by Alex Gugel , all rights reserved

Mojave

Guide 2016

brochure Mojave - Guide 2016
Park News & Guide National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Issue 25/2015-2016 COURTESY NASA/JET PROPULSION LABORATORY--CALTECH Mojave National Preserve Black Canyon campground with a sky added from an astrophoto A Head Start for Endangered Tortoises? By Phillip Gomez NPS/KNIGHTEN An unpretentious little building surrounded by a security fence just off Ivanpah Road near the northeast entrance to Mojave National Preserve has an ambitious purpose: to improve the chances of baby desert tortoises to survive to maturity and to produce vital offspring. The cryptic lives of tortoises—spent predominantly in underground burrows— and the many years that it takes for them to reach sexual maturity and to reproduce have made it difficult for conservation biologists to conduct field studies. For this long-term research project, juvenile tortoises are being “recruited” over a 20-year period and nurtured in this facility until they are capable of joining the Ivanpah Valley’s population with a reasonable chance for survival. The idea for this experiment in wildlife management, entitled Desert Tortoise Juvenile Survivorship at Mojave National Preserve—or Head Start to researchers—is similar to the principle underlying children’s nursery schooling: giving kids a head start in life. Welcome to Mojave National Preserve. We are glad you have made the decision to spend some of your time exploring and discovering the treasures of the Mojave Desert. NPS/GOMEZ So, the National Park Service, together with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chevron Corp., Molycorp Inc., and two universities have partnered to create a working facility to try to gain a better understanding of tortoise behavior that affects their survival. The Ivanpah Desert Research Facility is staffed by a small team of faculty and Ph.D. candidates from the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory of the University of Georgia and from the University of California, Davis. Welcome to Mojave! Two yearling tortoise siblings explore their enclosure. The smaller one follows “big brother,” who became sick and was taken inside for the winter. In the case of the tortoise, the goal is to gain time for the reptile’s shell to develop and harden to make the young reptiles safe from predators. Adult tortoises with hardened shells have few predators, but juveniles are extremely vulnerable for the first four or five years of life. a small percentage make it to adulthood,” Hughson said. “It’s all about the predation,” says Debra Hughson, the Preserve’s chief of science and resource stewardship. “The purpose of Head Start is to allow them to survive.” How many tortoises are there in the Preserve? “Nobody knows exactly, but only Once numerous in the Mojave, the desert tortoise began experiencing loss of natural habitat from a variety of sources by the late 1980s: exurban sprawl, overgrazing by livestock, poaching, invasive plants, development of highways and dirt roads, and expanding use of off-road recreational vehicles. The degradation and fragmentation of habitat create barriers for the slowmoving tortoise in its search for food and water and also bring danger from motorists and off-roaders. Eggs of the unborn are sometimes trampled. Also, the lives of many are cut short by an upper-respiratory disease, possibly introduced into the desert by sick pet tortoises that were turned loose by their owners. This, coupled with the late maturity of the tortoise, which can take 18 to 20 years to reach breeding age, makes for long odds in the game of survival in the desert. Tortoise numbers have diminished by as much as 90 percent in some areas of the Mojave, according to Hughson. NPS COLLECTION In August 1989, the California Fish and Game Commission listed the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service followed suit with federal protection in 1991. The Preserve was created in 1994 under the California Desert Protection Act, federal legislation that was intended to protect remaining California desert wild lands. The act called for large-scale management of the Mojave bioregion west of the Colorado River in conjunction with Joshua Tree and Death Valley national parks, as well as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). continued on page 5 You have chosen a special time to visit us—one of the more than 400 sites within the National Park Service—because we have begun celebrating 100 years of sharing America’s special places and helping Americans to make meaningful connections with nature, history, and culture. The National Park Service was established in 1916 to oversee the administration of these special places. As part of its centennial, the National Park Service is inviting a new generation to discover the special places that belong to us all. We are encouraging new audiences and people not familiar with the National Park Service and public lands to find their park. Many people visit Mojave National Preserve the traditional way, in person. We also invite you to explore and discover the Preserve through our social media sites, including our webpage and Facebook site and via Twitter. Over the next two years, we will be increasing the content that we have on our social media sites in an effort to reach out to new audiences and to bring more visitors to the Preserve. The national parks are America’s best idea, and we want all Americans to help us celebrate these special places. You can help us do this. Share your experience with others by talking with your friends and neighbors about what you saw or did while here and post it to social media using #FindYourPark or FindYourPark.com Enjoy the peace of the desert environment, find yourself, and FindYourPark. Todd J. Suess Superintendent Essential Information…2 Exploring Mojave...3 Camping…6 Hiking…7 Mojave National Preserve Map…8 National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Desert Safety Tips THE MAIN CAUSE OF DEATH IN MOJAVE Mojave National Preserve Established in 1994, Mojave National Preserve encompasses 1.6 million acres ranging in elevation from 800’ near Baker to 7,929’ at Clark Mountain. Although most of the park lies in the Mojave Desert, the southeast section grades into the Sonoran Desert, and elements of the Great Basin Desert are found at higher elevations east of the Granite, Providence, and New York mountains. Superintendent Todd J. Suess Chief Ranger John A. Piastuck More people die in single-car accidents due to speeding than by any other means. Reduce your speed. DO NOT DEPEND ON A GPS NAVIGATION SYSTEM GPS maps of remote areas, including Mojave National Preserve, are notoriously unreliable. Carry a folding map. CARRY AND DRINK PLENTY OF WATER Carry a minimum of a gallon per person per day in your vehicle even if you are just passing through. You will need it in an emergency. Carry more if you plan to be active. Fluid and electrolyte levels must be balanced, so have salty foods or “sports drinks” handy as well. your plans. FLASH FLOODS While driving, be alert for water running in washes and across dips in the road. When hiking and camping, avoid canyons and washes during rain storms, and be prepared to move to higher ground. Mailing Address 2701 Barstow Road Barstow, CA 92311 Hikers, backpackers, and those traveling on dirt roads need to be self-reliant and well-prepared. Plan ahead, carry detailed maps, and let someone know DANGEROUS ANIMALS Never place your hands or feet where you cannot see first. Rattlesnakes, scorpions, or black widow spiders might be sheltered there. DRESS PROPERLY FOR HIKING Wear loose-fitting clothing and sturdy shoes that protect your feet from rocks and cactus. Use sunscreen and wear a hat. Carry a light jacket as temperatures drop dramatically when the sun goes down. MINE HAZARDS Never enter a mine. They are unmaintained and unstable, and you might encounter pockets of bad air or poisonous gas. Stay out, and stay alive! IN CASE OF EMERGENCY AVOID HIKING IN EXTREME HEAT Do not hike in the low elevations when temperatures are high; the mountains are cooler in summer. BACKCOUNTRY TRAVEL Newspaper Editor Norma Sosa drinks. Dampen clothing to lower body temperature. Be alert for symptoms in others. WATCH FOR SIGNS OF TROUBLE ON HOT DAYS Cell phones do not work in many areas. Try moving uphill to get a signal. To call for help, dial 911 or the Federal Interagency Communications Center at 909383-5651. After calling, stay with your car until help comes. If you feel dizzy or nauseated, or if you develop a headache, get out of the sun immediately, and drink water or sports Web and E-mail www.nps.gov/moja For e-mail, click “Contact Us” Park Headquarters ph: 760-252-6100 fax: 760-252-6174 National Park Service employees care for America’s national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and to create close-to-home recreational opportunities. .................................................................................................................................................................. Essential Information Dates and Hours of Operation The preserve is always open. Information centers (see below) maintain regular hours of operation. Fees and Reservations There are no entrance fees. See page 6 for information about campground reservations and fees. Information Centers Three information centers provide orientation, information, and trip-planning advice. Park rangers are on duty. Western National Parks Association (WNPA) bookstores offer books, maps, and more. Kelso Depot Visitor Center Located on Kelbaker Road, 34 miles southeast of Baker, CA. Open seven days per week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed on Christmas. Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center Located near Hole-in-the-Wall Campground. Headquarters Information Center Located at 2701 Barstow Road, Barstow, Calif. Open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Food Limited snacks are available in the Western National Parks Association stores at Kelso Depot Visitor Center and Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center, but there is no restaurant. Restaurants are located along I-15 at Barstow and Baker, Calif. and along I-40 at Ludlow, Fenner, and Needles, Calif. Water Drinking water is available only at Kelso Depot Visitor Center, Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center, Hole-in-the-Wall, Black Canyon and Mid-Hills campgrounds. Gasoline There are no gasoline stations within Mojave National Preserve. Gasoline can be purchased along I–40 at Needles, Fenner, and Ludlow, Calif., along I–15 at Baker, Calif., the Cima Road exit, and Primm, Nev., and along U.S. 95 at Searchlight and at the Nev.163 junction south of Cal-Nev-Ari, Nev. Lodging There are no motels within Mojave National Preserve. Lodging may be available in Barstow, Nipton, Ludlow, Needles, Baker, and Twentynine Palms, Calif., and in Primm and Searchlight, Nev. Bicycles Bicycles are allowed in parking areas, on paved roads, and on existing, open dirt roads. Bicycles are not allowed in Wilderness Areas or for cross-country travel. 2 Mojave National Preserve Pets Although not allowed inside information centers, pets are welcome elsewhere. They must be leashed and never left unattended. Dogs used during hunting activities must be under the owner’s control at all times. Pet excrement must be collected and disposed of in garbage receptacles. Permits Permits are required for all organized events, group events (more than 15 individuals or 7 vehicles), and commercial activities such as filming. Fees apply. Proof of insurance and posting of a bond might also be required. Call 760-252-6107 or visit www.nps.gov/moja for more information. Hunting and Firearms Hunting is permitted in accordance with state regulations. All hunting activities require a license; additional permits and tags might apply. Visit the California Department of Fish & Wildlife website at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/ for more information. Target shooting or “plinking” is prohibited. All firearms transported within the preserve must be unloaded, cased, and broken down, except during lawful hunting activities. No shooting is permitted within 1/2 mile of developed areas, including campgrounds, information centers, Kelso Dunes, Fort Piute, Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center, and the Desert Studies Center at Zzyzx. Collecting and Vandalism Disturbing, defacing, or collecting plants, animals, rocks, historic or archeological objects is prohibited. Leave these resources as you find them for everyone to enjoy. Metal detectors are not allowed. Private Property Private inholdings are found throughout the preserve. Please respect the rights of our neighbors. It is your responsibility to obtain permission before hunting, hiking, or entering private property. Cattle and Fences Most grazing within Mojave National Preserve occurs on public land. This land is open to you to explore, but please don’t disturb cattle, fences, or water tanks. Leave gates as you find them. Watch for cattle on roadways. Firewood & Campfires Wood is scarce in the desert. Cutting or collecting any wood, including downed wood, is prohibited. All firewood, including kindling, must be brought in. Firewood might be available for purchase at Baker, Fenner, Needles or Nipton, Calif. Campfires are allowed in campground fire rings and other established sites. To minimize your impact, use a firepan and pack out the ashes. Please do not leave fires smoldering or unattended. NPS/LINDA SLATER Exploring Mojave Avenues to Adventure Mojave National Preserve is vast. At 1.6 million acres, it is the third-largest