The Mojave Desert is about 90% in California. It is also part of Nevada and Arizona and has a toe in Utah. This desert is teeming with activities and people. It’s estimated that the population of the Mojave Desert is more than 1,000,000 people. It has 3 water sources of consequence but is considered a rain shadow desert because mountains block rain from entering it. It gets only about 4 inches of rain in a good year, which 2021 was not.
The Mojave Desert is relatively small at 21 million acres. It is amidst other, more important deserts like The Sonoran. Its human activity traditionally came from ranching, mining and the military, but now some growing and increasingly big cities are forming there. It’s largest city, however, remains Las Vegas.
The Mojave Desert, the driest one in North America, is about 1/5th of the State of California. When we visited California recently to drive Highway 395, we spent a night in one of the Mojave’s fastest growing cities, Ridgecrest. The Mojave Desert contains the lowest point in the United States because Death Valley is in it. The Mojave is the hottest spot in North America, but it soars upward to more than 11,000 feet in the Panamint Mountains that rise in the northern Mojave. These mountains run through Inyo County and form the western wall of Death Valley. The highest point in these mountains is called Telescope Peak. It rises to 11,049 feet and got its name from the fact that you can see for 100 miles in all directions from its peak. Those who know where to look can also see Mount Whitney, the highest point in lower North America, from it.
There are about 200 plant species in the Mojave Desert, but it has few trees. The most dramatic one around is the yucca-like Joshua Tree. There are lots of them in the Mohave. An entire forest of them can be seen in the Mojave National Preserve, which is worth exploring and contains a historic train station. The Mojave Desert contains 2 National Parks, this National Preserve, and The Lake Mead National Recreation Area. I have heard that Lake Mead, which was formed by the Colorado River, is at a historic low point this year.
The 3 sources of water in the Mojave are the Colorado River, the Mojave River, and some springs. The Mojave River is said to be intermittent and in the eastern San Bernardino Mountains. It flows mostly underground. The springs can best be seen along or near scenic Highway 127 that Ruth and I have driven and I have written about. The springs are primarily at Tecopa and Ash Meadows, which I have also written about.
More about the Mojave’s cities including Ridgecrest will be covered on another day.