Joshua Tree National Park is swathed with fascinating things you didn’t know about it, interesting facts, and intriguing tales and legends that seem too outlandish to believe.
Things You didn’t Know about Joshua Tree National Park, Interesting Facts Included
The area of today’s Joshua Tree National Park has allured locals and travelers for centuries. A place of incredible beauty, unusual terrain, and bountiful secret locations that criminals used as hideouts. Can all of these fit into one destination? Absolutely. When you start digging into all of these fascinating details and historic (yet it doesn’t make them less interesting) facts, all of a sudden you realize how little you really know about Joshua Tree National Park.
Despite the fact that the place is located about two hours from Los Angeles, we first visited it about fours years ago. Wow, what a place it was! It still is, in fact. Yet that first feeling and complete bewilderment rolled like a flame on us. Apparently, we didn’t know anything about Joshua Tree National Park at that point.
Endless articles on the web and hundreds of pictures of iconic trees praise the natural beauty of the area. Some of these blog posts even include a bunch of interesting facts about Joshua Tree National Park. Yet they all seem to fall short of the actual representation of the desert.
And here I am, putting my two cents in describing the area and a plethora of things one can do here. (In fact, I wrote quite a lot as you can see in this Joshua Tree National Park weekend guide and the best places to stay near the park.)
Truth be told, though, all this useful information can guide you initially and help plan your itinerary. Yet you won’t know Joshua Tree National Park until you dive deeper into its geology and history, saturated with interesting facts and ancient tales.
INTERESTING AND FUN FACTS AND ALL OTHER THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
With that said, here are 10 things you didn’t know about Joshua Tree National Park, including useful information, myths, and interesting facts about the area and its famous trees.
Things You didn’t Know about Ecology of Joshua Tree National Park
1. A Place Where Two Deserts Meet
Did you know that Joshua Tree National Park consists of not one but two deserts? It might be not the most enticing thing to learn for active outdoor adventurers, but this remains an indisputable fact. The dry Mojave Desert merges with the Colorado Desert near the Cholla Cactus Garden.
If it wasn’t interesting enough, terrains and ecosystems in these two zones are as different as night and day. Significantly less vegetation (mostly small desert shrubs) adorn the eastern half of the park, a domain of the Colorado Desert. Joshua trees, symbols of the national park, thrive at higher elevations of the Mojave Desert. I bet you didn’t know this peremptory fact about Joshua Tree National Park before.
2. Joshua Tree or a Tree of Joshua?
You might already know a tale or two about the Joshua Tree National Park’s favorite tree. Yet this fact, or rather a legend, is too beautiful to leave it out.
So the story goes that the famous Joshua trees own their name to Mormon settlers that crossed the desert in the mid-19th century. As the sun was setting down, enveloping the area with its golden glare, the travelers startled. The place was filled with people. Nor the ordinary travelers like themselves, but Biblical figures. Interestingly, the silhouettes of the Joshua trees with their eerie branches reminded the Mormons of Joshua, stretching his hand to the heaven in prayer.
The validity of this tale hasn’t been proved. It hasn’t been debunked either. The majority of the visitors of Joshua Tree National Park take this legend as a fact. You can join their ranks or find a better explanation of the Joshua tree’s name, one that many don’t know yet.
3. Home to a Handful of Oasis – a Fact You Can’t Deny
Wait, what? You read it right. Joshua Tree National Park is home to a number of oases, such as 29 Palms Oasis, 49 Palms Oasis, Lost Palms Oasis, and Oasis of Mara. Seemingly, even the desert can’t resists California fan palms and allows them to thrive, but only in a few specific areas. The desert must protect its reputation as a dry and unwelcoming place, after all.
And as it becomes quiet expected, the old legends and tales surround these lush paradises. For the sake of briefness of this blog post, I’ll stop here. For those who want to know more about this side of Joshua Tree National Park, start with a tale about the Oasis of Mara.
Things You didn’t Know about Weather in Joshua Tree National Park
4. Snow in the Desert? It Sounds Interesting
Another thing you didn’t know about Joshua Tree National Park is that the region can get very cold. The temperatures often drop to staggering 35 degrees Fahrenheit in winter. On top of that, it can even snow at higher elevations of Joshua Tree National Park, which, as you know it already, is part of the Mojave Desert.
You should give credit to the Colorado Desert, though, that continues to maintain the status of Joshua Tree National Park as one of the hottest places in California. Its partner in crime, however, cares less about all things typical and showers the area with the unusually cold weather.
READ MORE: 10 Best Places to Find Snow in California
Things You didn’t Know about Geology of Joshua Tree National Park
5. One of the Best Rock Climbing Places in the World
Enough of the legends for now. The area’s geology exposes some well-known facts and sets Joshua Tree National Park apart from all other national parks in California. Are you ready? Here you are.
