigenous American tribe, see Mohave.

Extent of Mojave Desert.
Green square is the area of a survey made by the USGS which covers 25,000 square miles.

The Mojave Desert ( or ), (Hayikwiir Mat'aar in Mojave), locally referred to as the High Desert, occupies a significant portion of southeastern Californiamarker and smaller parts of central Californiamarker, southern Nevadamarker, southwestern Utahmarker and northwestern Arizonamarker, in the United States. Named after the Mohave tribe of Native Americans, it occupies well over in a typical Basin and Range topography.

The Mojave Desert's boundaries are generally defined by the presence of Yucca brevifolia (Joshua tree) considered an indicator species for this desert. The topographical boundaries include the Tehachapi together with the San Gabrielmarker and San Bernardinomarker mountain ranges. The mountain boundaries are quite distinct since they are outlined by the two largest faults in Californiamarker: the San Andreasmarker and the Garlock. The Great Basin shrub steppe lies to the north; the warmer Sonoran Desertmarker (the Low Desert) lies to the south and east. The desert is believed to support between 1,750 and 2,000 species of plants.


The Mojave Desert receives less than 10 inches (250 mm) of rain a year and is generally between 3,000 and 6,000 feet (1,000 and 2,000 m) in elevation. The Mojave Desert also contains the Mojave National Preservemarker, as well as the lowest and hottest place in North America: Death Valleymarker, where the temperature normally surpasses 120°F (49°C) in late July and early August. Zion National Parkmarker, in Utahmarker, lies at the junction of the Mojave, the Great Basin, and the Colorado Plateau. Despite its aridity, the Mojave (and particularly the Antelope Valleymarker in its southwest) has long been a center of alfalfa production, fed by irrigation coming from groundwater and (in the 20th century) from the California Aqueduct.

The Mojave is a desert of temperature extremes and four distinct seasons. Winter months bring temperatures dipping to below 20 °F (-7 °C) on valley floors, and below 0 °F (-18 °C) at higher elevations. Storms moving from the Pacific Northwest can bring rain and snow across the region — more often, the rain shadow created by the Sierra Nevada as well as mountain ranges within the desert such as the Spring Mountainsmarker bring only clouds and wind. In longer periods between storm systems, winter temperatures in valleys can approach 80 °F (27 °C).

Spring weather continues to be influenced by Pacific storms, but rainfall is more widespread and occurs less frequently after April. By early June, it is rare for another Pacific storm to have a significant impact on the region's weather, and temperatures after mid-May are normally above 90 °F (32 °C) and frequently above 100 °F (38 °C).

Summer weather is dominated by heat — temperatures on valley floors can soar above 120 °F (49 °C) and above 130 °F (54 °C) at the lowest elevations — and the presence of the North American monsoon. Low humidity, high temperatures and low pressure draw in moisture from the Gulf of Mexicomarker, creating thunderstorms across the desert southwest. While the Mojave does not get nearly the amount of rainfall that the Sonoran desertmarker to the east receives, monsoonal moisture will create thunderstorms as far west as California's Central Valleymarker from mid-June through early September.

Autumns are generally pleasant, with one to two Pacific storm systems creating regional rain events. October is one of the driest and sunniest months in the Mojave, and temperatures usually remain between 70 °F (21 °C) and 90 °F (32 °C) on the valley floors.

After temperature, wind is the most significant weather phenomenon in the Mojave. Across the region, windy days are common, and in areas near the transition between the Mojave and the California low valleys, including near Cajon Passmarker, Soledad Canyon and the Tehachapimarker areas. During the June Gloom, cooler air can be pushed out into the desert from Southern California; in Santa Ana wind events, hot air from the desert blows out into the Los Angeles basin and other coastal areas. Wind farms in these areas generate power from these winds.

The other major weather factor in the region is elevation. The highest peak within the Mojave is Charleston Peakmarker at 11,918 feet (3,633 m), while Badwater in Death Valley is 282 feet (86 m) below sea level. Accordingly, temperatures and precipitation ranges wildly, in all seasons, across the region.

