A story is told that one of the earliest homesteaders in Joshua Tree was one Willard S. Wood, who filed on a site in 1911, dug a well 275 feet deep, and claimed it was drier at the bottom than at the top!
In 1937 The Joshua Tree Townsite Company set up offices along the Twentynine Palms Road, close to the western entrance of Joshua Tree National Park. In 1938 Congress passed the Baby Homestead act, allowing for the five acre non-agricultural homestead sites that developers believed would bring settlers. But World War II intervened and gas rationing prevented the growth of far-out desert areas. In 1941, Joshua Tree had a population of 49 and a total of 22 occupied buildings.
It was not until toward the end of the war when cabins, homes, and a few commercial buildings began to dot the landscape. In 1944 the Joshua Journal reported the population as 227 and in 1945 the first business block went up on the northwest corner of the Park with five stores under a connecting roof.
In December that year, the Journal advertised "$1.25 Sunday Dinners" and acclaimed Mrs. Elsi Iverson as having "the only tiled sink and drainboard in Joshua Tree... a beauty, too--all white and pale grey."
In 1946, Joshua Tree got its first Post Office. Postmaster Grace Aldridge serviced her 300 postal clients out of the little Joshua Tree market. By 1947, there were 144 buildings, plus 46 under construction, and a population of 550. the first identifying street sign in the village appeared on the highway at the corner of Center Street, contributed by civic-minded townsfolk Mr. and Mrs. Hendricks. The Joshua Tree Women's Club joined forces with other civic groups to build a Park and Community Center on donated land in 1948.
Film makers had discovered Joshua Tree National Monument earlier in the decade and had also built a permanent set for the filming of Old Western movies in nearby Pioneertown. Along with movie-making, turkey ranching had become the booming new industry in Joshua Tree and in 1949, the area boasted 19 established ranches and a turkey population of 47,600. The Joshua Journal was up to six pages and now dedicated one page in each issue to new items of interest to turkey growers and ambitious plans were afoot to develop the Sunfair area into Turkey Town, U.S.A. Local real estate agencies, advertising "All's Fair In Sunfair," offered land for sale as well as information on how to become a successful turkey grower.
Joshua Tree National Park
First preserved for the nation's citizens as a National Monument by a 1936 proclamation of President Franklin Roosevelt, 560,000 acres of California desert encompass two large ecosystems primarily determined by elevation: the Colorado and the Mojave deserts. In October, 1994 Congress enacted the California Desert Protection Act, adding 234,000 more acres to the preserve, and redesignating it as Joshua Tree National Park.
In the Mojave section, slightly higher. cooler and wetter, is the special habitat of the Joshua Tree. It is said that mormons who first came to the area, seeing the porcupine plants, likened them to the biblical Joshua reaching up to God.Joshua Tree National Park is a magical place of sparsity punctuated by odd trees that seem to have spawned into their spiky adulthood from alien seeds. Massive formations of rocks cling together like packs of coyotes, calling rock climbers from around the world to scale their heights. If you've never been in the park at sunset, you've missed one of the truly breathtaking canvases of nature.For more detailed info on Joshua Tree, try here.
Standing likes islands in a desolate sea, the oases provide dramatic contrast to their arid surroundings. Five fan palm oases dot the Park, indicating those areas where water occurs naturally at or near the surface. Oases that once served as life-saving gathering places, first for Indians and later for prospectors and homesteaders, now serve as clusters of indigenous wildlife. The Oasis of Mara today provides a home for Park Headquarters and the Oasis Visitor Center. Located east of Joshua Tree, in the neighboring city of 29 Palms, the Center offers museum exhibits, botanical displays and a self-guided tour through the Oasis.
Attracting sport climbers from all over the world are some of the most interesting geological displays found in California's deserts. Rugged mountains of twisted rock and exposed granite monoliths testify to the tremendous forces that shaped and formed this land into a giant mosaic of immense beauty and complexity.
For more info on the rocks, try here.
Wildflowers and Wildlife
The life-forms are patient here. Desert vegetation, often appearing to have succumbed to a sometimes harsh and unforgiving environment, lies dormant, awaiting the rainfall and moderate weather that will trigger its regrowth, painting the desert floor in a profusion of colors. Wildlife waits out daytime heat in the slow rhythm of life under bright sun and blue sky. At the edges of daylight and under clear night stars may be seen a fascinating multitude of generally unfamiliar desert wildlife: running, hopping, flapping, soaring, crawling and burrowing.
