Hike distance: 10.8 miles
The Big Morongo Canyon Preserve created in 1982 by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is a 31,000 acre wildlife preserve, desert oasis, and cottonwood and willow habitat located in the Little San Bernardino Mountains in Morongo Valley. The Preserve is recognized as an important wildlife corridor that links San Gorgonio Wilderness with the San Bernardino National Forest and Joshua Tree National Park. This corridor allows wildlife, including mule deer, big horn sheep, and mountain lions, to move freely within this area in search of food and water.
The Morongo fault running through the canyon causes water draining from the surrounding mountains to form Big Morongo Creek and the marsh habitat. The high water table in the canyon made the growth of tall trees and lush vegetation possible.
After passing through the oasis, we followed the trail into a canyon wash.
Erosion from heavy fall and winter rains was evident in certain sections.
The rains also created an abundant variety of wildflowers and flowering bushes.
orange desert globe mallow
desert blue bells
bladder pods with their bright yellow flowers
All these blossoms attracted butterflies which were everywhere.
Unfortunately, large stands of Sahara Mustard plants were visible along the trail. This weed is native to the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East. It became notorious during the 20th century after it invaded the deserts of the United States and Mexico. Recently it has become an abundant weed of low deserts including the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts, plus the desert valleys such as the Coachella Valley.
The plant disperses easily at the first hint of rain. When the seed coats are moistened they form a gel and become very sticky and readily adhere to people, animals, and objects. Thick stands of the plant can crowd out native flora. Well-adapted to desert life, it monopolizes any moisture in the soil before other plants can get it and forms seeds before other species do. It produces seed as early in the year as January. I tried my best to pull some of the plants hopefully before they produced seeds.
The trail ended after 5.4 miles at a locked gate that led to Desert Hot Springs. In the satellite image below, you can see the neighborhoods located at the outskirts of Desert Hot Springs.
For lunchtime, we climbed a ridge that provided views of the wash we had hiked for the last several miles.
A side blotched lizard joined us for lunch.
We hiked back to the wash and began our return trip to the preserve entrance.
More green vegetation was seen as we approached the stream, oasis and the end of the hike.
We did not observe much wildlife during the hike, However, after reviewing the animal track educational panel we identified several of the animal tracks that we saw in the wash sands.
I couldn't resist taking a picture of this sign. Seeing a 'mountain lion warning sign' was a first for us.