The Mojave Desert is located in the southwestern United States within southern Nevada and California with small areas extending into Arizona and Utah. It covers an estimated 47,877 square miles making it the smallest desert in the United States. The Mojave Desert is the driest desert in the North American continent.
The boundaries are demarcated by the Joshua trees that are not only native plans but also support an additional 2,000 species of plants. Its peripheries host large communities including St. George, Lancaster, Palmdale, Victorville, Barstow, and Las Vegas, while the central region is sparsely populated. The Great Basin Desert borders the Mojave to the north while the Sonoran Desert lies to the east and the south. Elevations above 2,000 feet are known as the high desert and are characterized by tolerable temperature due to the altitude, but lower elevations including the Death Valley at 280 feet below the sea level are hot and dry. The average altitude of the Mojave Desert is higher than the Sonoran Desert but lower than the Great Basin Desert.
The Climate of Mojave Desert
The Mojave is an arid rain-shadow desert that receives about 2 inches of rain annually. It encompasses the Mojave National Preserve as well as the Death Valley; the hottest and lowest point on the continent where temperatures can rise to 120 °F. Despite the aridity, parts of the desert such as the Antelope Valley support crop production fed by irrigation from underground water. During the winter temperatures at lower elevations drop to 25 °F and below 0 °F at higher elevations. Storms from the Pacific Northwest deliver heavy rains and in some instances snow. During the summer, the average temperature rises to about 120 degrees Fahrenheit and 130 °F at lower elevations.
Human Settlement in the Mojave Desert
The Mojave Desert is sparsely populated but has become increasingly urbanized in recent years. Cities such as Las Vegas, St. George, and Lancaster continue to attract settlers despite the climate. The desert also hosts several military facilities including the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, the Edwards Air Force, the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Fort Irwin, and the National Training Center. There are several ghost towns within the desert including Oatman, Arizona and Calico, California. Rivers are an essential part of the ecosystem and the pillar of life in the desert. The Colorado River, the Mojave River, and the Amargosa River are the primary source of water for domestic and agricultural use.
Tourism in the Mojave Desert
The Mojave Desert is among the most popular tourist destinations in North America. Las Vegas attracts gambling enthusiasts from across the world some of whom spend millions of dollars. The Mojave National Preserve, the Joshua Tree National Park, and the Death Valley National Park are visited by thousands of domestic and international tourists annually. Apart from the parks other tourist attraction sites include the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area at the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve.