Joshua Tree National Park

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OVERVIEW: About this Audio-Described Brochure

Welcome to the official Joshua Tree National Park brochure and map audio-description. Listen to text and descriptions of photos, illustrations, and maps. This two-sided brochure explores park history, highlights, and planning information. This audio version lasts about 40 minutes. The divided sections provide an improved listening experience of the brochure.

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OVERVIEW: Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park, located in southern California, is part of the National Park Service, within the Department of the Interior. The almost 800,000-acre (323,749 ha) park is located 140 miles (225 km) east of Los Angeles, California on the west coast of the United States. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt designated the area as a national monument in 1936. Joshua Tree was elevated to national park status in 1994. Each year, over 3 million visitors come to enjoy the unique experiences that only can be had at Joshua Tree.

Two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave, and the Colorado, come together in Joshua Tree National Park. A fascinating variety of plants and animals make their homes in a land sculpted by strong winds and occasional torrents of rain. Dark night skies, a rich cultural history, and surreal geologic features add to the wonder of this vast wilderness in southern California. Come explore for yourself!

To find out more about what resources might be available or to contact the park directly, visit the "Accessibility" and "More Information" sections at the end of this audio-described brochure.

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OVERVIEW: Front Side of Brochure

Side one provides an overview of the two desert ecosystems found in the park, the Mojave and Colorado deserts. On the left third of the page, a background photo shows a typical Mojave Desert landscape. A Joshua tree stands in the foreground and large boulders behind. A column of small circular inset photos overlay this background image. These vertically arranged photos show some of the wildlife residents of the park. Illustrations of the Mojave and the Colorado Desert dominate the center third of the page. They detail the plants and animals specific to each ecosystem. A brief description of the geologic processes that form the park’s iconic boulders sits below these collages . A background image on the right third of the brochure shows a typical Colorado desert landscape. An ocotillo looms in the foreground and brush-covered hills behind. A small circular inset photo of an oasis, paired with text, sits at the top right corner.

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GRAPHIC: Black Band and Arrowhead

A top-to-bottom black band on the left edge of side one identifies this as the official park brochure. Inside the band, the words Joshua Tree in bold white letters are at the bottom. At the top of the black band is the National Park Service arrowhead symbol. Beside it, small white text reads: “Joshua Tree National Park, California, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.”

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TEXT: Varied Yet Vulnerable

The desert teaches us about the marvels of adaptation. Relentless sun, summer temperatures over 100°F (38°C), and little water can make a forbidding world for non-desert dwellers, yet hundreds of plant and animal species adapted to conserve moisture and beat the heat. As hardy as they are, their world is fragile.

Native Americans stewarded this land for thousands of years. Wanting to protect this beloved desert in the 1930s, American activist Minerva Hoyt navigated legislation and social hierarchy in ways previous caretakers could not. She persuaded President Franklin Roosevelt to proclaim Joshua Tree National Monument in 1936.

In the 1994 California Desert Protection Act, Congress renamed the area Joshua Tree National Park. Today the park protects 792,510 acres (3,200 square km), over 80 percent of it managed as wilderness, where the Mojave and Colorado deserts converge. This land has many guardians. How will you be one?

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IMAGE: Mojave Desert Trees

SYNOPSIS: A tall Joshua tree stands alone in front of a collection of Joshua trees and boulders.


A vertical color photo of a lone Joshua tree, its height exceeding 20 feet (6 m). It stands tall, separated from a cluster of other Joshua trees by a carpet of low green and tan shrubs. The lone tree has a rugged, scaly bark reminiscent of a lizard's skin. Its main trunk reaches skyward before splitting into three sturdy branches. Each branch further divides into 3 to 5 smaller limbs, all culminating in spiky green tufts resembling bottle brushes at their tips.

Behind this solitary tree stands a group of Joshua trees. Each tree has rough brown bark and branches reaching upward with green spiky tufts. Gazing further back, two towering tan boulder piles frame the scene. Deep cracks etch their surfaces, showing the forces of erosion that have shaped them over time. A dramatic "V" shaped gap separates the two piles. In the far back of the photo is a purplish sky. Sunlight bathes the scene in a warm glow, illuminating the rocky terrain and highlighting the vibrant green tufts atop the Joshua trees.

In the front left corner of the photo is caption text.

CAPTION: The Mojave Desert is home to pinyon / juniper / scrub oak woodlands, Mojave yucca, and Joshua trees.

CREDIT: © Tom Gamache

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TEXT: Transition Zone

Deserts do not have firm boundaries. Much of the park lies in the overlap between the Colorado and Mojave deserts. This transition zone has a wealth of biological diversity and is home to species characteristic of each desert ecosystem. Below are some residents.

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PHOTO GROUP: Transition Zone

SYNOPSIS: A column of eight small circular photos showcases a few of the park's diverse species. The images overlap the pale purple-blue sky background of the brochure's Joshua tree landscape cover photo. Black shadows radiate out to help each photo pop. The wildlife photographs of animals and one plant invite us to notice details.

Bighorn sheep:

A clear blue sky fills the frame behind the muscular horned mammal standing high on rocky terrain in the distance. The animal's body points away from the viewer. Its face turned over its shoulder, peering back at us. It has a white rump, black tail, and a short course coat of light tan fur and hair that sparkles in the sunlight. It has muscular legs for hopping up cliffsides. Its hooves are hidden from view from the rock ledge it stands on. Pointy horns, thick at the base, dramatically arch up and outward over stiff, pointed ears atop its head. The animal has a horse-like elongated face with a black-tipped nose. Photo copyright Frank Balthis.


