Fun things to do in Joshua Tree National Park

  • Oasis Visitors Center
    Oasis Visitors Center
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  • Sculpture at Oasis Visitors Center
    Sculpture at Oasis Visitors Center
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  • Oasis Visitors Center Displays
    Oasis Visitors Center Displays
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Most Viewed Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park

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    Cottonwood Visitors Center

    by Basaic Written Feb 8, 2013

    If you enter the park from the south (via Interstate 10) the Cottonwood Visitors Center is a good place to start your visit. This is a great place to get maps and brochures and to gather information to help you plan your visit based on your interests and the time you have. The rangers can also arrange for camping permits. There is a short nature hike behind the visitors center with informative signs about plants found in the area.

    Cottonwood Visitors Center
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    Oasis of Mara

    by Basaic Written Feb 8, 2013

    An oasis in the desert forms when there is a crack in the earth's crust and water is forced to the surface. This life giving moisture supports the trees and attracts wildlife along with people. The Oasis or Mara has long attracted human habitation. The first recorded people using the oasis were the Serrano Indians who called the place "Mar-Rah" or "little springs and much grass". By the time white settlers came in the early 1900s, the Indians were gone. Today the park service has to pipe in water so the oasis can continue as a home to the plants and animals.

    Oasis of Mara Oasis of Mara Oasis of Mara Bird
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    Minerva Hamilton Hoyt

    by Basaic Written Feb 8, 2013

    Minerva Hamilton Hoyt was a Pasadena gardener and civic leader with a strong love of the desert and its plant and animal life. In 1930 she formed the International Desert Conservation League and by 1936 convinced President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to establish the Joshua Tree National Monument.

    Minerva Hamilton Hoyt Mural Minerva Hamilton Hoyt
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    Oasis Visitors Center

    by Basaic Written Feb 8, 2013

    Just before you enter Joshua Tree National Park from the north you will see the Oasis Visitors Center on the right. This is a great place to get maps and brochures and to gather information to help you plan your visit based on your interests and the time you have. The rangers can also arrange for camping permits.

    Oasis Visitors Center Sculpture at Oasis Visitors Center
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    Road to/from the South Entrance

    by Basaic Updated Nov 16, 2012

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    I was only here for one day so I did not get to tour the Southern Part of the park. I did, however, take these pictures I'd like to share.

    I returned to the park in October 2012 and have now toured the Southern part of the park too.

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    Gather History by Reading the Rocks

    by PA2AKgirl Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    There are pictoglyphs and petroglyphs throughout the Park. There are also books available to read about them and the cultures that have inhabited the area. The Serrano, the Chemehuevi, and the Cahuilla were three "vanished" groups that lived in this area but their mark can be found throughout the park. (Not in an invasive way, either)
    This history of these cultures is amazing.

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    Look out for the unexpected

    by ranger49 Written Feb 19, 2008

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    There is such a lot to see in this place and it pays to be prepared for the unexpected.

    In certain lights the park assumes quite a magical. mystical atmosphere.

    A very special place to remember and hopefully return to,

    An unexpexted spring and stream Coyote getting hungry

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    Look carefully at the Rock Paintings

    by ranger49 Written Feb 19, 2008

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    The Rock formations in the Park provide one of the most visually dramatic aspects of a visit there. Not only in size, shape and colour but equally in the surreal way some of them overhang or are balanced as though on a pivot on the one below.

    As we walked along the Barker Dam trail, following the sketch map we had from the Park Office, I was thrilled to be the one to find, on the rocks beneath an overhang, the most incredible display of "petroglyphs".
    We clustered round all taking photographs . Wow, we thought, such colours so beautifully preserved for so many years!

    It was only later that talking to a Park Ranger we were told that the Park had been used as the location for a film in the 1950's and a helpful crew member, thinking the paintings a little faded, had brightened them up with modern paints!

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    A Big Rockpile

    by Basaic Written Nov 2, 2007

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    About 85 million years ago the formation you see here was formed 15 miles underground from magma. It became Monzogranite and a force called Mountain Uplifting pushed it towards the surface. It was once a solid rock but many years of groundwater, wind, rain and other forces of erosion carved it into the formation you see today. These forces are still changing this rock.

    Rock Formations Rock Formations
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    How are the Mountains Formed?

    by Basaic Written Nov 2, 2007

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    As you tour the park, you may notice some mountains that are composed of light and dark areas. The lighter areas are a mineral called Monzogranite and the darker areas are made of gneiss (Pronounced nice).

    Mountain of Monzogranite and Gneiss
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    Monzogranite

    by Basaic Written Nov 2, 2007

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    The impressive rock formations you see in the park are predominantly formed of a mineral called Monzogranite. The formations are formed underground and slowly exposed by pressure pushing it toward the surface and erosion caused by wind and rain. After the formations break the surface they continue to be shaped by the forces of erosion.

    Monzogranite Formation Monzogranite Formation
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    Symbol of the Mojave

    by Basaic Written Nov 2, 2007

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    The Mojave Desert contains the largest concentration of Joshua Trees. The Joshua Tree got its name from Mormon Settlers who thought the trees branches reminded them of the upstrecthed arms of Joshua from the bible.

    Joshua Trees
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    Change to Desert

    by Basaic Written Nov 2, 2007

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    If we went back over 10,000 years we would see a much different area here at the park. Back then the whole area was covered with juniper trees and pinyon pines. After the area began to get drier these forrests retraeted to higher elevations and areas like Hidden Valley.

    New Landscape
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    Opening Up the Hidden Valley

    by Basaic Written Nov 2, 2007

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    In 1936, just months before President Franklin Roosevelt established the Joshua Tree National Monument, Bill Keys blasted the opening we now use to access Hidden Valley. It is good he did because now all of us can enjoy this wonder.

    Entrance to Hidden Valley
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    Welcome Greenery

    by Basaic Written Nov 2, 2007

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    The abundance of water caused by the dam enables various oplants to thrive and adds a touch of green to the desert. As you can see from the photo, however, that was not the case in August 2007. These plants will thrive again though after a good storm.

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Joshua Tree National Park Things to Do

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