Archive for February, 2009

The Many Faces of the Southwestern Desert

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Sonoran desert

Sonoran desert


When people think of the south western desert, the usual image is of a sandy place with maybe a few cactus plants and a few tumble weeds and sagebrush. While some of the desert does look like that there are four variations.

Beginning at the edge of the California mountains and going east, first there are the valleys and hills of the Anzo-Borrego. Next are the sand dunes of Glamis and then the Colorado river. This is refered to as the Sonoran Desert. This desert is hot in the summer and warm in the winter. It has such diverse vegetation as creosote and saltbrush bushes, seguaro and chola cactus, and mesquite. Rain falls in winter making for spectatular wild flower color spectacles in the spring. The summer heat is broken by monsoons caused from tropical storm and hurricane remnants.

The second type of desert is the Great Basin desert. This desert covers most of Nevada and parts of  Utah and Idaho and Oregon. It has sagebrush, greasewood , juniper and pinion pines. Most of this desert is at elevations over 5000 feet. This desert is hot in the summer and cold with snow in the winter.

The third type of desert is the Mojave. This is a transition desert. It covers northeastern California, northwest Arizona, and southern Utah. The temperatures are colder than the sonoran but not as cold as the high desert temperatures of the Great Basin. The mojave altitude is 3000 to 5000 feet and has sagebrush, creosote,  and yucca for plants.

The fourth type of desert is the Chihuahuan desert. most of this desert lies south of the border but part of it is in New Mexico and Texas. it is a shrub desert with the vegetation mostly yuccas, agaves, prickly pear, tarbush, and creosote. It is hot in the summer and cool in the winter with elevations 3000 to 5000 feet.

 The desert also changes by the seasons. Springtime brings the wildflowers and everything is geen and full of life. Summer and fall bring hot weather and the high temperatures for which the desert is known. Finally there is winter and the winter rains in the lower desert with snow in the high desert.

The animal life in the desert is diverse. There are everything from big horn sheep to jack rabbits. Coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, mule deer and squirrels also call the desert home. There are hawks owls, and hummingbirds. There are also snakes, spiders, and scorpions.

The deserts can be a great place to get away from it all and a place to observe the wide diversity of nature. The best rules for the desert are be prepared and think before you act.


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