This docile lizard is pictured close-up in profile. A high-mounted eye, like a green and black marble, observes the desert. Its mouth forms a firm line from its triangular but rounded snout to the hidden ear, buried in the scaly folds of its head and neck. Even with only one front leg revealed, the image conveys its stocky build. Claws grip the speckled rock, its toes thick and powerful. A tapestry of nature unfolds: mottled grays around the face and fiery rust across the shoulder, leg, and body. Camouflaged against the desert canvas, the chuckwalla stands in stark relief thanks to the photographer's magic. Sunlight bathes the lizard, highlighting its form against the contrasting darkness behind – perhaps the cool escape of a cave, its refuge from the desert's scorching heat. Photo copyright Frank Balthis.

Cactus wren:

A bird nearly fills the circular frame. It perches on a thin, dark brown branch that curves along the bottom of the frame. Sunlight shines on the left side of the bird, illuminating the creamy white feathers of the chest. These feathers are puffed up, possibly to retain warmth on a chilly morning. The closed wings are tucked back, hidden from our view. Streaks of brown feathers create a faint pattern along the light belly. The streaks become larger and darker towards the head, transitioning the bird’s color from light to dark. The head is primarily brown with a white horizontal stripe over the eye. Though the bird’s body faces the camera, the head is turned to the side, with the bird’s curved needle-like beak pointed to one side. The head is rounded with no crest. The tail is striped with brown and white and is rounded at the end. Photo copyright Frank Bathis.

Beavertail cactus:

This sprawling, low-growing greenish-blue cactus is in bloom. The cactus is made up of flat, rounded pads. Each pad forms a teardrop shape. The narrow part of the pad connects to the main stem and fans out from there into a large, rounded, flat disc. Each paddle looks like a beaver tail, which is where the name comes from. On top of the pads are small oval-shaped buds with slightly pointed tips. Each bud is tipped with pink, where peddles will emerge. There are eight fully blooming pink flowers. Photo copyright John Dittli.

Greater roadrunner:

This long-legged bird with a distinctive Mohawk of black feathers stands tall on warm, sandy soil. It holds a spindly, dark brown lizard in its beak, its limp body dangling with its head and front legs facing you, tail trailing behind. The Roadrunner's sharp gaze, a single golden eye, scans the surroundings, alert and watchful. A flash of vibrant colors – red, white, and blue – adorns its head behind the eye, contrasting with the sturdy grey beak pointed to the right. A speckled pattern of tan, brown, and black feathers runs down the neck. The dappled camouflage sweeps down its back and short wings. Fluffy white feathers cover the bird's underbelly, a stark contrast to its sticklike legs. Its long brown tail feathers extend to the left. The background fades into a gentle blur of green vegetation, hinting at the wider landscape. Finally, a sharp shadow directly beneath the roadrunner reveals it was on the hunt at the hottest point of the day. Photo credit: Steve and Dave Maslowski / Photo Researchers Inc.

Gambler's quail:

A feathery Casanova struts across the ground, its smooth grey feathers gleaming in the sunlight. Speckled white and brown feathers mark its underbelly, adding a touch of earthy elegance. But the real showstopper is its headwear – a bright red beret of feathers perched atop its crown. A single jaunty feather juts out like a playful plume, drawing attention to its tiny-beaked face, jet black encircled with a fine white line. Photo credit: NPS / Brad Sutton.

Desert tortoise:

The tortoise faces the camera, its head cocked to the side and its two front legs prominently featured protruding from the front of the tortoise’s shell. The animal’s pebbled brown skin and hexagonally patterned, brown-and-gray rounded shell blend well into its environment. The tortoise stands, lit by the sun, on brown dirt. It is surrounded by small green and brown desert plants, both next to, over, and behind the animal. Photo copyright John Dittli.

Desert iguana:

The reptile faces the camera head-on and appears to look directly at the viewer, its black eyes staring and its mouth slightly open, revealing a red tongue. The iguana’s front legs are fully extended in the foreground of the photo, its back legs are folded in the middle ground, and its tail disappears out-of-frame at the top of the photo. In this position, its legs seem to indicate movement or a readiness to move. The iguana’s body is a light beige color, with brown dots and stripes extending on its back and down its tail. Its scaly skin has a slight shine, overall blending well with the desert earth it stands upon. Photo credit Richard Seaman

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 The western half of the park, at elevations over 3,000 feet (914 m), is Mojave Desert habitat. Amid boulder stacks are pinyon pines, junipers, scrub oaks, Mojave yuccas, and Mojave prickly pear cacti. The Parry’s nolina sends tall feathery sprays skyward. The skeletal blackbrush might look dead but is very much alive, shedding leaves in hot months to retain moisture. The wild-armed Joshua tree is truly a sign you are in the Mojave Desert. It is not a tree but a yucca species. Like other desert plants, its waxy, spiny leaves expose little surface area, efficiently conserving moisture. Joshua trees can grow over 40 feet (12 m) at a leisurely rate of one inch (2.5 cm) per year. Clusters of cream-colored flowers bloom February through April, then the tree grows its branches.

