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Mojave Desert

Location | Mojave Desert Map |
Mojave National Preserve
| Weather | Plants and Animals

Where is the Mojave Desert?

A majority of the Mojave Desert is located in southeastern California and southern Nevada, with smaller portions in Utah and Arizona. The Mojave Desert occupies approximately 43,750 square miles and is considered the smallest and driest desert in the United States.

The Mojave Desert is situated in a transitional zone between the Great Basin Desert to the north and the Sonoran Desert to the south (mainly between 34 and 38°N latitudes).

The Mojave Desert, a rain-shadow desert, is defined by a combination of latitude, elevation, geology, and indicator plants.

 Photo of Badwater located in Death Valley
Badwater Death Valley 282 feet Below Sea Level

What is the Mojave Desert famous for?

The Mojave Desert is famous for having the hottest air temperature and surface temperature recorded on earth and the lowest elevation in North America.

Furnace Creek, located in Death Valley, recorded 134 F (56.7 C) on July 10th, 1913. On July 15th, 1972, the surface temperature in Furnace Creek was recorded at 201 F (93.9 C).

Badwater Basin, located in Death Valley, is the lowest elevation in the United States. At its lowest point, Badwater Basin measures 279 feet (85 m) below sea level.

Dust Devil in the Mojave Desert

Geography of the Mojave Desert

The Mojave Desert has a typical mountain-and-basin topography with sparse vegetation. Sand and gravel basins drain into central salt flats from which borax, potash and salt are extracted. Silver, tungsten, gold and iron deposits are also present in the Mojave Desert.

Elevations are generally between three and six thousand feet, although Death Valley National Park includes both 11,049-foot Telescope Peak and the lowest point in the United States, 282 feet below sea level, at Badwater Basin.

Weather in the Mojave Desert

Temperatures are a function of both latitude and altitude. Although the Mojave Desert has the lowest absolute elevation and the highest maximum temperature (134°F in Death Valley), it is north of the Sonoran Desert and its average elevations are higher. As a result, its average temperatures are lower than those of the Sonoran Desert.

Plants in the Mojave Desert

Occasional catclaws grow along arroyos. But, unlike the Sonoran Desert, trees are few, both in numbers and diversity in the Mojave Desert. The exception is the Joshua tree. While this unusual tree-like yucca is usually considered the prime indicator of Mojave Desert vegetation, it occurs only at higher elevations in this desert and only in this desert.

Joshua Tree

The Mojave Desert hosts about 200 endemic plant species found in neither of the adjacent deserts. Cactus are usually restricted to the coarse soils of bajadas. Mojave yucca and, at higher elevations desert Spanish bayonet, a narrow-leafed yucca, are prominent. Creosote bush, shadscale, big sagebrush, bladder-sage, bursages and blackbush are common shrubs of the Mojave Desert.

Animals in the Mojave Desert

A few examples of desert animals that live in the Mojave Desert include: bats, bighorn sheep, coyotes, black-tailed jack rabbits, foxes, rattlesnakes, and chukwallas.


Mojave Desert Map

Parks Located in the Mojave Desert

Death Valley National Park
Joshua Tree National Park
Mojave National Preserve (The Mojave Road)
Lake Mead National Recreation Area (NRA)

Mojave Desert Map

National Park Service Map

Points of Interest in the Mojave Desert

Mojave Road

The Mojave Road crosses the Mojave Preserve and was a main wagon trail for only a relatively short time, two decades after the civil war. When the railroads came, the railways created an easier route to the south complete with oases on the bitter-dry deserts. While it was used, the Mojave Road was a route plagued by hostile Indians, a lack of water, long stretches of sand and rough hill climbs. For caravans of travelers and a handful of soldiers, it was a proving ground that brought out the best and the worst of them. Read more about the Mojave Road.


Chihuahuan DesertGreat Basin Desert |  Mojave Desert | Sonoran Desert


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