The Mojave Desert has not historically supported a fire regime because of low fuel loads and connectivity. However, in the last few decades, invasive annual plants (e.g., Bromus spp., Schismus spp., Brassica spp.) have facilitated fire, which has significantly altered many areas of the desert. At higher elevations, fire regimes are regular but infrequent.

Cities and regions

While the Mojave Desert itself is sparsely populated, it has increasingly become urbanized in recent years. Las Vegas, Nevadamarker is the largest city in the Mojave, with a metropolitan population of around 1.9 million in 2006. Palmdalemarker is the largest city in California in the desert, and over 850,000 people live in areas of the Mojave attached to the Greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, including Palmdale and Lancastermarker (referred to as the Antelope Valley); and Victorvillemarker and Hesperiamarker (referred to as the Victor Valley) attached to the Inland Empiremarker metropolitan area, the 14th largest in the nation. Smaller cities in the Mojave include St. Georgemarker; Lake Havasu Citymarker; Kingmanmarker; Laughlinmarker; Bullhead Citymarker; and Pahrumpmarker. All have experienced rapid population growth since 1990.

Towns with fewer than 30,000 people in the Mojave include Barstow, Californiamarker; Rosamond, Californiamarker; Needles, Californiamarker; Nipton, Californiamarker; Ridgecrest, Californiamarker; Mesquite, Nevadamarker; Hurricane, Utahmarker; Moapa Valley, Nevadamarker; California City, Californiamarker; Twentynine Palms, Californiamarker; Joshua Tree, Californiamarker; Pioneertown, Californiamarker; and Mojave, Californiamarker. The California portion of the desert also contains Edwards Air Force Basemarker, the home of several past and current experimental aviation projects for the United States military.

The Mojave Desert contains a number of ghost towns, the most significant of these being the gold-mining town of Oatman, Arizonamarker, the silver-mining town of Calico, Californiamarker, and the old railroad depot of Kelsomarker. Some of the other ghost towns are of the more modern variety, created when U.S. Route 66 (and the lesser-known US Highway 91) were abandoned in favor of the Interstates. The Mojave Desert is crossed by major highways Interstate 15, Interstate 40, US Highway 395 and US Highway 95.

Other than the Colorado Rivermarker on the eastern half of the Mojave, few long streams cross the desert. The Mojave Rivermarker is an important source of water for the southern parts of the desert. The Amargosa River flows from the Great Basin Desert south to near Beatty, Nevadamarker, then underground through Ash Meadowsmarker before returning to the surface near Shoshone, Californiamarker and ending in Death Valleymarker.

The Mojave Desert is also home to the Devils Playground, about 40 miles of dunes and salt flats going in a northwest-southeasterly direction. The Devils Playground is a part of the Mojave National Preservemarker and is located between the town of Baker, Californiamarker and Providence Mountainsmarker. Housed within the Devils Playground are the Cronese Mountains.


The Mojave Desert is one of the most popular tourism spots in North America, primarily because of gambling destination of Las Vegasmarker. The Mojave is also known for its scenic beauty, with four national parks – Death Valleymarker, Joshua Treemarker, Zionmarker and Grand Canyonmarker all within the desert or adjoining it. Lakes Meadmarker, Mohavemarker and Havasumarker provide watersport recreation, and vast off-road areas entice off-road enthusiasts. Hoover Dammarker is a popular tourist destination. Visitors get a chance to see the structure, the hydroelectric power plant, and hear the incredible history of the dam's construction during the Great Depression.

Besides the major national parks there are other areas of identified significance and tourist interest in the desert such as the Big Morongo Canyon Preservemarker, which spans the Mojave and Colorado Desert, and the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Areamarker, west of Las Vegas, both of which are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM also administers Rainbow Basin and Owl Canyon, two off-the-beaten-path scenic attractions north of Barstow.

Among the more popular and unique tourist attractions in the Mojave is the self described world's tallest thermometermarker at high, which is located along Interstate 15 in Baker, Californiamarker. The newly-renovated Kelso Depotmarker and the massive Kelso Dunesmarker in the nearby Mojave National Preserve are also popular recreation spots. Calico Ghost Town, in Yermo, is administered by San Bernardino County. The pseudo-authentic ghost town has several shops and attractions, and is said to have inspired Walter Knott to build Knott's Berry Farmmarker. Nipton, Californiamarker located on the northern entrance to the Mojave National Preserve is a restored ghost town founded in 1885.

