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Discover a cool, riparian oasis in the high desert at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve near Palm Springs.

The two major subdivisions of the California desert (the Mojave and Colorado Deserts), plus an outlying stretch of chaparral habitat, intersect in the 4500-acre Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, north of Palm Springs. Bighorn sheep, bobcats, mountain lions, mule deer, and nearly 300 species of birds have been spotted in or near the preserve. The most agreeable feature here, a freshwater marsh in the canyon bottom, owes its existence to seepage of water upward along a rift associated with the San Andreas Fault.

The perennially moist part of Big Morongo Canyon lies about 2000 feet in elevation higher than torrid Palm Springs, so the early autumn heat is tolerable here, even at midday. It's best to take advantage of the early-morning or late-afternoon hours, though. The preserve is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to sunset.

From Interstate 10 near Palm Springs, drive 11 miles north on Highway 62 to Morongo Valley. Just past the business district turn right on East Drive, and look for the Big Morongo entrance on the left.

For a rewarding one-mile stroll through contrasting habitats, walk past the visitor information display and pick up the Desert Wash Trail on the left. It guides you over a sun-blasted terrace dotted with honey mesquite, desert willow, and yerba santa. The latter exudes an unmistakable sweet-pungent odor. You dip to cross Big Morongo Wash and pass a spur trail, the Yucca Ridge Trail, over one-half mile from the start. Continue on the Willow Trail, which will take you through the heart of Big Morongo's riparian oasis. There you meander on boardwalks amid a junglelike array of willows, cottonwoods, alders, and fan palms. Watercress and water parsnip have overrun the surface of the shallow waters below your feet.

After a short half-mile on the Willow Trail, you come to a trail intersection. Off to the right a short distance is your parked car. To the left, on the Mesquite and Canyon Trails, you can follow the waters of Big Morongo Canyon down as far as you like. At some point within about a mile (more or less depending on the amount of recent rainfall), the porous soil of the canyon bottom swallows all traces of surface water, and only a dry streambed lies beyond.

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The two major subdivisions of the California desert (the Mojave and Colorado Deserts), plus an outlying stretch of chaparral habitat, intersect in the 4500-acre Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, north of Palm Springs. Bighorn sheep, bobcats, mountain lions, mule deer, and nearly 300 species of birds have been spotted in or near the preserve. The most agreeable feature here, a freshwater marsh in the canyon bottom, owes its existence to seepage of water upward along a rift associated with the San Andreas Fault.

The perennially moist part of Big Morongo Canyon lies about 2000 feet in elevation higher than torrid Palm Springs, so the early autumn heat is tolerable here, even at midday. It's best to take advantage of the early-morning or late-afternoon hours, though. The preserve is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to sunset.

From Interstate 10 near Palm Springs, drive 11 miles north on Highway 62 to Morongo Valley. Just past the business district turn right on East Drive, and look for the Big Morongo entrance on the left.

For a rewarding one-mile stroll through contrasting habitats, walk past the visitor information display and pick up the Desert Wash Trail on the left. It guides you over a sun-blasted terrace dotted with honey mesquite, desert willow, and yerba santa. The latter exudes an unmistakable sweet-pungent odor. You dip to cross Big Morongo Wash and pass a spur trail, the Yucca Ridge Trail, over one-half mile from the start. Continue on the Willow Trail, which will take you through the heart of Big Morongo's riparian oasis. There you meander on boardwalks amid a junglelike array of willows, cottonwoods, alders, and fan palms. Watercress and water parsnip have overrun the surface of the shallow waters below your feet.

After a short half-mile on the Willow Trail, you come to a trail intersection. Off to the right a short distance is your parked car. To the left, on the Mesquite and Canyon Trails, you can follow the waters of Big Morongo Canyon down as far as you like. At some point within about a mile (more or less depending on the amount of recent rainfall), the porous soil of the canyon bottom swallows all traces of surface water, and only a dry streambed lies beyond.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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