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  • Sunset at Mojave Desert in Twentynine Palms, CA

Our desert destination is perhaps best known for being the headquarters and north entrance to the iconic Joshua Tree National Park and the gateway to a number of Mojave Desert sites, including the Mojave National Preserve, Mojave Trails National Monument, and Amboy Crater.

For new visitors who have already made hotel reservations, or planned a trip here, or have arrived and don’t know what to do now that Joshua Tree National Park has temporarily closed due to the government shutdown, don’t despair. We have a variety of attractions to enjoy during your stay in 29 Palms, including…

1. Sky’s The Limit Observatory & Nature Center
2. Oasis of Murals and Public Art
3. 29 Palms Art Gallery and Old Schoolhouse Museum
4. Theatre 29 Stage Productions
5. Smith’s Ranch Drive-In Movies
And many more!

There’s hiking and exploring in Mojave Trails National Monument, Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark, Mojave National Preserve and Kelso Dunes … all located nearby and an easy drive from 29 Palms.  We also have an eclectic mix of dining options in 29 Palms, as well as historic inns, the 9,000-year-old Oasis of Mara, Tortoise Rock Casino for those who like to gamble, a variety of art venues and small shops to browse, and lots of seasonal events.
Sky's The Limit Observatory, 29 Palms, California
1. Sky’s The Limit Observatory & Nature Center in 29 Palms invites stargazers to explore the cosmos and enjoy free star-viewing events on Saturday nights. Take a tour of the night sky with volunteer astronomers and see stars, planets, constellations, and the ethereal Milky Way. On full moon Saturdays, when it’s too bright for stargazing, enjoy free cultural astronomy programs at the site.

Tim O'Connor, Smith's Ranch mural, 29 Palms, CA2. The Oasis of Murals and Public Art features more than two dozen world-class murals in 29 Palms and more than 40 public art installations throughout the city. An Oasis of Murals brochure is available for download on our Visit29.org website, along with a PDF map of the murals and public art locations.

29 Palms Art Gallery, 29 Palms, California

3. The historic 29 Palms Art Gallery, housed in an old adobe near the Oasis of Mara, is a must-see for appreciators of art and desert artists. And the Old Schoolhouse Museum one block away is a treasure trove of cultural history, desert books and gifts, and desert gold-mining and homesteading displays presented by the 29 Palms Historical Society.

Theatre 29 in 29 Palms, CA4. Theatre 29, our very own community theater, presents stage productions on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday matinees. Some of the best talent in the desert takes to the stage here, in year-round family-friendly productions, including Broadway musicals and Improv shows.

Smith's Ranch Drive-In Movie Theater in 29 Palms, California

5. Smith’s Ranch Drive-In is one of America’s last remaining drive-in theaters. They show first-run movies on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, and for 5 bucks you can enjoy a double feature under the desert night sky. They have a great snack bar, too!

Want more ideas? See “Attractions” and the “Explore” sections on our website, Visit29.org, for hours and locations of our many 29 Palms attractions and visitor-friendly sites to see.  We invite you to make 29 Palms your destination and stay with us. Enjoy the wide open spaces, quiet desert vistas, history, art and culture in our little piece of heaven in the Mojave Desert.

P.S. Stop by our Visitor Center at 73484 29 Palms Hwy., Twentynine Palms, CA 92277 (downtown at the corner of Desert Queen Avenue) for more information about our desert destination. Open daily, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (760)367-3445.

By Vickie Waite 01/08/2019

By Breanne Dusastre 01/07/2019

As we enter the third week of the government shutdown, here’s an update from Visit 29 Palms regarding Joshua Tree National Park…

Update on park conditions & closures:
-Rattlesnake Canyon, Lost Horse Mine Road, and Keys View Road remain closed, as well as all campgrounds. Back country camping is still open. For those looking for lodging, please visit www.visit29palms.org/lodging, which features local hotels, motels, vacation rentals, and an RV campground in 29 Palms.

-Given the amount of volunteer outreach in the last two weeks, we’re happy to share that bathrooms and trailheads look great, and trash and recycling is being well maintained.

“We are so proud to see the response and support from our hospitality community, and thank all the hotels, inns, resorts, and vacation home rentals for extending their support through the donation of cleaning supplies and the time they have volunteered over this busy holiday period to help keep our national park clean during the shutdown. The support from the Marines and the military community in 29 Palms has also been outstanding, and through these combined community efforts our visitors who have traveled from all over the world to visit Joshua Tree National Park this winter have been able to still enjoy our beautiful national park.” –Ash Maharaj, 29 Palms Tourism Business Improvement District Advisory Board Member and owner of Harmony Motel.

For those who would like to help future volunteer efforts, we are putting together small teams to help out on the following dates and times this week.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019
10:00am – 1:00pm

Thursday, January 10, 2019
10:00am – 1:00pm

Saturday, January 12, 2019
FULL – Thanks to the support of the American Red Cross Youth Club in 29 Palms we have a large team ready to go out on Saturday and at this time will not need additional volunteer support.