unit of the National Park System in the contiguous United States. While much of Mojave’s wild and historic splendor is available only to those who travel its trails and unmaintained roads, the primary roads of the preserve offer endless opportunities for exploration (see map on page 8). Kelbaker Road Cima Road A 56-mile paved road stretching from I-15 at Baker, Calif. in the north to I-40 east of Ludlow, Calif. in the south, Kelbaker Road winds past cinder cones, lava flows, Kelso Depot, Kelso Dunes, and the Granite Mountains. About 26 miles east of Baker, Calif., the paved Cima Road connects I-15 with Cima, Calif., 16 miles to the southeast. Cinder Cones & Lava Flows No signs or services. About 14 miles southeast of Baker, Kelbaker Road traverses a 25,600-acre area of lava flows and volcanic cinder cones thought to range in age from 10,000 to 7 million years old. In 1973, the area was designated as Cinder Cones National Natural Landmark due to its scenic beauty and exceptional geological value. Aiken Mine Road (19 miles southeast of Baker, Calif.) offers an interesting side trip through the heart of the area and access to a lava tube. High clearance and four-wheel drive recommended. Kelso Depot Visitor Center Information, exhibits, orientation film, art gallery, bookstore, restrooms, water, picnic area. Open every day but Christmas. Located 34 miles southeast of Baker, Kelso Depot began operation in 1924 and served as train station, restaurant, and employee housing on the Los Angeles and Salt Lake route of the Union Pacific Railroad. Now Mojave National Preserve’s principal information center and museum, the Depot offers extensive exhibits that describe the cultural and natural history of the preserve. Historically furnished rooms offer a glimpse into Kelso’s past. Kelso Dunes Self-guiding trail, pit toilets, no water. About 42 miles southeast of Baker (8 miles south of Kelso Depot), then 3 miles west on a graded dirt road. Nearly 700 feet high and covering a 45-square-mile area, the Kelso Dunes were created over the course of 25,000 years by winds carrying sand grains from the dried Soda Lake and Mojave River Sink located to the northwest. The Providence and Granite mountains served as barriers that trapped the blowing sand. The dunes produce a “booming” or “singing” sound when sand with the right moisture content slides down the steep slopes. Try it for yourself—run down a dune slope (but don’t trample vegetation!) to initiate the sound. Granite Mountains No signs or services. An imposing jumble of granite marks the south entrance to the preserve, 50 miles southeast of Baker on Kelbaker Road. Portions of the Granite Mountains lie within the University of California’s Desert Research Center; please respect the signs that mark the boundary. High clearance and four-wheel drive recommended. Clark Mountain No signs or services. The only portion of Mojave National Preserve north of I-15, Clark Mountain is also its highest point, at 7,929 feet. A relict white fir grove near the top is one of only three in the Mojave Desert. Check detailed maps or ask a ranger for access information. High clearance and four-wheel drive recommended. Cima Dome & Joshua Tree Woodland Self-guiding trail, no water. The near-perfect symmetry of Cima Dome rises 1,500 feet above the surrounding desert and is home to the world’s largest concentration of Joshua trees. The top of the dome is located west of Cima Road, this unusual geologic feature is best seen from a distance. Try the view looking northwest from Cedar Canyon Road, 2.5 miles east of Kelso Cima Road. White Cross World War I Memorial Located 12 miles south of I-15 on Cima Road, this memorial is owned and operated by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Cedar Canyon & Black Canyon Roads Mostly unpaved, the 20-mile Cedar Canyon Road connects Kelso Cima Road in the west with Ivanpah Road in the east, paralleling (and sometimes joining) the historic Mojave Road. Black Canyon Road (unpaved north of Hole-inthe-Wall) connects Cedar Canyon Road with Essex Road, 20 miles to the south. Rock House Loop trail, wayside exhibits, pit toilet, picnic table. 