California’s deserts are far from lifeless, endless expanses of arid land. They bustle with life ranging from Joshua trees and blankets of brilliant wild flowers to burro deer, coyote, bobcat, gray fox and mountain lion. Bighorn sheep roam the mountains. Tortoises negotiate the hot sand. Habitats like the year-round creek in Big Morongo Canyon which feeds one of the largest river habitations of its type, supports hundreds of bird species. Cultural riches and prehistoric remains of stone circles, used pottery and ground stones are traces of ancient civilizations that once passed this way.
Recreation is another attraction being organized by The Wilderness Society which is spotlighting 12 California Desert Treasures in upcoming tours, seven of which will take place in Southern California. Matt Jatovsky, formerly a ranger with the Mojave National Preserve and current California Desert Representative for The Wilderness Society, is working with other groups to create and lead public tours of these rare state jewels. Their future is also being currently determined with the recently released joint federal and state report, the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, a broad effort to create long-term planning for the conservation of special desert areas as well as areas suitable for renewable energy.
The first tour is Saturday, October 18, co-led by The Wildlands Conservancy, and includes the conservancy’s adjacent Mission Creek Preserve. The moderate, four-mile, three-hour hike will include views of Whitewater Canyon and Mount San Gorgonio and explore Mission Creek’s lush wetlands that provide this important habitat for the endangered Least Bell’s vireo and Southwestern Willow flycatcher. You may also spot some deer, bear, bighorn sheep and mountain lion.
The family-friendly tour is roundtrip from the Mission Creek Preserve. Departure is at 8:00 am. Go to the parking area at the end of Mission Creek Road off Highway 62, and be sure to bring adequate water, sun screen, a snack, and wear sturdy shoes. Space is limited, so please RSVP at Matt_Jatovsky@tws.org
For information on other upcoming tours, visit Discovering California’s Desert Treasures.
Header image: Rainbow Basin is another desert treasure to be explored in an upcoming tour. Photo by Bob Wick (BLM).
Home page image: Ward Valley, which will be included in the upcoming Route 66 tour. Photo by John Dittli.