Joshua trees, alive and dead, are home to many animals including the Scott’s oriole, red-tailed hawk, ladder-backed woodpecker, American kestrel, and western scrub jay. The loggerhead shrike often impales prey on the Joshua tree’s sharp-pointed leaves. Gambel’s quail, perhaps with a string of youngsters in tow, scurries from shrub to shrub. Hidden in the rocks might be a red diamond rattlesnake, its eyes on a desert spiny lizard, which in turn is searching rocks for insects. A marvel of desert adaptation, the pinacate beetle never drinks water but gets moisture by eating fungus and decaying vegetation. It is known as a circus beetle because, when threatened, it does a “headstand” while emitting a foul-smelling secretion. In early morning or late afternoon, a black-tailed jackrabbit may race across the landscape. Gigantic ears help regulate its body temperature. In warm weather its blood vessels expand to release heat. When cold, they constrict to retain warmth.

CREDIT: © Illustrations — NPS / Robert Hynes

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COLLAGE: Mojave Desert

DESCRIBING: Mojave Desert Illustration

SYNOPSIS: Explore the Mojave Desert through a colorful, earthy-toned, hand-drawn scene. The desert floor stretches before you, teeming with life. Diverse plants rise from the sandy expanse, each unique in shape and texture. Look up! Seven birds soar or rest on branches, their songs echoing in the warm air. Can you hear the chirp of a wren, the raspy call of a raven? Down below, a bustling world unfolds. Seven critters poise, ready to scurry, hop, or slither across the desert floor. Each plays a vital role in this fragile ecosystem. Let your imagination wander. As you explore this intricate collage, labeled elements guide your journey, revealing the names and secrets of each desert dweller. Inhale the dry, crisp air, feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin. This illustration is your desert gateway, waiting to be discovered.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: A large Joshua Tree stands tall and center in the image, full of and surrounded by scurrying wildlife. Based on the size of the animals on its branches, it stands at least 20 feet (6 m) tall. Starting with a thick truck at its base, covered in a rough surface with a texture akin to dry and peeling paint, consisting of intertwined light tans and dark brown colors. The entire tree is illuminated from the right of the image, leading to lighter highlights on the right and darker shadows on the left.

About halfway up the entire trunk (roughly 8 to 10 feet (2 to 3 m), the tree dramatically branches out with about a dozen thick branches with even rougher, almost furry bark. The bark seems to be layers of long, thin, dying leaves of yellow color. As the layers pile up, they are lighter in color. Around halfway up the trunk, about 5 to 6 feet (1 to 2 m) up, a woodpecker is seen pecking a hole into the tree; a large hole is being burrowed along with a small unfinished hole above it.

Pompom-like bundles form a cap on the end of each of the two dozen branches. Each pompom contains many long, slender leaves radiating outwards like a star or firework, going from light green at the tip to dull yellow where it meets the branch. 

Extending around the base of the Joshua tree and into the surrounding landscape are a plethora of other Mojave Desert vegetation and animals bustling about the busy desert floor. These plants and animals are highlighted in the illustration:

Mojave yucca: The Mojave yucca plant appears less than half the height of the Joshua tree. Prominently displayed is a collection of stiff pointing upwards and a mirrored collection of spikes drooping downwards. Each spike is slim and comes to a point. On the upward spikes, the color varies from light green to yellow green; most of these spikes end in a short, dark brown tip. The downward spikes are mostly yellow brown. 

Prickly pear cactus: A short prickly plant made up of flat paddles each about the size of a human hand. Each yellow-green paddle has a rounded curve at the top and comes down to a point to meet the others, forming a complete plant that appears to be a group of these paddles. The cactus is covered in short white spikes that meet the yellow-green paddle at the dark brown point. There are about 15 to 20 spikes per side of each paddle. 

Hedgehog cactus: Peeking from behind the base of the Joshua tree are furry-looking oblong pads; clusters peak out and grow in different directions, but mainly growing up. The ends of a few of the flowers have a dusty rose color.

Scrub oak: A scrub oak tree appears in the background, standing proudly above the landscape and displaying a great amount of bright green leaves. The leaves are on light brown branches that connect with a sturdy brown trunk. The trunk is dappled with a lighter brown color.

Juniper: The top of a juniper tree is visible at a distance in the image's background. Its dark, evergreen color contrasts with specks of brown throughout. The tree is broad and bushy at the bottom, and its needles or leaves come to a point at the top. 

Parry’s nolina: Long, slim, spiky leaves shoot up from a central location on the ground. The dark green leaves are slim, wider at the ground, and coming to a sharp point. From the center of the plant, a tall brown stalk supports a large bunch of green flowers dappled with white. The flowers appear in an almost popcorn-like oval shape that comes to a point at the top.

Red-tailed hawk: The largest bird in the illustration is the red-tailed hawk, possibly because it's also closest to the viewer. It perches close to the end of one of the upper branches, with its back facing us and its head turned so we see it in profile. The head is rounded with a sharply pointed and curved beak, showing how it eats its prey. The wings are held close to the body, meeting along the bird's spine. The body's feathers are brown and white with a random mottled pattern. The head is golden brown. The bird's name hints at one of its most distinguishing features: a reddish tail with a solid color that differentiates it from the coloration of the body.

Scott's oriole (male): Perched on a Joshua tree branch, this bird blends in with the colors of the tree and is not as visible as the other birds. Its dark head and chest stand out a bit, but its golden body blends with the dried foliage behind it. It's shown in profile, with wings folded against its body. Its sleek head is rounded, and even the beak is dark. The tail is hidden behind foliage and is not visible.

Loggerhead shrike: A grey, white, and black bird perches on the edge of a Joshua tree. Black wings are closed over the white underbelly. A long black tail feather extends out to the right. The pointed black beak is pointed to the left.