5 miles east of Black Canyon Road on Cedar Canyon Road. The Rock House is emblematic of creative desert building styles. Nearby Rock Spring, located along the loop trail, was the site of a military outpost along the Mojave Road. Mid Hills Campground, trailhead, pit toilets, water. Not recommended for RVs. About 2 miles west of Black Canyon Road at the north end of Wild Horse Canyon Road, Mid Hills supports pinyon-juniper woodland habitat. The effects of a fire that swept through the area in June 2005 are evident, although several campsites in the popular campground still contain shady stands of pinyon pine and juniper. Hole-in-the-Wall Information center, bookstore, campgrounds, picnic area, trailhead, restroom, water, telephone. Just north of the junction of Black Canyon and the south end of Wild Horse Canyon Roads, rhyolite cliffs riddled with holes and hollows are the backdrop for Hole-in-the-Wall. Piute Spring About 7.4 miles west of U.S. 95 on the unmarked and unpaved Mojave Road, then 3.1 miles west on an extremely rough unmarked dirt road. High clearance and four-wheel drive recommended. Fort Piute and Piute Spring Trails, wayside exhibits, no services. Willows, cottonwoods, and rushes thrive along a half-mile section of Piute Creek. Fort Piute (still visible) was one in a string of military outposts built along the Mojave Road. Please don’t climb on the foundations or remove anything. NPS COLLECTION Scenic Cima Road connects I-15 with Cima, Calif., traversing the world’s largest concentration of Joshua trees. Dirt Road Driving Prepare Your Vehicle Ensure that your vehicle is in good condition: check tires, oil, and gas gauge. For emergencies, carry tools, tire jack, towrope, extra water, and fluids for your vehicle. Know the Rules of the Road All vehicles operating within Mojave National Preserve must be street-legal in accordance with California DMV requirements, including current registration and tags, lights and turn signals, and valid insurance. California “Green Sticker” and “Red Sticker” programs are not recognized within the preserve. Off-pavement travel is allowed only on existing, open dirt roads. Do not travel cross-country or create new routes. This rule is strictly enforced; violators will receive citations. Driving in washes is not permitted. Watch for and respect Wilderness Boundary signs; motorized vehicles and bicycles are not allowed in designated Wilderness Areas. Check Road Conditions Road conditions vary widely. Dirt roads might be rough, sandy, or muddy, rendering them impassable, and the unprepared motorist could be trapped many miles from help. Watch for cattle, burros, and other wildlife on roadways. Not all roads are shown on all maps; traces and illegal shortcuts add to the confusion. Carry a good map, and ask a park ranger for current road conditions. Zzyzx Road Six miles southwest of Baker on I-15, Zzyzx Road leads 5 miles south into the preserve along the western shore of Soda Dry Lake. Zzyzx/Soda Springs Self-guiding trail, wayside exhibits, pit toilets, non-potable water, picnic area. Historically known as Soda Springs and later renamed Zzyzx (pronounced ZYE-zix), this oasis is home to the California State University Desert Studies Center. The buildings and pond were developed in the 1940s by Curtis Springer, who operated a health resort at the site. Zzyzx is open to the public—stroll around Lake Tuendae and along the shore of Soda Dry Lake. Please do not disturb participants when classes are in session. Nipton, Ivanpah & Lanfair Roads Eleven miles south of Primm, Nev., Nipton Road begins at I-15 and passes through Nipton, Calif., 11 miles east. Ivanpah Road (only the 10 northernmost miles paved) heads southeast of Nipton Road, through the Ivanpah and Lanfair valleys, eventually connecting with the paved Lanfair Road and the Fenner Valley. Together stretching 46 miles, Ivanpah and Lanfair roads connect the northern preserve boundary (bordering Nipton Road) with the southern near Goffs, Calif. Hotel Nipton NPS exhibits; privately operated hotel, store, & campground; for information call 760-856-2335 or email at stay@nipton.com. Built in 1910, this charming hotel reflects the railroad, ranching, and mining history of the small community at Nipton. Caruthers Canyon Primitive camping, hiking, no signs or services. About 5.5 miles west of Ivanpah Road on New York Mountains Road, then 2.7 miles north on an unsigned road, Caruthers Canyon is located in the rugged New York Mountains. Surrounded by mountains rising over 7,500 feet, a botanical “island” of chaparral plants remains from wetter times of the past. High clearance and four-wheel drive recommended. Sand & Mud Driving Tips •Be sure to carry plenty of drinking water and emergency supplies. •Engage four-wheel drive before entering deep sand or mud. •Don’t gun the engine—this will spin the tires, dig you in deeper, and could bury your vehicle to the frame. Smooth, easy power is better than too much power; use low gearing and just enough throttle to maintain