Joshua Tree – Brief Notes
I recently had a work meeting near Joshua Tree National Park. I know that site is well covered here and in Vladimir’s book but just thought I’d share some observations. I did a couple of hikes and 3 night drives while there. Weather conditions (wind, cold) affected wildlife activity.
I found it to be fantastic park, especially for the plant life and nice hikes. Definitely a place I’d like to explore more.
My meeting was at the 29 Palms Inn, near the national park visitor center in the town of 29 Palms. The inn grounds had black-tailed jackrabbits, desert cottontails, round-tailed ground squirrels and Merriam’s kangaroo rats.
I hiked to Tree City (turn off is on the other side of the road from the well-marked Geology Driving Route) to look for California chipmunks. The day I arrived it was very windy and cool, and I hiked in the afternoon. No chipmunks. I returned the next morning. It took a bit of searching, but I found 2 California chipmunks. Definitely spend time looking in areas with lots of junipers.
I saw a herd of desert bighorn sheep near the 29 Palms entrance, apparently not a common sighting in the park.
For two of the night drives, it was very windy and cold. I saw very little other than very nervous kangaroo rats, impossible to get a good look. For the other drive, the weather was very warm and mild. We saw many kangaroo rats, most skittish but a few provided clear views: both Merriam’s and desert kangaroo rats were spotted. I saw another kangaroo rat, larger than a Merriam’s with a fluffier, black-tipped tail — couldn’t figure it out. I also saw several very small pocket mice but couldn’t get close enough for an ID, and a larger rodent, likely a desert wood rat but running too fast to tick. Black-tailed jackrabbits were also common on night drives.
As an added bonus, we had great views of a common kingsnake and glossy snake warming themselves on the road.
The drive towards Cottonwood via Wilson Canyon to the Cholla Cactus Garden area was most productive for me.