Joshua Tree National Park is ranked as a world-class destination for rock climbing. From massive boulders to desert mountains, the place offers superior rock climbing opportunities for both beginners and advanced mountaineers.
The thing the majority of the athletes don’t know about Joshua Tree National Park is that its famous boulders are a result of volcanic activity that took place millions of years ago. Furthermore, the rock formations that you see in the park have deeper “roots”. Good portion of these mountains sits underground, piling up there over time before exposing their peaks to the sky.
Uff, it’s certainly an interesting fact, something to remember when you climb the rocks in Joshua Tree National Park next time.
6. Plenty of Gold Was Found in Joshua Tree National Park
Really? Tell me more about it. I want to know exactly where you can find gold in Joshua Tree National Park. Not so fast. The gold in the area dried up years ago. At some point, though, Joshua Tree National Park and its surroundings had experienced an influx of miners and gold seekers.
Indeed, the region didn’t disappoint. In fact, Lost Horse Mine, one of the highlights of the 4-mile Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail, alone produced more than 10,000 ounces of gold and 16,000 ounces of silver from 1894 to 1931. Today, it would be equivalent to about $5 million.
Things You didn’t Know about History of Joshua Tree National Park
7. One of the Newest National Parks in the USA
Is it even possible, giving the facts we’ve just learned about Joshua Tree National Park?
Yes. The area went through some difficult times before becoming a national park. It all started in the late 1920s when the development of roads into the desert had brought land developers and cactus poachers. Luckily for the today’s park, some of the locals had opposed the aroused interest in the desert and its plants. The nature advocates had been heard, but, as it was often the case, only many years later.
So eventually in 1936, 825,000 acres of land were set aside as Joshua Tree National Monument. Hardly did the area’s supporters know that it would take another 58 years for the region to be upgraded to Joshua Tree National Park. The park was finally establishing on October 31, 1994, adding additional 234,000 acres of land to its territory.
8. A Place with Rich Human History
The humans had befriended the desert centuries ago. It’s a common fact. But did you know that people have lived in the Joshua Tree National Park area for at least 5,000 years? Once home to the Pinto people, the area carries their footprint up to this day. Ancient petroglyphs as those near Barker Dam attest to the long human history of Joshua Tree National Park.
Later, the miners and gold seekers, driven by desire to get rich quickly, flocked to the area. Remains of their “offices”, historic wills and miners as they are known today, are still scattered throughout the park.
Around that time, the region saw its first homesteading. Bill and Frances Keys called the Joshua Tree National Park area home for 60 years. This was the place where they raised their kids and had successful cattle ranching and mining businesses.
Rumor has it that Bill Keys started out running scams in in the Death Valley area. After spending some time behind bars, the man started anew in the Joshua Tree National Park region. Yet not everything was going flawless here. It was only a matter of time, before Bill was put in jail, this time for murder. Keys spent five years in prison. After his release, the man went right back to work, fixing what had decayed while he was gone.
As a matter of fact, Bill lived in the Joshua Tree National Park area until his death in 1969. Keys Ranch, schoolhouse, and workshop still exist and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Fun Facts and Other Interesting Things You didn’t Know about Joshua Tree National Park
9. A Muse that Inspire Many Celebrities
Did you know that at some point, Joshua Tree National Park served as an inspiration for such artists as The Eagles, U2, Selena, Childish Gambino, and Gram Parsons? Some of them have written songs about this remarkable region. Others had photoshoots (a trend that continues up to this day) or even shot music videos. There are no other places like Joshua Tree National Park after all.
10. Bizarre Accommodations You Wouldn’t Stay Elsewhere
Is it someone in the air or does Joshua Tree National Park indeed inspire creativity? For all of those who want to know, we’re not talking about the area’s ability to inspire artists and musicians. This time, the matter pertains the bizarre accommodations, surrounding the park.
The locals and frequent visitors call this type of lodging glamping, which is, in essence, camping with a bit (in some cases, a lot) of luxury. Where else can you rent a trailer in the desert or stare at the starry sky from a bubble-tent? If these accommodations don’t raise your eyebrow, try spending a nigh in a land yacht with the hot tub and back patio.
Final Thoughts on Interesting Facts and 10 Things You didn’t Know about Joshua Tree National Park
I’m glad you made this far. I have a surprise for you. The interesting things to know about Joshua Tree National Park don’t end on these. I have picked these 10 areas based solely on my own interests. I know some of these facts (first of all, the legend about the Joshua tree) are… well, common. Yet somebody might learn them for the first time. In case you are well aware of one or two of these fun and historical facts, feel free to skip them and move to the next thing you didn’t know about Joshua Tree National Park.
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