forward movement. •If you detect a loss of traction, turn the steering wheel rapidly from side-to-side— this might help to generate traction. •If your vehicle gets stuck, place solid materials (such as floor mats) under the tires to provide traction. •If you’re really stuck, it’s best to stay with your vehicle. A stationary, stranded vehicle is much easier to locate than a person traveling on foot. Avoid strenuous activity during the heat of the day; stay in the shade of your vehicle. Lanfair Valley No signs or services. Mojave Desert Outpost, a privately-owned campground, is located here. For information call 951-780-3179. South of the New York Mountains along Ivanpah and Lanfair roads, this high valley shelters an impressive Joshua tree forest and was an early ranching and homesteading center. From 1893 until 1923, the Nevada Southern Railway ran up the valley from Goffs, providing services to homesteaders and ranchers in the valley and to miners in the mountains beyond. While little evidence remains of homesteads that once dotted the valley, tracts of private property still exist. Please respect the rights of landowners. Mojave National Preserve 3 COURTESY AND MORRIS JONES COURTESYJANE NASA/JET PROPULSION LABORATORY--CALTECH Members of the Old Town Astronomers upMojave telescopes in BlackPreserve Canyon Group Equestrian from Campground for an annual Star Party. Left toCampground. right: Jane and Morris Jones, Todd Kunioka, Jim Stears, and Gary Spiers. This is a star chart of theSidewalk summer night sky set over National facing&southeast Black Canyon Equestrian & Group Look Up for a Wonder of Mojave’s Clear, Tranquil Summer Evenings By Phillip Gomez On a still, clear night in Mojave National Preserve, there’s nothing so tranquil as going outside well after nightfall, lying in a hammock, and looking up at the distant stars. anyone can enjoy this park resource: inky night skies full of stars—the Milky Way above and a natural soundscape below. The clean, sweet-smelling night air of the Mojave wilderness, as well as other areas of the Preserve, becomes a haven for those seeking quiet, relaxing, or contemplative settings. From my favorite perch, they’re framed in the foreground by the tangled, shadowed Get a compass along with a good star chart limbs of two Joshua and find the consteltrees. A chorus of lation Sagittarius. It’s ‘...anyone can enjoy crickets provides the just above the southbackground music this park resource: inky ern horizon and below in the surroundthe band of stars in night skies full ing shrubs. Bats zip the Milky Way. This around me chasing constellation looks like of stars...’ insects. An owl yips a tea kettle, its spout leisurely with long, steaming up the Sagitsilent intervals in the tree branches above tarius Star Cloud in the heart of the galaxy. before gliding away in a low swoop. Another easily seen and well-known conStargazing has become increasingly popustellation in the southern sky is the large lar at remote southwestern parks such as constellation of Scorpio. The stinger tail Death Valley, Joshua Tree, and Great Basin, of this familiar desert figure curls around and at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monujust to the right of Sagittarius, then heads ment and the Preserve. Mojave hosts perinorth of the Milky Way’s star clouds. Sagitodic “star parties”, inviting visitors to gaze tarius includes the beguiling red-gold star at the night sky through telescopes. The Antares, one of the largest-known stars, National Park Service encourages visitor 700 times the diameter of our sun. activities like stargazing and active listenTaking in the dark night skies and the natuing for wildlife sounds as fundamental resource values for the enjoyment of desert ral soundscapes of the desert’s biotic communities draws you into what one expert solitude. calls “the basic happenings” of life. As Paul On a moonless night and with a clear view Bogard, author of The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artiof summer’s nighttime constellations, ficial Light, describes the research on wildlife and artificial night lighting, most plants and animals depend on natural patterns of darkness. Light pollution threatens desert biodiversity “by forcing sudden change on habits and patterns that have evolved to depend on light in the day and darkness at night.” While most of us are asleep indoors, “outside the night world is wide awake with matings, migrations, pollinations, and feeding—in short, the basic happenings that keep world biodiversity alive.” Urban light pollution spilling over into