Pinto Basin

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(Click to Enlarge Photos)

IN THE WORDS OF JOHN MC KINNEY writing for the Los Angeles Times in 1997: “As a habitat for human beings, Pinto Basin is, to say the least, forbidding: a barren lowland surrounded by austere mountains and punctuated by trackless sand dunes. Nevertheless, about 2,000 to 9,000 years ago, native people lived here. Environmental conditions were friendlier then. Creeks flowed across the center of the basin and a forest cloaked the mountainsides.” (LINK to article)

That pretty much sums up your first impressions. However, as always, first impressions tend to entrap the casual observer. I hope the selection of photographs, including some 3D Anaglyph and Half Side-by-Side images found on this and the associated Gallery pages will whet your interest the next time you visit Joshua Tree National Park.

  • A curiosity in Pinto Basin—and way the heck out in the back of beyond on Old Dale Road—can be found a desert wash littered with old automobiles known to insiders as The Car Wash. I have never visited the place myself, but E! has. It was a hot, mid-90s degree summer’s day that baked the bejeebers out of him. He has never been the same since; he still insists that McDonald’s chocolate chip cookies are the cat’s meow! See what he discovered at Joshua Tree’s Car Wash HERE. Enjoy the slideshow; watch his short video.

On this Page

  • Pinto Mountain Views
  • Turkey Flat ♦ Sand Dunes
  • Ocotillos
  • Cholla Cactus Garden (Preview)
  • Hexie Mountains
  • Golden Bell Mine

Full 3D Galleries

Golden Bell Mine

Cholla Cactus Garden


Pinto Basin & Mountain 2D


  • Use glasses to view 3D Anaglyphs
  • Click to Enlarge Photos


Pinto Basin & Mountain 3D Anaglyphs

Please feel free to download as many of the 3D Anaglyph or 3D Half Side-by-Side photographs as you wish. Share them with your 3D friends. (You may share them also with any 2D friends you have.) Note: 3D H-SBS images should only be saved if you have access to a 3D TV for viewing them.


Turkey Flats ♦ San Dunes

Turkey Flats is really not so flat. It is in fact a loose extension of Pinto Mountain, composed of rock, gravel, and sand—called alluvium—that washed from the slopes and canyons, spreading gradually at the base of the mountain and over the basin.

The alluvium or sediment once comprised a mantle of soil that covered the mountain slopes. The soil was anchored by grasses, junipers, and pinyon pines. But when the last ice age ended 10,000 years ago, arid conditions killed the plans, and the soil, no longer anchored, washed downslope with periodic floods.

A good read: Elliot Koeppel’s account of his adventures in Turkey Flats and the associated Sand Dunes, with vivid Nikon photographs LINK.

Turkey Flats ♦ San Dunes 2D Views


  • Use glasses to view 3D Anaglyphs
  • Click to Enlarge Photos

Turkey Flats ♦ San Dunes 3D Anaglyphs



Growing up to 30 feet tall, the spiny branches of the ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) are one of the classic sights of the American Southwest. The long, thorny branches appear gray and dessicated for most of the year, but then they flourish with bright green leaves after it rains. In the spring brilliant red flowers appear on the tips of its branches, giving the serpentine plant a colorful touch.

My friend E! and I visited the main Ocotillo Park turnout with its Exhibit Sign the last day of February, 2016. We found several of the larger specimens sporting greenery plus numerous flower buds, with many fiery orange and red blossoms beginning their annual display.

Ocotillos 2D

(Click to Enlarge Photos)


  • Use glasses to view 3D Anaglyphs
  • Click to Enlarge Photos

Ocotillos 3D Anaglyphs



Cholla Cactus Garden Preview

Cholla Cactus 3D Gallery

Bigelow cholla, often called “teddy bear” cactus because of the deceptively soft, even fluffy appearance of its sharp spines. Don’t touch, or you’ll be sorry. These flower in March. (Further north in the Park’s high country around Wonderland of Rocks, the silver chollas can be found blooming in late-March through April.)

Cholla Cactus Garden 2D


Hexie Mountains

Hexie Mountains 01c Google Earth

The Hexie Mountains are a desert mountain range located in Joshua Tree National Park, in southern California. Composed of dark colored rocks, this range is in the higher northern Mojave Desert area of the park. They are north of the Cottonwood Mountains, and south of the Pinto Mountains. The Eagle Mountains lie to the east of the Hexie Mountains. A fault zone known as the Blue Cut Fault (from the grayish blue tint of the rocks) crosses the Hexies and continues both west into the Little San Bernardino Mountains and east where it disappears under the desert floor of Pinto Basin.

Numerous washes drain the Hexie Mountains, including Porcupine Wash and Fried Liver Wash. These host a mixture of low and high desert animals and plants. A herd of desert bighorn sheep also live there.

There were attempts to mine and mill gold at many sites, including Ruby Lee Mill, Silver Bell, Golden Bell, Golden Bee, and none were successful. Native petroglyphs can also be found in the Hexie Mountains, the easiest to view being at the side of Geology Tour Road a few hundred yards beyond Squaw Tank.

Hexie Mountains 2D Views


Golden Bell Mine

Golden Bell Mine 3D Gallery

Tucked back up a desolate, hardscrabble-strewn canyon in the Hexie Mountains of Joshua Tree National Park lie the ruins of Golden Bell Mine. Little remains other than the two main mine shafts themselves and tailing piles, an ore chute and water or cyanide tank, plus a collapsed wooden building, a few camp sites delineated by rocky outlines on the desert floor. Several small mining operations operated here into the 1930s. The more extensive Silver Bell Mine works can be seen about half a mile distant along the ridge crest west of Golden Bell. Elliot Koeppel and I visited the site in February, 2016.

Golden Bell Mine 2D


3D Half Side-by-Side Gallery

Thank you for visiting Pinto Basin at Joshua Tree 3D.

John Murbach


Posted 2016 Mar 1

Updated 2017 Nov 5