Western Wilderness ♦ Part 2

Indian Cove Campground

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Indian Cove Group Campsites area looking east

Trek date: 2018 Feb 9

On this Page

  • Unusual red barrel cactus
  • Notched Rock ♦ Heathcliff
  • Views of Big Top ♦ Little Top ♦ Forgotten Canyon
  • Group Campsite
  • The Gossip Column

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Western Wilderness Part 1

Nature Trail

Forgotten Canyon


THE WESTERN WILDERNESS AREA includes the areas west to northwest of the campground at Indian Cove. For thousands of years, American Indians were able to survive and sustain themselves in this scenic terrain we call Indian Cove. They existed as small bands of nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples. These desert dwellers achieved healthy, varied diets from a hunting and gathering lifestyle.

A large dry wash irrigates this ecosystem where native peoples searched for plants and animals useful for food, medicine, and other products. Imagine a time before grocery stores where a trip along this desert wash offered one stop shopping to hardy desert dwellers. Be sure to take the ½-mile Nature Trail hike when you visit Joshua Tree. There you will see numerous exhibit boards describing the various plants used for food, clothing and medical purposes.

Along the base of the Wonderland of Rocks cliff were many small natural springs that provided water for the nomads and their animals.

Subsoil Notching

34° 6’0.23″N 116°10’6.79″W

Notched rock across the wash at far right

South face

Inselberg approx. 275 yards south of Big Top (and on the rim of a large sandy wash, see map above). This is the Notching rock indicated by the right-arrow.

This formation shows ancient subsoil notching, with rock-varnish-coated surfaces above and nonvarnished surfaces below the notch. Such exposures reveal the lowering of soil levels in recent geologic time, “probably within the last 20,000 years,” according to Richard Hazlett in his Joshua Tree National Park Geology pp.41-42.

“At Joshua Tree and other desert regions underlain by granitic bedrock, evidence of ancient soil horizons that existed some 10,000 to 20,000 years ago may be seen as linear dissolution marks and subsoil notches from which these soils, previously moist for long periods of time, have long since been eroded. The acids produced by living organisms or biological processes active in moist soils are especially corrosive to granite. There is an enormous contrast between subsoil (moist) and subaerial (dry) weathering rates of granitic rocks.”

The rock seen here is the one pictured in Hazlett’s book.

Red Barrel Cactus

34° 6’13.45″N 116°10’15.90″W



Tall red barrel cactus at entrance to Forgotten Canyon (left background)


I chanced upon this dust-covered denizen of Indian Cove’s western wilderness area. The desert tortoises are two species of tortoise native to the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico and the Sinaloan thornscrub of northwestern Mexico. Gopherus agassizii (also known as Agassiz’s desert tortoise) and the one encountered on this trip, is distributed in western Arizona, southeastern California, southern Nevada, and southwestern Utah. I found it crossing a large sandy wash that drains the interior of Indian Cove’s western wilderness including Sneakeye Canyon, Gunsight Canyon and neighboring “captured” washes.

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Thank you for visiting the Indian Cove Western Wilderness 3D Galleries and those for the other fascinating Indian Cove destinations at Joshua Tree 3D. This popular campground has many places you can explore.



Posted 2018 Feb 23