Clark County, Nevada, USA by Chip Carroon

Picture Story

This is a classic view of the Mojave Desert in the southwestern United States. The Mojave is a rain shadow arid land that stretches across much of southeastern California and southern Nevada. Minor parts of Arizona and Utah are also included within this climatic province.

Joshua trees, a yucca species, are considered to be indicator vegetation of the Mojave Desert. This vegetation is most common in the “high desert” portion of the Mojave, which are lands at an elevation greater than two thousand feet. Many people think that the only place to view this vegetation is in Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. However, I argue that southern Nevada locations are better since there are a lot fewer people around, the surroundings are more diverse, and there are common backgrounds of red, yellow, and maroon sandstones. These rocks are part of the Aztec Sandstone formation, and they are very similar to the brightly colored rocks in nearby southern Utah. They were formed as a result of the consolidation and compaction of early Jurassic aeolian sands that were within a huge desert of our geologic past. The red colors are a result of trace amounts of iron oxides that were a weathering product during a long erosional period.

The present environment is conditioned upon monsoonal precipitation during the summer when airflow brings moisture from subtropical southern waters. Along with some precipitation in the winter, vegetation within the landscape remains attractive, and together with the mountainous physiographic features of the region, the photographic opportunities are good.

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