Friday, November 6, 2009

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve

Overshadowed by its neighbors, upscale Palm Springs to the south and Joshua Tree National Park to the north east, Big Morongo Canyon Preserve is one of the ten largest cottonwood/willow oases in the California desert, a startling discovery surrounded by Mojave desert creosote and yucca. Nationally recognized for its migratory bird watching, this soggy riparian habitat is also home to numerous songbirds, great horned owls, raccoons, ringtail cats, coyotes, bobcats, red-tailed and Cooper's hawks, and is frequented by bighorn sheep who come out of the barren high canyon hills to drink.

Several trails of varied lengths lace through and around the boggy canyon bottom, revealing a burn recovery area from a 1992 fire, desert plants of the dry canyon sides, a boardwalk through the fresh-water marsh where plants have adapted to a life-time of living up to their knees in water, and a canyon trail skirting the marsh providing overlooks into the wetlands.

From Interstate 10 north of Palm Springs, turn north on Highway 62 (or from Joshua Tree National Park, drive south on 62) to Morongo Valley. Turn east on East Drive to the signed entrance. Adequate parking and turn around for big rigs.

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