Western screech owl: This larger bird sits in the lower branches, just above where the trunk splits into two sections. It has a typical owl shape, with a large head that blends right into the body, showing no neck. Its large eyes are ringed with circular feathers, giving it a wide-eyed look of surprise, or perhaps wisdom, as it looks into the distance. The owl's feathers are mottled russet brown and creamy white, with markings in faint rows that run vertically down the owl's body.

Scott's oriole (female): A nest, looking like a hammock, hangs off the branch of the Joshua Tree. Two tiny beaks peak out over the top, mouths opened wide. The oriole, in profile, is perched on the left side of the next, leaning over it. Its pale yellow body points towards the nest-mates, and closed light brown and white wings adorn the back of its body. A beady black eye peers out of its pale yellow face, and a long beak hovers over the mouths of the younglings.

Common raven: The raven is soaring behind the Joshua tree with wings outstretched. It is solid black, with highlights on the inside of its wings and tail, possibly from the sun and not the bird's corporation. Its head is small in comparison to its large wings. Its tail is relatively short and curved at its end.

American kestrel: This bird is flying off in the distance; speckled white and black wings are outstretched; the wing closer to the viewer is displayed up, showing the underside of its wings and splayed tail feathers that are speckled with black and reddish-brown. Its feet are outstretched, talons open. Its face is white and black streaked and looks to the right.

Southwestern speckled rattlesnake: A thick snake sinuously sprawls before a low-growing prickly pear cactus. Its skin is a mesmerizing pattern of tans, browns, and grays. Speckles of black and white mottle its scales, offering camouflage amidst the desert rocks and vegetation. A triangular head, sculpted for keen senses, rises from the coils. A yellow eye, high on the side of the head, scans the surroundings. Its forked tongue flickers out, tasting the air. A series of loosely connected segments at the end of its tail hold the promise of a chilling sound, a warning to any who dare come too close.

Desert woodrat: Cautiously, a desert woodrat peeks from behind spiky yucca leaves. Russet fur, camouflaged against sand and branches, blankets its round, stubby body. Whiskers twitch on its snout, a pink nose sniffs the air, and large black eyes scan its surroundings. One tiny front paw grips the earth, the other frozen mid-step, both armed with sharp claws. Alert and tense, the woodrat stands ready to vanish at the first hint of danger.

Antelope ground squirrel: A compact body, no bigger than your hand, settles onto the desert sands. Clothed in rich, cinnamon-brown fur, the antelope ground squirrel tucks its powerful legs beneath. A white belly adds a touch of contrast to its earthy coloring. Above the fluffy body is its delicate head. Tiny black ears stand erect, beady eyes scan the landscape, and whiskers frame a face tapering to a black nose. Front paws cradle a nibbled treat, while behind, a bushy, black-and-white striped tail gracefully arcs over its back, balancing the busy nibbler.

Yucca night lizard: Cloaked in flat scales of pale gray and yellow, this elusive lizard blends seamlessly with the desert ground. A thin, dark stripe races down its back. Large, beady black eyes bulge from its triangular head, built to scan the night for any sign of danger or tasty morsels. Stout legs, tipped with sharp claws, dig into the sand for purchase. Its long tail tapers to a point but is thicker and stubbier than many lizards.  

Desert spiny lizard: Sun-drenched contentment radiates from the little lizard as it basks on the warm rock. A mosaic of greens, earthy browns, tans, and grays adorns its stocky body, each scale textured and ridged like miniature shields. Tiny spines march along its back. Beady black eyes, like polished jewels, bulge from its triangular head, tirelessly scanning the vast landscape for threats or tasty treats. Four sturdy legs, each equipped with sharp claws, dig into the sun-warmed rock for grip. Spiny scales run along the top and sides of its long, slender, whip-like tail, gracefully curling down the rock, offering support and balance for its agile movements. 

Black-tailed jackrabbit: This jackrabbit, a picture of pure alertness, sits poised for action. Its lean body stretches taut, ready to spring into action with its powerful hind legs. Delicate paws atop slender front legs hold its torso high. Enormous ears, tipped with dramatic black, rise like radar dishes, tirelessly listening for even the faintest whisper in the vast desert hush. Soft, grayish-brown fur drapes its body, transitioning to creamy white underneath. Its namesake tail, slender and black, tucks beneath for comfort, prepared to unfurl and act as a counterweight to help change direction quickly when springing for safety. This appendage is crucial for balance, communication, temperature regulation, and flashing signals during mating season. The contrasting black tip, both unique and striking, serves as a constant reminder of its vital role in the jackrabbit's survival. 

Pinacate beetle: The last critter in this Mojave Desert collage crawls along the bottom right of the picture. It is known as a stink beetle. Its rounded, long body has a shiny black shell, gleaming like polished onyx. Beneath the shiny armor, six sturdy legs propel the beetle across the sand. Each leg ends in a sharp pronged claw, digging into the loose terrain for traction. A rounded head, slightly narrower towards the eyes, houses two antennae that feel the way ahead. 

CREDIT: NPS / Robert Hynes

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TEXT: Colorado Desert

The eastern half of the park, less than 3,000 feet (914 m) above sea level, lies within the Colorado Desert. This habitat of the lower Colorado River valley is part of the much larger Sonoran Desert, which spans southern Arizona and northwestern Mexico. Creosote dominates this sunbaked bowl, punctuated here and there by spidery ocotillo, green-barked palo verde, and patches of jumping cholla cactus. Jumping cholla is also called teddy bear cholla— but don’t try to cuddle it! Intermittent water in washes and on hillsides sustains smoke trees and ironwoods. Wildflowers abound. Red-orange blossoms of the chuparosa attract hummingbirds, for which the plant is named, and the tiny checkerspot butterfly. Annuals including desert sand verbena survive drought by living only in spring and going to seed when conditions become harsh. Seeds can lie dormant for several years until conditions are again favorable.

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COLLAGE: Colorado Desert

SYNOPSIS: A detailed illustration with muted colors lays out a sprawling desert landscape. It depicts a place full of lush plants, active animals, and a plethora of geologic features. The illustration creates forced perspective, making scale hard to calculate. Nearest to the observer, a variety of flowering plants sprawl along the ground. Throughout the ground vegetation are several animals bustling about their daily lives.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: Clusters of boulders, rocks, and pebbles intermix with plants and animals at the front of the illustration. The illustration focuses on these elements. A sandy wash stretches from the lower left corner into the distance. It disappears behind a collection of plants. To the left of the wash, at the left edge of the image, plants continue into the distance, shown in a hazy light. Hills with brown soil and no distinguishable vegetation loom in the background. The edges of desert landscape blur and fade into the surrounding graphic elements.

A series of three plants cluster together. This includes two trees, and one shrub. Perspective scaling makes determining size difficult. Generally, the center plant (a Palo Verde tree) averages 15 feet (5 m) in height.

Smoke Tree: The tree on the left of the cluster, a smoke tree, appears to sit behind the rest. This makes it appear smaller. The tree starts at the base with a spindly red trunk and branches, illuminated by sunlight. White and light red foliage fills the bulk of the tree’s mass. This creates a fluffy, cotton-like appearance.

Palo Verde: To the right, and closer to the observer, sits a tall palo verde tree. The entirety of the tree–bark and leaves–has a green hue. From the base of the tree, four main trunks reach up and split off into smaller winding branches. The trunks and branches have a light green hue. Various patches of cream color and light browns appear as the bark dies off. The upper half of the tree has thick bundles of tiny leaves. They create a thick oval-shaped mass on the top. The mass contains small fluffy blooming yellow flower clusters.

Ocotillo: To the far right of these taller shrubs grows a tall spindly shrub called an ocotillo. The entire plant consists of a few dozen individual twig-like branches. The bundle of twig-like branches begins at a central point in the ground. They dramatically spread out to the sky, fanning out as wide as the plant is tall. Each branch appears to be 1 to 2 inches (3 to 5 cm) in diameter, and upwards of 12 feet (4 m) in length. Small, dark green leaves line the branches. Each branch ends in a fluffy, cat tail-like bundle of small, red, tubular flowers. The red contrast on the branches creates the illusion of small flames on top of a tall skinny candle. Its appearance leads to its name, ocotillo, which is a Spanish term meaning “little torch.”

Pencil cholla: The pencil cholla stands silhouetted against a small boulder. Large, showy blooms of a muted orange color adorn the tips of some of the branches. The cylindrical leaves give the plant its name. Their size imitates a typical size of a pencil. The leaves appear fleshy and solid like succulent plants. At the base, single cylinders rise from the soil. Up higher, the segments branch one or two times. All along the foliage, long white spines radiate out to show the needles of the cactus.

LeConte’s thrasher: A side view illustration of a LeConte’s thrasher resting on top of a plant branch. A coat of rich tan and brown feathers covers its body, accented by white along its wing. Its white breast feathers transition into a tan color as they connect to the underbelly. It has a long dark brown tail. The brown-colored legs and talons cling to a branch. A small black eye peers from the side of the tan head of the bird. The long, curved beak mimics an upside-down horn.

Kit fox: A side view illustration of a kit fox standing behind a rock in the desert. Its coat of silver fur on top and transitions to a sandy beige as you go down towards the legs. The fox’s head looks to the left. It has two large, pointed silver ears on its head with two yellow eyes with black pupils. Its head tapers down into a pointed snout with a small black nose. It has a bushy silver tail attached to the back of its body. The tail has a dark brown tip.

Brittlebush: A mound of thick leaves point outward, close to the ground. They cover the entire base. Thin needle-like stems explode outward from the mound. Each stem topped by tiny yellow daisy-like flowers. The flowers point skyward. The yellow petals radiate in a circle around a dark orange center. The flowers grow flat, not cupped. The entire plant is dome-shaped.

Western diamondback rattlesnake: An illustration of a western diamondback rattlesnake. The snake coils low to the ground in a striking position. A mosaic of colors spreads across its back. A series of dark brown diamond-shaped markings overlay a dusty gray-brown body. This pattern gives the snake's namesake appearance. It has a thick body, the size of a human wrist, with a broad, triangular head looking forward. The eyes are two vertical slits on the front of the head. Dark diagonal stripes extend from each eye down the side of the head, creating an intense gaze. A spear-shaped rattle with tan and gray bands peeks out from beneath the snake’s body.

Chuparosa: A bright dusting of thin red flowers blankets a sprawling cluster of sage-green stems. The plant stems transition from green to red at the tips. The small shrub blends in with nearby vegetation. A tiny black and orange butterfly flutters at the right edge of the plant.

Tiny checkerspot butterfly: A front view illustration of a tiny checkerspot butterfly. It flies near a flowering Chuparosa plant. A small black oval body holds two wings that span less than 2 inches (5 cm) wide. The wings display a canvas of vibrant orange, punctuated by a grid of black checkers. Each checker has a dusting of white. A hint of black and white outline the wingtips. A tiny black head with two antennae sticking out protrude from the top of the body. Small white circles top the end of each antenna.