nearby rural areas can spoil sky watchers’ viewing of the stars, even in the Preserve. “The light from Las Vegas may not stay in Vegas,” says Bogard. But ignoring the urban glow to the north of the brightest city in the world, sky watchers at Mojave can turn to its southern sky for a more fabulous entertainment: primitive darkness. The summer season is an excellent time of year for viewing the Milky Way Galaxy, the irregular band of 200 billion stars stretching across our night sky as a thin, hazy cloud. For those with the patience to look and learn, these distant suns produce a faraway radiance that more than rivals the lights to the north. The light from the galactic core of the Milky Way “merges like melted gold to create this glowing band,” says Bob Berman in Secrets of the Night Sky: The Most Amazing Things in the Universe You Can See with the Naked Eye.“ Focus your binoculars and tens of thousands of stars spring into sudden visibility, the gentle radiance behind these newcomers indicating that still more unresolved stars lurk behind them…More, still more, who knows how many billions more unresolved suns always lie farther in the distance.” Back on earth, Bogard sadly reports that eight out of every ten children born in the United States today will never know a night dark enough that they can see the Milky Way. Because most of us live in increasingly over-lighted cities, 80% of Americans will never understand the meaning of the wellknown British nursery rhyme Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star that was published in 1806, well before the advent of artificial light. The rhyme “How I wonder what you are” is lost on anyone who has never had the opportunity of seeing bright, shining stars against the dark night sky. The rhyme suggests mystery, a wonder we can only begin to understand by experiencing it ourselves. Stars are natural resource wonders, best appreciated in dark, arid clean-air landscapes in Mojave and other remote national parklands in the desert Southwest. Remote Backcountry Habitat Harbors the Rugged Desert Bighorn Sheep By Robert Mills Those who have had the joy of witnessing a Desert Bighorn Sheep standing on a jagged peak, silhouetted against a sun-lit blue sky, would be quick to agree that they have seen one of the most majestic animals to roam Mojave National Preserve. Shy and inhabiting remote and rugged desert mountain terrain, they travel across valleys from one mountain to the next, avoiding other creatures. It is a fortunate photographer who captures these magnificent creatures on film, as photo opportunities are fleeting. The Bighorn (Ovis Canadensis nelsoni) is surprisingly fast and agile on the rugged terrain, so merely sighting one of these creatures is generally reserved for those willing to venture into this difficult habitat. While both males and females grow horns, it is only the males that sport the big horns that give the animals their name. A mature set of horns takes about seven years to grow and can measure 30 inches from base to tip. In this harsh environment, the Bighorn survive on ephemeral shrubs and catclaw. It survives because of a complex digestive process that extracts nutrients efficiently. The Bighorn has adapted to the limited desert water supply by extracting moisture from green winter vegetation. During the drier 4 Mojave National Preserve summer months, Bighorns visit watering spots frequently during the summer and linger a quarter of an hour to an hour, minimizing their exposure to predators. An estimated 600 Bighorn inhabit Mojave National Preserve. They live ten to 15 years in the wild. The females (ewes) weigh 75 to 130 pounds, while the males (rams) weigh 140 to 220 pounds. At age two, ewes generally deliver one lamb, rarely two, in late spring after a sixmonth gestation. The Bighorn has few natural enemies. There are reports of eagles killing a lamb or of multiple eagles taking down a sick adult. Every now and then, a mountain lion manages to catch one, but the bighorn’s habitat in some of the desert’s most difficult terrain generally shields them from natural predation. In the past few years, the Bighorn’s biggest threat has come, not from natural predators, but from domesticated animals—mainly sheep. There have been Bighorn sheep die-offs dating back to the 1840s. Research based on carefully controlled studies shows that grazing of domestic sheep in or near Bighorn habitat leads to transfers of diseases that prove fatal for the Bighorn. The most recent report was supplied after an outbre

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