Visiting the Park
The park may be visited year round. Each season demonstrates a different personality. Visitors centers, ranger stations, entrance stations and wayside exhibits are located along main roads leading into and through the Park. Rangers are at hand to help ensure an enjoyable, safe visit and to provide information about weather and road conditions, back country use, the nine campgrounds with over 530 individual campsites and the nineteen group campsites. There are ranger conducted activities such as walks, hikes and campfire talks, and several picnic areas for day use only.
Those who prefer to motor through may enter through the Joshua Tree entrance on Park Boulevard or go farther east to the 29 Palms entrance on National Park Drive. Driving along well maintained paved roads, visitors can still enjoy the open space and clear skies, stopping occasionally to read an interesting roadside marker or to view the desert's hidden vitality - a delicate cactus flower or the sight of a lizard's frantic dash for cover.
Ambulance Services (760) 366-8474
California Highway Patrol(non-emergency) (760) 366-3707
Government Offices(County Supervisor) (760) 228-5400
Library (760) 366-8615
Hi-Desert Medical Center (760) 366-3711
Emergency Services (760) 366-3711
Parks and Recreation (760) 366-8415Post Office (760) 366-8912
Road Conditions 1 (345) 2767
Sheriff(non emergency) (760) 366-3781
The Joshua Tree, the largest of the Yucca species (Yucca Brevifolia), grows only in the Mojave Desert. Itcan reach heights of 50 feet with an adult diameter of 1-3 feet. Originally thought to be members of the Agave (Century Plant) Family, the Joshua Tree and other yuccas have been reclassified as members of the Lily (Liliaceae) Family. Two variations of the Joshua Tree are classified as J. brevifolia var. herbertii and J. brevifolia var. jaegeriana
Joshua Trees (and most other yuccas) rely on the female Pronuba Moth (Tegeticula) for pollination. No other animal visiting the blooms transfers the pollen from one flower to another. In fact, the female Yucca Moth has evolved special organs to collect and distribute the pollen onto the surface of the flower. She then lays her eggs in the flowers' ovaries, and when the larvae hatch, they feed on the yucca seeds.
Without the moth's pollination, the Joshua Tree could not reproduce, nor could the moth, whose larvae would have no seeds to eat. Although an old Joshua Trees can sprout new plants from its roots, only the seeds produced in pollinated flowers can scatter far enough to establish a new stand.
Nineteenth-century Mormon pioneers are said to have named this species "Joshua" Tree because it mimicked with its upturned branches the Old Testament prophet Joshua waving them on toward the promised land. This unique species grows abundantly at Joshua Tree National Park in California and Joshua Forest Parkway in Western Arizona.
Mojave Desert of extreme southwest California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona, at elevations from 2,000 to 6,000 feet.
HabitatDry soils on plains, slopes and mesas, often growing in groves.
FlowersBell-shaped, 1.25 to 1.5 inches with 6 creamy, yellow-green sepals. Crowded into 12 to 18 inch, many-branched clusters with an unpleasant odor, mostly in the spring. Not all trees flower annually.
FruitElliptical green-brown, 6-celled, 2.5 to 4 inches, somewhat fleshy, dries and falls soon after maturity in late spring revealing many flat seeds.
What is a Joshua Tree?
Joshua trees occur in patches across several Southwest states, wherever conditions of temperature, drainage and rainfall are suitable. Apart from the National Park, the plant is quite common across the Mojave Desert and in parts of Nevada, south Utah and northeast Arizona, and tends to favour elevations of between 3,000 and 4,000 feet. The trees grow strongly, for example, along US 93 in Arizona; this road is called the Joshua Forest Parkway and seems to have even more Joshuas than the National Park, intermingled with that other distinctive symbol of the Southwest, the saguaro. Another prime location is Grapevine Mesa, around the road to Pearce Ferry near Lake Mead in Arizona, where particularly dense forests of old trees stretch for many miles.They are believed to live for up to 1000 years although they are difficult to date accurately - as they are not proper trees, they have no annual growth rings. White or greenish flowers can appear from March to May, but they require just the right combination of temperature and moisture, and several years may pass without a major blooming.
1918 William Keys brings his bride, Frances M. Lawton to the Desert Queen Ranch, now known as the historic Keys Ranch, within the Joshua Tree National Park.
1928-29 Hi-Desert Airport in Sunfair area was in use.
