An Oasis in the Desert: The Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve

An Oasis in the Desert: The Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve

Refreshing palm oases, intriguing wildlife and miles of hiking trails draw visitors annually to the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve.  Located in Thousand Palms, California, it’s home to more than 183 species of birds and other wildlife, including the rare Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard, which relies on the Preserve’s sand dune system habitat for survival.

The trail to the pond.

The Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve is an excellent bird and wildlife viewing location due to its abundance of trees, palms and watering holes.  The palm oases have cropped up in various areas of the Preserve where the water has risen to the surface, creating small ponds and marshy zones.

Lizard on the trail.

The Visitor’s Center is located off of 1000 Palms Rd. in a large, shady palm oasis.  Its little building was once the cabin of Paul Wilhelm, who built it from palm trunks in the late 1930s.  Wilhelm welcomed visitors, inviting them to enjoy the palm groves, hiking trails and ponds.  Wanting to safeguard the land and to keep it open and available for the public to enjoy, he contacted his neighbors to try to arrange its future. Fortunately for the Preserve, this group of philanthropists all agreed to merge their land to conserve the area for future generations.

The land is now managed by several agencies in partnership, including the Center for Natural Lands Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the California Department of Fish and Game, the California State Parks department, the Coachella Valley Water District and the Friends of the Desert Mountain.  Together these entities administer the Preserve, create the rules that govern it, and enforce their mutually agreed upon policies.

The Thousand Palms Preserve is the largest of three preserves within the Coachella Valley Preserve. The Coachella Valley Preserve and the Thousand Palms Preserve area within it have designated hiking trails, but no jeeps or vehicles are allowed on the trail systems.  As a designated “Area of Conservation and Ecological Concern,” the rules for these preserves differ from other BLM land holdings.  The lower third of the region is off limits to visitors to protect the habitat of the endangered Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard. Seasonal tours of the protected dunes areas are available, but access is restricted.

There are still plenty of trails to hike. There is a two-mile loop, an easy walk/hike from the Visitor’s Center to a nearby pond and palm oases where a couple of picnic tables stand in the shade by the water.  It’s a great place to take photos of birds and to watch the wildlife.

If you visit the Preserve be sure to take plenty of water and some snacks, though water is sold in the Visitor’s Center if you need it.  The Visitor’s Center also has a number of photos and artifacts showing the colorful history of the Preserve area.

Simone Pond is closed. The parking lot, Visitors’ Center, and bathrooms are closed for the foreseeable future. Domestic animals are not allowed.

All other trails are open though many are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Call ahead to confirm that they are open: 760-343-1234.

October 2  through April 30
7 AM – 5 PM; dependent on Volunteers

Please DO NOT park on the side of the road and walk in after hours.

There is a small trailhead for Pushawalla about 1/8 mile (0.2 km) south of the Preserve parking lot. That is the only overflow parking.

For information please call:
Preserve Office 760-343-1234
Website: https://www.cnlm.org/portfolio_page/coachella-valley/

Trail and Oasis Rules
Please, no fires or smoking.
No pets allowed in the preserve.
No collecting allowed in the Preserve.  Enjoy photography instead.
Stay on marked trails…no off-trail hiking.


2 responses to “An Oasis in the Desert: The Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve”

  1. This is gorgeous and I have visited many times, for both hiking and bird-watching. Present and post covid, things may be a little different. The old website, coachellavalleypreserve.org, is soon to be gone, and will be replaced by a new page bundled in with a site run by a government land-management agency. There doesn’t seem to be quite so much concern–based on my correspondence with a person involved–for the particular interests of the either bird-watchers or hikers there. Perhaps the aim is to subdue interest, actually for good reasons: the area has become, if anything a little over-subscribed in recent years and it has been difficult to manage that.