From the National Park Service:
“While the Joshua Tree area has been inhabited by humans for at least 5,000 years, by the late 1920s the development of new roads into the desert had brought an influx of land developers and cactus poachers. Minerva Hoyt, a Pasadena resident who was extremely fond of desert plants, became concerned about the removal of cacti and other plants to the gardens of Los Angeles. Her tireless efforts to protect this area culminated in 825,000 acres being set aside as Joshua Tree National Monument in 1936.”
We’d heard about Joshua Tree National Park for years, and when we decided to turn a trip to California into a road trip that would take us down California 1 then across the state to Barstow before heading to Joshua Tree and then east to Phoenix to visit our daughter.
Joshua Tree didn’t become a National Park until 1994, but the designation added 234,000 acres to the monument. The new boundaries created an important habitat for desert bighorn sheep. Today the park ranges from 536 feet above sea level in elevation to 5,814 feet atop Quail Mountain.
And while the park’s unique landscapes are a stunning combination of the Mojave and Colorado deserts with their unusual plant life and rock formations, we were really there to see the Joshua Trees.
In addition to Joshua Tree, Yucca brevifolia is known as yucca palm, tree yucca, and palm tree yucca. Mormon settlers crossing the Mojave desert in the mid 19th Century, gave the tree its most common name because its unique shape reminded them of the Biblical story of Joshua raising his hands to the sky in prayer. The Spanish name for the Joshua tree is izote de desierto or desert dagger.