1936 Joshua Tree National Monument was established. It became a Class A wilderness area airshed station in 1977 and a world biosphere reserve in 1984. In 1994 it was named a National Park and an additional 234,000 acres and 163,000 wilderness acres were added to the park’s holdings. Weather records have been kept in the park since 1936. Park administrators are advised by a citizens’ commission appointed by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
1937 According to historian Joan Wilson, real estate developers arrived.
1943 U.S. Post Office established in Joshua Tree. Its first postmistress, Grace Rees, is still living in Joshua Tree. She described to this writer a spirit of cooperation among the women running all of the Morongo Basin post offices while the men were abroad fighting World War II.
1944 Joshua Tree Woman’s Club was formed, then federated in 1948.
1945 The Joshua Tree Branch of the San Bernardino County Library was established. The Joshua Tree Chamber of Commerce was formed. The Chamber now holds popular downtown street fairs in the spring and fall.
1946 The Sportsman’s Club was formed. For many years, their grounds served as the precursor of the Hi-Desert Playhouse and the Joshua Tree Community Center, housing theatrical productions such as an annual Christmas pageant and Vaudeville "Follies" and park and recreation activities. The club still hosts the annual Gem and Mineral Jamboree (the 25th will be held in 2000). The club and the Sportettes’ bingo games fund numerous community activities that would not be able to operate without their help.
1946-1975 Joshua Tree Turtle Races were held on the first weekend in May. After passage of the Endangered Species Act prohibited the use of the native desert tortoise, the races were continued with box turtles. Eventually, public and official outrage at "inappropriate use of a resource" led to the demise of this festival, which those who remember it consider best forgotten.
1948 Joshua Tree Fire Protection District was established. Its first fire chief was Robert Garry, the son-in-law of William F. Keys and husband of his daughter, Pat. Initially, an all-volunteer force operated out of the Garry’s Shell service station on the northwestern corner of Park Boulevard and SR 60, with firefighters summoned to service by a claxon on the roof of the garage. Arthur L. Chelette succeeded Garry as fire chief. After Chelette’s death in 1979, the county contracted with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for coverage until 1999. County government canceled the contract with CDF for coverage of Joshua Tree and other areas when it consolidated county fire protection in 1999. Today, the Joshua Tree Fire Department has two facilities administered by County Fire: Station 36 on Park Boulevard and Station 35 in Panorama Heights, still mostly staffed with volunteers.
1963 The Joshua Basin County Water District was established and five years later the community voted to join the Mojave Water Agency to reserve State Water Project water for its future use. Service connections in 1999 numbered about 4,000.
1970s Joshua Tree experienced a spate of growth when the Joshua Tree Community Center was built on Sunburst Avenue and the Hi-Desert Playhouse was built on SR 62. The old community building on Easterly Drive next to Fire Station 36 on Park Boulevard is now used as the CSA-20 Preschool. Community Day is celebrated during early June at the Joshua Tree Community Center.
1975 The Senior Nutrition Site was established by Lida Secrest in the Joshua Tree Community Center.
1984 The Joshua Tree Campus of College of the Desert, now the independent Copper Mountain College, a California Community College, was built in the Panorama Heights area.
1985 Al and Rita Mackin established the Joshua Tree Kids Club.
Living in Joshua Tree
The air is clean and the climate is usually mild. The average elevation of Joshua Tree is 2700 feet, with a high of 3500 feet. Most days of the year are sunny with star studded nights and magnificent sunsets.The Parks and Recreation Department offers classes and activities for all ages at its Community Center in Sunburst Park. Its ground include picnic and playground areas, lighted tennis and basketball courts, ball fields and a roller hockey area. An enclosed full-size swimming pool is available with classes and programs at the Panorama Heights area, during summer months.Real estate is affordable in Joshua Tree. There are still many opportunities to invest in land or a business and you can purchase a home at costs less than half those currently being asked in other areas of Southern California.
Tips for Desert Excursions
The heat of the desert can make you bone dry. Carry plenty of water, even if you are only going for a drive. Drink even when you do not feel thirsty. When hiking, carry a gallon of water for each day plus extra in case of an emergency. Store extra water in your car. Carry water even if you are only planning to explore a short distance from your car. Wear a hat with a brim and light-colored, lightweight clothes.
Average Monthly Temperatures
We're cobbling together a bunch of info about Joshua Tree here.
It's kind of a mess right now, but fun to ramble through.
In February 1950, the villagers celebrated the completion of their self-built Volunteer Fire Station next to the Community Park. A Time Capsule was placed into the little buildings cornerstone. Among the many items it contained was a hand-written dedication program, stating that the population of Joshua Tree on that day was 500 persons and that its slogan was "Where the Desert Lures and the Climate Cures."