The Calico Early Man Site, in the Calico Hills east of Yermo, is believed by some archaeologists, including the late Louis Leakey, to show the earliest evidence of human activity in North America. Most archaeologists dismiss the so-called tools found here as geofacts.

Off road vehicle controversy

The BLM supervises several large off-road vehicle areas in the Mojave, including Dumont Dunes.

In 2009, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ruled against the BLM's proposed designation of additional off road areas. According to the ruling, the BLM violated its own regulations when it designated approximately 5,000 miles of off-roading routes in 2006. According to the Elston, the BLM's designation was "flawed because it does not contain a reasonable range of alternatives" to limit damage to sensitive habitat. Illston found that the bureau had inadequately analyzed the routes' impacts on air quality, soils, plant communities and sensitive species such as the endangered Mojave fringe-toed lizard, pointing out that the desert and its resources are "extremely fragile, easily scarred, and slowly healed."

The court also found that the BLM failed to follow route restrictions established in the agency’s own conservation plan, resulting in the establishment of hundreds of illegal OHV routes during the past three decades. The current plan violated the BLM's own regulations, specifically the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). The ruling was considered a success for a coalition of conservation groups, including The Center for Biological Diversity, The Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society, who initiated the legal challenge in late 2006.

Native Mojave plants and animals




Image:Mojave_Pinnacles.jpg|Pinnacles National Natural LandmarkImage:Mojave_Kelso.jpg|Kelso Sand DunesmarkerImage:Mojave_AftonCanyon.jpg|Slot Canyon in Afton CanyonImage:Mojave_DustDevil.jpg|Dust Devil, El Mirage Dry LakeImage:Mojave_CoyoteDryLake.jpg|Water hole, Coyote Dry LakemarkerImage:Mojave_Rainbow2.jpg|Rainbow Canyon, near the city of BarstowImage:Mojave_Amboy.jpg|Amboy CraterImage:Mojave_SummerStorm.jpg|Summer StormImage:Rainbow Basin.JPG|Rainbow Basin Syncline near Barstow, Californiamarker.Image:Stgeorge 059 edited.jpg|Yucca plant.Image:Mojave Desert.jpg|Just south of Highway 95Image:U2's Joshua Tree.jpg|Just south of highway 95 in the Mojave Desert lies what remains of the Joshua Tree from the album of the same name by the band U2. The tree fell in the winter of 1999-2000

See also

External links


  1. Munro, P et al. A Mojave Dictionary Los Angeles: UCLA, 1992
  2. Mazzucchelli, Vincent G., 1967,"The Southern Limits of the Mohave Desert, California," The California Geographer, VIII: 127-133. This study provides original maps of the Mohave and adjacent deserts in the southwestern states.
  3. Mojave’s Off-Highway Roads Found Illegal
  4. Judge rejects federal plan for SoCal desert routes
  5. Judge rejects U.S. management plan for California desert
  6. Michael G. Barbour, William Dwight Billings (2000) North American Terrestrial Vegetation, Cambridge University Press, 708 pp ISBN 0521559863
  7. John Annerino (1999) Canyoneering: How to Explore the Canyons of the Great Southwest, Stackpole Books, 154 pp ISBN 0811727009
  8. John Annerino (1999) Canyoneering: How to Explore the Canyons of the Great Southwest, Stackpole Books, 154 pp ISBN 0811727009
  9. John Annerino (1999) Canyoneering: How to Explore the Canyons of the Great Southwest, Stackpole Books, 154 pp ISBN 0811727009
  10. C.Michael Hogan (2008) "Western poison-oak: Toxicodendron diversilobum", GlobalTwitcher, ed. Nicklas Strömberg

Further reading

  • Miller, D.M. and Amoroso, L. (2007). Preliminary surficial geology of the Dove Spring off-highway vehicle open area, Mojave Desert, California [U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2006-1265]. Reston, VA: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Mojave Desert Wildflowers, Jon Mark Stewart, 1998, pg. iv

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