Wee Thump Joshua Tree Wilderness Area - Summary Page

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This page last updated on 06/12/2017
(Fig. 01)

(Fig. 02)

Directions: From the Stratosphere Casino head northeast on Las Vegas Blvd about 3 miles and bear right to merge onto US-515/93/95 south towards Boulder City. Follow US-93/95 for 17 miles and then merge onto US-95 South (Veterans Memorial Hwy) toward Searchlight/Laughlin/Needles. When you reach Searchlight, about 36 miles, turn right, west, onto NV-164 (known at the Joshua Tree Highway) towards Nipton. The trailhead and the Wee Thump East Road is located on the right (Fig. 02), about 8.2 miles west of Searchlight.

Description: First, it must be noted that the large sign shown in (Fig. 01) that once stood at the entrance to the Trailhead (TR) and the Wee Thump East Road (Fig. 02) has been vandalized by locals and no longer exists. "Wee Thump" is Paiute for "ancient ones."
The Southern Nevada area has been in a drought for the past 15 years. Even though rain and snowfalls fluctuate year to year, on average over the past 16 years water tables throughout the state have been dropping like a rock. As a whole the desert is a harsh environment of mostly sand and rock where the evaporation rate far exceeds precipitation. Even though plants and animals have special adaptions to deal with harsh conditions such as extreme heat, cold and lack of water for long periods, the drought is finally reaching a point where many are near the end of their life cycles. I have evidenced many cacti which can go years without proper watering are beginning to just dry up and die. Wildlife levels, do to a scarcity of adequate plant-life to feed upon, have noticeably fallen over the same period. In spite of all this, there is the ever enduring Joshua tree, that is in fact, not a tree.
It's a tree-like succulent that is actually a member of the agave family. For more information on the Joshua Tree check out the following page ... Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia). It is impossible to estimate their age as their trunks are filled with fibers instead of the growth rings found in typical trees. Its primary pollinator is the yucca moth that nurses its large, soccer ball-sized flower with its cream-colored petal. It appears to be a malformed peculiarity with gangling and odd shaped branches that seem to point in no particular direction. It is found in mostly Mojave Desert ecozones.
At first glance, this flat, gently sloped alluvial plain between Searchlight NV and Nipton CA appears rather plain and boring; however, it offers a wide variety of plant life and occasionally, for the patient, glimpses of birds, lizards and other desert animals. Wee Thump Joshua Tree is a relatively small (6,050 acres) wilderness area that was established to protect a forest of dense, old-growth Joshua trees. The wilderness area is relatively flat, sloping gently from west to east at elevations ranging from about 5,000 to 4,100 feet, in a roughly triangular valley (Fig. 02) between the McCullough and Highland ranges and the north shoulder of the New York Mountains, just west of Searchlight, NV. The area lies on the bajada below the South McCullough Mountains.  The bajada, composed entirely of outwash materials from the McCullough Mountains, dominates the local geology. Alluvial soils are deep and well sorted, with few rocks of any size in the wilderness area. The soils appear to be coarse-grained decomposed granite, but they are the decomposition products of metamorphic rocks.

There are several places along the highway between Searchlight and Nipton where one can spend hours visiting this and other areas looking for rocks and snapping pictures of Joshua trees, the  Prickly Pear Cactus, the  Buckhorn Chollathe Mojave (Banana) Yucca, Blackbrush, the Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata and a variety of other low-growing desert shrubs. The Joshua trees in this area were some of the largest I've ever seen. The only place on earth in which they live is the Mojave Desert. The area is also known for a diverse community of Mojave desert life, including kit fox, great horned owl, the gilded flicker (which is known to occur in Nevada only at this location) and the federally threatened desert tortoise.

Trip Notes: The purpose of this page is to act as a summary by providing links with pictures and descriptions of my various hiking visits to this spot over the past several years. Obviously, the primary focus here are the Joshua Trees. For more information on the Joshua Tree check out the following page ... Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia). The trip notes below provide information and pictured from each of my previous visits.
10/22/2016 Trip Notes: My most recent visit was with my friend Jim Herring, who had never been here before. Because this was my third visit, I didn't take very many pictures. On today's visit we drove about half way into the wilderness, further than I had hiked on my previous visits (Fig. 03). As you can see from (Fig. 04), with Jim standing in front of it, we did encounter some very large trees.
(Fig. 03)
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10/06/2011 Trip Notes: The link found here actually provides pictures and descriptions of two visits to "Wee Thump" in 2011. Even though there isn't  lot to photograph here, it is just the stark the beauty of these wonderful old Joshua Trees against the backdrop of the surrounding mountains. The solitude of this desert plateau has lots of desert grasses, almost making you feel like you are in the grassy plains of the mid-west. Depending upon the time of year when you visit, and the amount of recent rain can provide you will a variety of interesting and colorful vegetation scattered about the landscape. Click here for pictures and descriptions of these two visits ... Wee Thump Joshua Tree Wilderness Area - 10/06/2011 Trip Notes.

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Slideshow Description: The slideshow above contains 49 pictures that were taken inside the Wee Thump Wilderness Area and at various stops along the "Joshua Tree Highway".