Also in the capsule was a 1950 travel brochure lauding the healing and recuperative qualities of the Hi-Desert climate which enticed tourists with the scenic wonders of the Monument and the nationally known annual Turtle Race Sweepstakes held in the village each May. The Joshua Journal reported that Gene Autry was starting an 18 day shooting schedule on set in Pioneertown.
The 1952 local telephone directory listed 422 phones in 29 Palms, 33 in Yucca Valley, and 67 in Joshua Tree. The Post Office moved for the second time in 1957 as the population grew and Joshua Tree, in the very heart of the Morongo Basin, rapidly became the location for regional services and activities.
In the early 1960's a little theatre group was formed and, ultimately, the Hi-Desert Playhouse Guild, Inc. was established and began presenting plays and shows, using various schools and other public facilities while members pursued their dream of building a Cultural Center by countless fund-raising efforts that brought the community together in many ways.
In 1962, the County purchased 16 acres of land on Sunburst for use as a Park and a recreation area, In 1967, the Joshua Journal reported that the number of permanent residents in the village area was 3,800 and Sunburst Park opened with grassed play areas, playground equipment and restrooms. In 1969, when Postmaster Aldridge retired, 4,500 persons were receiving mail in Joshua Tree.
Growth and progress continued. In the 1970's, the Hospital District built a modern acute care facility on White Feather Road. In 1972, the Fire Protection District added another bay to its station, and fire volunteers also built two small houses across the street on El Reposo to house barracks and provide training space. Sunburst park continued to develop, with the addition of tennis, racquetball, and basketball courts, as well as ball fields, and in 1977, a ground breaking celebration was held on the site of the new J.T. Community Center. It opened in January 1979 and the small building at Community Park became a pre-school. Shortly thereafter, a new County Government Center Building opened just below the Medical Center on the highway.
The Joshua Tree Cultural Center became a reality in 1980, built on land facing the highway just west of the center of the village. The Morongo Basin Station of the County's Sheriff's department opened in space assigned within the County building in 1982.
In 1983, the Hi-Desert Star reported that the U.S. Postal Service had announced plans to build a new, modern Joshua Tree Post Office on the north side of the highway, where it stands today at the corner of the highway and Hallee. The California Highway Patrol erected a Morongo Basin station next to the County and Courthouse in 1984 - and it was in that year that the first copper-topped building emerged on a hill once covered with creosote bushes and Joshua trees and the doors opened to Phase I of the long-awaited Copper Mountain Campus of the College of the Desert on the end of the village.
In 1989, Hi-Desert Medical Center erected a spectacularly designed 120 bed continuing care facility on land adjacent to the Center. Fall of that year brought the first edition of the Hi-Desert Magazine, a quarterly regional magazine published from a Hallee Road location, and Joshua Tree's first radio station, KCDZ/FM, erected its tower atop Copper Mountain and opened its studios, also on Hallee Road.
In March 1992, a long awaited, modern second fire station had been completed in Panorama Heights, with county funds, supplemented by funds raised voluntarily over a number of years by the Panorama Heights Community Club. In June, KCDZ Radio made national headlines as 'The Little Station That Could', when it became the center for disaster relief operations for the first week following the 7.6 Landers earthquake, which damaged the downtown Joshua Tree Fire Station beyond safe occupancy.
1994 saw the completion of Phase III of Copper Mountain Campus. Late December brought a formal dedication re-designating the Joshua Tree National Monument as the JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK and adding 234,000 acres of pristine desert to its preserve.
Joshua Tree Post Office estimated the population at over 12,000.
The year of 1995 brought more that 2 million visitors to the Park's entrances, from all over the world. In the spring, J.T. fire fighters burned down their dangerously damaged downtown station, combining economy of demolition costs with a major fire fighter training exercise, as many local residents watched in awe and nostalgia. The 1950 time capsule was opened and put on display at the community center.
The turkey ranches are long gone and the Sunfair area development never did occur. The Turtle Race Sweepstakes have given way to bi-annual Street Fairs.
But the village now has complete street signs and two traffic lights, specialty and souvenir shops, art galleries and a healthy business community offering a wide range of services and merchandise. Just this year we have a new newspaper in the village: THE JOSHUA TREE TIMES, and a second radio station: KKJT.
Volunteerism continues to be alive a well and more milestones are in the making. a new southwestern style fire station is being erected on Park Boulevard, arising phoenix like from the ashes of the damaged building. A new time capsule is being prepared and will be installed at a dedication ceremony expected to be held in September; Copper Mountain Campus Friends are still raising funds, this time to built a separate book store - and engaged in a serious campaign to attain autonomous College status within the year.
... And the Joshua Tree Post Office estimates our population at well over 13,000 nowadays.