Place: Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, Morongo Valley, California
Coordinates: 34.0504, -116.5698
Difficulty: West Canyon and Yucca Ridge trails are moderate. Everything else: easy.
The Big Morongo Canyon Preserve is one of the places we found out about by having some time to check out a green spot on our road map. Is was close to our way north and we had the time so there we went.
The preserve isn't large and the entire trail system can be easily done in a short time. The thing is, though, it is far better to take it slow, because then one gets to see what's growing there. On our December visit we spent about three hours in the preserve and in that time walked all the loops except for the Yucca Ridge Trail.
|The map is downloaded from the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve site.|
We were there on the last day of the year, that is, in the dead of winter. Except for the conifers, all the trees were naked. We didn't expect to see any wildflowers at that time of year and indeed, there were none. Even the shrubs looked still and dry.
It was nice to walk around and take in the scenery. It was fairly cold when we started, but the sky was clear and the sun soon made us take our jackets off.
The different loop trails go through a number of different sections, including low brush, forest, marsh, the canyon itself and the hills above. Each of these sections is a different habitat and walking through all of them is getting to know and appreciate the diversity that can exist in a single, fairly small area.
|A pair of Yucca on the hill.|
There is water in Big Morongo Canyon. Spring water that sustain all the canyon vegetation. Tall trees and all.
We've also seen the remains of a fire that was there some time ago. Many burnt trees were standing or lying fallen along the Desert Willow Trail.
This preserve is a home for numerous bird species and a stopping point for many more migrating ones. It was the birds that we were looking for, but it was not a good time to see the migratory species and the locals didn't readily present themselves.
|California Towhee standing on the remains of a burnt tree.|
|Sunset light in the trees at The Big Morongo Canyon Preserve|
|A Western Side-bloched lizard , basking in the late morning sun|
|Suncup (Camissonia pallida)|
|Mojave Lupine (Lupinus soarsiflorus)|
|A mat of tiny poppies between bare shrubs|
|Budding trees in the Big Morongo Canyon|
|Nuttall's Woodpecker, female|
|Costa's Hummingbird, male|
Being so close to the famous Joshua Tree National Park this little preserve might be overlooked by most visitors of the region. I would strongly recommend visiting there. But then again, it might be just for the best to not overrun the place with too many people.
Many thanks to Papa Quail for his help in identifying the birds, to my friend עננת for identifying the lizard, and to members of the California Native Plants Society for their help in identifying plants!