Kangaroo rat: A side view illustration of a kangaroo rat crouching below a flowering plant. Starting from the left, a long, thin tan tail with a small fur puff at the end connects to a golf ball sized sand color body. Long powerful tan hind legs designed for jumps and speed extend from the main body. This rodent gets its name from this feature because of its similarity to a kangaroo. Moving up the body, two very short arms with paws attach to the front of the body. The kangaroo rat has a slightly larger head with round circular ears, black eyes, and a small, pointed nose. At the front of the head, white whiskers stick out from the face.

Dune primrose: Seven large floppy white flowers cluster around green low-lying leaves. The elongated leaves grow from the center of the plant with small green buds towards the base. The light yellow center of the flowers connects to small yellow slender threadlike fibers. At the top of each fiber sits tiny yellow circles. These produce the pollen.

Sand verbena: This plant creeps along the ground with horizontal stems. The cream-colored stems contain no leaves until you reach the clusters of flowers at the end. Tiny bouquets of pink and white flowers blossom along the ground.

Zebratrail lizard: A side view illustration of a zebratrail lizard resting on a rock. This small 4-inch (10 cm) lizard lies with an erect head looking up to the left. The tan head has a black eye on the side and a thin black line for a mouth. Moving down its neck, a small black spot appears. A sandy beige color topped with small white speckles covers the main body. From this side view, one pale tan front leg and two tan back legs stick out from the body. Sharp claws cling to the rock at the end of each leg. The underbelly of the lizard has a green hue with two thick black stripes. A pale tan tail adorned with a series of parallel bold black stripes connects to the body. These stripes mimic a zebra, the lizard's namesake.

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TEXT: Oasis

 At the park’s fan-palm oases you are atop a crack in the Earth’s crust. Geological faults crisscross the park area. Groundwater that hits a fault plane rises to the surface and creates conditions for an oasis. This lush, green area in the desert where water is present provides a welcome refuge from desert extremes. Dependable surface water nourishes vegetation. Along with the majestic California fan palms are cottonwoods and mesquites. There may also be un-desert like species, including orchids and amphibians. © FRANK BALTHI

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PHOTO: Oasis

SYNOPSIS: A circular photo of a fan-palm oasis in the desert.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: A small circular color photo. A black shadow radiates around the outside. This causes the photo to pop out from the grayish-light blue background.

A lone hill, dotted with sparse green vegetation, rises in the background. A cluster of palm trees and a cottonwood obscured it. The palm trees stand tall with trunks covered in old, dead palm fronds. The palm fronds have draped downward over time to cover the main trunk of the tree like a cloak. This gives the trunk a furry look. The live green fronds connect at a central hub at the top of the tree and then puff out. The top of each fan-palm looks like a Koosh ball or afro.

A cottonwood tree towers above the fan-palms. Its green leaves cover the top of the tree, creating a crown. F an-palms hide the trunk. Sunlight bathes the oasis in a warm glow. This intensifies the emerald hues of the cottonwood and shrubs nestled in the foreground.


CREDIT: © Frank Balthis

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PHOTO: Ocotillo

SYNOPSIS: A large vertical photo of a blooming ocotillo.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: A rugged mountain ridge dominates the background. Bathed in late afternoon sunlight, its peaks glow with a cool blue hue. A sliver of clear sky peeks through at the very top of the photo.

An area carpeted with vibrant yellow flowering bushes and green shrubs expands out on the ground in front of the ridge. The late afternoon sun accentuates the cheerful yellow color. On the right side of the photo is a boulder that is cast in shadow giving it a blue color. Teal-colored shrubs huddle around its base. A cholla cactus grows nearby with its spiny arms reaching out like miniature claws.

The left side of the photo transitions from a light blush color into two ocotillos. The structure of the ocotillos resembles bundles of frayed wires. Their individual branches, adorned with tiny, bright green leaves, seem to reach for the sky. Brilliant red flowers burst forth from the end of each branch.

At the bottom of the photo is caption text.

CAPTION: The ocotillo, a plant typical of the Colorado Desert, shows off red blossoms in spring and often again in fall.

CREDIT: © John Dittli

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TEXT: Ocotillo

The ocotillo, a plant typical of the Colorado Desert, shows off red blossoms in spring and often again in fall.


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TEXT: How did all those rocks pile up?

Roads and trails lead through a jumble of stacked boulders. How did they get there? The rock piles began underground long ago as a result of volcanic activity. 

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ILLUSTRATION: Granite graphic, first of three images

SYNOPSIS: A square color illustration showing stacked rocks separated by cracks.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: This drawing depicts grainy textured light brown granite blocks. These blocks have various angular shapes of rectangles and triangles. The collection of blocks tightly wedges together. The blocks fill the bottom two-thirds of the picture. A slightly curved, thick black line tops the blocks. Thin black lines separate one block from another. These black lines connect back to the curved line topping the blocks. The upper third of the picture shows blue sky and white wisps of clouds.

CAPTION: Magma— in this case a molten form of rock called monzogranite—rose from deep within the Earth. It intruded the overlying rock, the Pinto gneiss formation. The granite cooled and crystalized, forming horizontal and vertical cracks (joints; right).


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ILLUSTRATION: Granite graphic, second image

SYNOPSIS: A square color illustration showing stacked rocks eroding and separated by cracks.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: This drawing depicts the effect of weathering on the granite rocks. Both continued uplift of the rocks and groundwater contribute to this. The weathering process causes the grainy textured light brown blocks to crack and fragment. Small, rounded boulder shaped blocks begin to top the blockier rocks below. The fractured blocks fill the bottom two-thirds of the image. A thick black line creates a hill shape atop the blocks. Thin black lines separate the blocks. These black lines connect back to the black line topping the blocks. The blue sky with wisps of clouds fills the upper third.

