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Mojave Desert

Lowest Absolute Elevation
Highest Maximum Temperature

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

Badwater Death Valley 282 feet below sea level

The transition from the hot Sonoran Desert to the cooler and higher Great Basin is called the Mojave Desert. This arid region of southeastern California and portions of Nevada, Arizona and Utah, occupies more than 25,000 square miles.

Situated between the Great Basin Desert to the north and the Sonoran to the south (mainly between 34 and 38°N latitudes), the Mojave, a rainshadow desert, is defined by a combination of latitude, elevation, geology, and indicator plants.

Dust Devil 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.

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.

Occasional Catclaws grow along arroyos. But, unlike the Sonoran Desert, trees are few, both in numbers and diversity. 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.


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.

Mojave Desert Map

The Mojave Road crosses the Mojave perserve 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. See article on the Mojave Road

Four Parks that are located in the Mojave Desert - You can click on the map below or the links to see more about each park.

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


Mojave desert map

National Park Service Map


Chihuahuan DesertGreat Basin Desert |  Mojave Desert | Sonoran Desert


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Motor Home Exploration in the Mojave



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