CAPTION: The granite continued to uplift and contacted groundwater. Chemical weathering resulted and worked on the angular granite blocks (right), widening cracks, and rounding edges.


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PHOTO: Granite graphic, third image

SYNOPSIS: A square color photo shows an eroded granite rock formation in the park.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: A granite rock formation looms tall, with blue sky in the background. The rock has a textured light brown color, like the blocks in the prior two illustrations. Rounded, large boulders top the rock formation. Deep horizontal lines slanting upwards to the right scar the face of the formation. Thin vertical striations cover the rocks. Green leafy trees sit at the base of the imposing formation.

CAPTION: Eventually the surface soil eroded, leaving monzogranite heaps scattered across the land like piles of toy blocks (far right).

CREDIT: © Neil Rabinowitz

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OVERVIEW: Back Side of Brochure

Side two provides a close-up map of the northeast section of the park and surrounding area. A thin black band runs along the left edge of the page. Vertical black text located to the right reads “Explore Joshua Tree.”

The park map covers the whole page. The map shows major points of interest throughout the park. This includes paved roads, dirt roads, hiking trails, campgrounds, and other amenities.

The map legend is placed in the top left corner of the page. To the right, in the top center of the page, sits a text statement. It acknowledges the 15 traditionally associated Native American communities of Joshua Tree National Park. The text reads:

  • Joshua Tree National Park acknowledges the Maara’yam (Serrano), Nüwü (Chemehuevi), Īvīatim (Cahuilla), and Aha Macav (Mohave) people as the original stewards of the land on which the park now sits. We are grateful to have the opportunity to work with the Indigenous people in this place. We pay our respects to the people past, present, and emerging who have been here since time immemorial.

Park hours, activities, directions, and safety information fill the top right corner of the page. In the bottom left corner, a small rectangular inset map shows the entire park. It depicts Wilderness areas in green and non-Wilderness areas in white. A brief paragraph describing Wilderness is located on the right side of the rectangle. Text reads:

  • Wilderness. Congress has designated nearly 558,000 acres of Joshua Tree National Park as wilderness. Most of the park away from road corridors is wilderness. If you plan to venture into these areas, you must be familiar with special rules and regulations governing wilderness use.

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Getting Here: The park is 140 miles (225 km) east of Los Angeles. From I-10 take CA 62 to entrance stations. You can also enter the park from the south off I-10 at Cottonwood Spring, 25 miles (40 km) east of Indio.

Visitor Centers: Open daily except Black Rock Nature Center, which has limited access Memorial Day to Labor Day. Each has exhibits, bookstores, and activity information. Ranger-guided programs and Desert Institute classes run fall through spring.

Hiking: The website has details on a variety of trails, from paved and wheelchair-accessible to strenuous.

Camping and Picnicking: Most campgrounds do not have water. Campgrounds and picnic areas have tables, fire rings, and toilets. Camp only in designated campgrounds; reserve at Bureau of Land Management dispersed camping is available south of the park; campfires require a permit.

Backpacking: Get advance or same-day (limited) permits at Limited same-day permits are also available at Park Headquarters. Park only at backcountry trailheads. No water sources; caching water is allowed. Campfires are not allowed; you may use backpacking stoves. Pack out all trash; packing out waste is strongly encouraged.

Climbing: Get information at entrance stations and visitor centers and on the website. Only climb if you are properly trained and equipped. Watch where you place hands and feet; snakes are active in spring and summer.

Accessibility: We strive to make facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information go to a visitor center, ask a ranger, call, or check the park website.

Important: People have died here from preventable accidents.

  • Supervise children, especially around cacti and climbable rocks.
  • Carry at least one gallon (4 liters) of water per person per day.
  • Flash floods are a danger! Avoid drainage areas during and after severe weather and thunderstorms.
  • Stay away from abandoned mines.
  • Off-road driving is prohibited. Keep motor vehicles and bicycles on established roads. Obey posted speed limits. Some parts of park roads have no shoulder. Park in designated areas; vehicles may get stuck in sandy roadsides.
  • Pets are prohibited on trails and over 100 feet (30 m) from roads, picnic areas, and campgrounds. Always keep pets leashed.
  • Do not observe wildlife with artificial lights.
  • Federal laws protect all natural and cultural features in the park. Do not disturb, mutilate, deface, or remove any natural or cultural objects. No camping, fires, or toilets allowed in rock shelters.
  • For firearms regulations check the website.
  • Most of the park has no cell phone coverage. Emergency phones: Indian Cove Ranger Station, Intersection Rock, and Cottonwood Visitor Center

Emergencies Call 911

More Information

Joshua Tree National Park

74485 National Park Dr.

Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597


Follow us on social media. Download the official NPS App; select “save this park” to use offline.

Joshua Tree National Park is one of over 400 parks in the National Park System. Learn more at

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MAP IMAGE: Joshua Tree National Park

SYNOPSIS: The entire back side of this brochure is a large-scale and highly detailed map of Joshua Tree National Park. The following description of the map gives a general sense of the shape, topography, directions, and amenities within the park.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: The map shows the northwestern two-thirds of the park. The park outline displayed on the page looks like a right-hand thumb in a thumbs up position. The thumb is then turned on its side and pointed to the left. The area of the park shown is wider (east-west) than it is long (north-south).

The map’s scale in the upper left corner indicates that 2 inches equals 5 miles and approximately one and a quarter inch equals 5 kilometers. Located next to the scale is a north arrow. The north arrow points up. The description will reference the cardinal directions and left, right, top and bottom where applicable.

Text beneath the scale reads “Off-road driving is prohibited and no pets on trails.” Underneath this text sits two columns of rectangles and icons with associated text. The following description is for the two columns:

Left column has small rectangles filled with icons and colors.

  • Rectangle 1 shows a red line with the label “Paved road.”
  • Rectangle 2 has a grey line with label “Unpaved road.”
  • Rectangle 3 has a white line outlined with small black dashed lines and labeled “4-wheel drive road, high-clearance vehicles only.”
  • Rectangle 4 has a black dashed line labeled “Hiking trail.”
  • Rectangle 5 is filled with a pinkish-beige color and labeled “Developed land.”
  • Rectangle 6 has a red line with a small blue carrot shaped marker and the number 15. It is labeled “Mile marker Park Boulevard.”
  • Rectangle 7 has a red line with a small red carrot shaped marker and the number 15. It is labeled “Mile marker Pinto Basin Road.”
  • Rectangle 8 has a small black carrot shaped marker and the numbers 0.5 mi and 0.8 km. It is labeled “Distance indicator.”
  • Rectangle 9 has a small blue circle with a white “B” inside it. Labeled “Backcountry trailhead (permit required from”

Right Column lists small square icons that show amenities, activities, and services.

  1. Black square with a white building and a flag labeled “Ranger station.”
  2. Black square with a white table labeled “Picnic area.”
  3. Black square with a white person wearing a backpack, a sign, and a dotted line with an arrow on the end going around the inside edge of the square. Labeled “Self-guided trail.”
  4. Black square with a white glass of liquid labeled “Drinking water.”
  5. Blue square with a white phone labeled “Emergency telephone.”
  6. Black square with a white triangle shaped camping tent labeled “Campground.”
  7. White square, outlined in black with a black triangle shaped camping tent labeled “Group campground (reservations required).”
  8. Black square with white cross labeled “Medical facility.”

The park has three visitor centers:

  • Located in the north, sits the Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center in Twentynine Palms. This visitor center is in the center of town, outside the park, off Route 62.
  • Driving west along Route 62 is the Joshua Tree Visitor Center located in the town of Joshua Tree just outside the park. This visitor center is also near the north boundary of the park.
  • Cottonwood Visitor Center sits in the southern section of the park near the Cottonwood Mountains. The visitor center is located inside the park, off the Pinto Basin Road.

The northwest quadrant of the park has the most services, amenities, and activities. Map symbols, such as camping, picnicking, drinking water, medical facility, ranger station, emergency telephone and self-guiding trail indicate these.

The park has unpaved roads, 4-wheel drive roads and hiking trails. Many places within the northwest quadrant require backcountry permits.

The park’s topography and mountains. Following is the list with general locations:

  • In the north, sections of the Pinto Mountains are within the park boundary. Northeast of the Pinto Mountains within the park is the Pinto Basin.
  • In the southern section of the park are the Cottonwood Mountains. These mountains hug the southern boundary of the park.
  • Little San Bernardino Mountains travel in a north to south-easterly direction on the western side of the park. The park boundary follows along the edge of this mountain range.
  • Outside of the park boundary, on the south side of the Little San Bernardino Mountains, sit the Indio Hills.
  • Beyond the Indio Hills to the south sits the Coachella Valley. The Coachella Valley houses the cities of Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, and Indio.
  • East of the Little San Bernardino Mountains, in the central area of the park, stand the Hexie Mountains.

Roads in and around the park:

  • Route 62 travels (shown in red) east west and parallels the northern border of the park. Route 62 passes through the town of Yucca Valley as it heads west where it intersects with Route 247 (show in red). Route 247 heads north away from Route 62.
  • Route 62 curves around the western side of the park and turns to go southwest. It ends at Interstate 10 (shown in red).
  • Interstate 10 runs southeast through the middle of the Coachella Valley, paralleling the Little San Bernardino Mountains and the park’s western boundary.
  • On the west side of Interstate 10, Route 111 (shown in red) runs parallel.
  • Pinto Basin Road (shown in red) intersects with Interstate 10 and heads north. It crosses into the park at the southern border. This road travels in a northwesterly direction and connects with Park Boulevard (shown in red) in the northwest quadrant of the park.
  • Park Boulevard forks and travels north to the North Entrance Station and west to the West Entrance Station.

Cities and towns outside of the park include:

  • Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indio and Coachella in the west.
  • Morongo Valley, Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, and Twentynine Palms located northwest and north of the park.

Medical facilities nearby. Marked by a black square with white cross labeled “Medical facility.”:

  • Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Indio, are located southwest of the park in the Coachella Valley.
  • The only major medical facility located north of the park is in the town of Joshua tree.

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OVERVIEW: Accessibility

We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. The park offers an audio tour on the NPS App, plus braille signage in visitor centers and exhibits, as well as braille copies of the park brochure for use at visitor centers.

For more information go to a visitor center, ask a ranger, call, or check our website.

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OVERVIEW: More Information

Joshua Tree National Park is one of over 400 parks in the National Park System. To learn more about parks and National Park Service programs in America’s communities visit

Start your journey by getting information from Joshua Tree National Park Address: 74485 National Park Drive; Twentynine Palms, California; 92277

Or contact:

Phone: 760-367-5500


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