Volunteers will meet at the City of Twentynine Palms Visitor Center, 73484 Twentynine Palms Hwy., Twentynine Palms, CA 92277 (downtown at the corner of Desert Queen Avenue). (760)367-3445.

Volunteer efforts include light bathroom cleaning and restocking, monitoring and emptying trash and recycling bins, and picking up trash around trailheads and campgrounds. To minimize our impact on the park we are asking volunteers to carpool in, and whenever possible we’ll send teams out in trucks to make trash and recycling collection quick and easy.

Joshua Tree National Park, 40 bags of trash collected by 29 Palms Cleanup Crew on New Year's Day 2019

(Above: 40 bags of trash were collected in Joshua Tree National Park on New Year’s Day by 29 Palms Cleanup Crew volunteers.)

If you would like more information about how you can help, give us a call (760) 367-3445, send us an email to visit29palms@gmail.com, or drop by our Visitor Center. We’re located at 73484 Twentynine Palms Hwy, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277 and are open daily from 10:00am to 4:00pm.

Our Visitor Center is stocked with Joshua Tree National Park maps, “Visit 29!” brochures with local lodging and dining, information on area attractions, plus maps and literature for Mojave National Preserve, Mojave Trails National Monument, Amboy Crater, and other nearby regional sites and BLM lands to explore.

Volunteer efforts are also being coordinated by Friends of Joshua Tree, Cliffhanger Guides, and Coyote Corner in Joshua Tree. Volunteers are welcome to meet daily at 10:00am in front of Coyote Corner on Park Blvd. in downtown Joshua Tree. We would like to extend our thanks and gratitude to this group for their tireless efforts, and for taking on such leadership in organizing and inspiring our communities to step up and help out. Friends of Joshua Tree is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the historical tradition of climbing in Joshua Tree National Park. Learn more and consider making a donation at www.friendsofjosh.org.

# # #

By Visit 29 Palms 01/02/2019
A New Year’s Day cleanup effort in Joshua Tree National Park took place on January 1 during the government shutdown, with donated supplies and community volunteers. The cleanup day was the result of a joint effort by Visit 29 Palms, the 29 Palms Chamber of Commerce, and the City of 29 Palms.

Volunteers met at the 29 Palms Visitor Center where they were provided cleaning supplies and assigned to specific areas of the park. Within a four-hour effort the group hauled out more than 40 bags of trash, glass and recycling, and cleaned and restocked bathrooms throughout the national park.

Breanne Dusastre, Director of Marketing and Tourism Development for the City of 29 Palms lead the effort and said, “It was so great to see the turnout today in 29 Palms, and I am thrilled by how much ground we were able to cover in the park today. It has been inspiring to see the cleanup efforts and stewardship initiatives from the community, and we felt like today was our turn to roll up our sleeves and help out.”

Dusastre gives credit to the 29 Palms hospitality community for helping make today’s cleanup effort possible, saying “In addition to the $200 contribution of supplies from the 29 Palms Tourism Business Improvement District, toilet paper and cleaning supplies were donated by the Harmony Motel, 29 Palms Inn, and Broadview Hacienda vacation rental owners.” In addition to the donations from the hospitality community, Dusastre adds that a significant amount of supplies were provided by Friends of Joshua Tree, the non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the historical tradition of climbing in Joshua Tree National Park.

As the government shutdown continues, the 29 Palms Visitor Center and Chamber of Commerce will continue to serve as a drop off location for people who would like to donate supplies such as toilet paper, 50 gallon garbage bags, and antibacterial wipes.

With campground closures going into effect at noon on Wednesday, January 2, Dusastre says future cleanup events will focus on the more public areas of the park such as day use areas and popular trailheads.

“Visit 29 Palms is committed to helping out in any way possible, and while the shutdown continues and NPS-provided visitor services are not available in Joshua Tree National Park, we will do our best to help provide visitor resources in our city visitor center, and will continue to help with coordinating cleanup efforts.”

During this shutdown, Visit 29 Palms would like to remind visitors coming to Joshua Tree National Park to take extra caution, and encourages visitors to:

-Bring your own toilet paper.

-Pack out everything you pack in.

-Park only in designated parking areas.

-Keep your dog on a leash, and no more than 100 feet from any road, picnic area, or campground.

-Never feed the wildlife, and always view from a distance.

-Be prepared for unexpected closures – current closures include Lost Horse Mine Road, Keys View Road, and Rattlesnake Canyon.

-Before entering the park, make sure you have a park map, full tank of gas, water and snacks, and layers of clothing for the cooler temperatures.

For more information and updates, go to https://www.visit29.org/news.

# # #
Media contact: Breanne Dusastre 415-827-0420

<- Just some of the many bottles left behind in Joshua Tree National Park after New Year’s Eve 2019 during the government shutdown.

Note to visitors: Please pack out your own trash. More than ever, our motto is: Leave No Trace!

 

 

 

*Top photo: Some of the 29 Palms Cleanup Crew volunteers who were assembled at the City Visitor Center on New Year’s Day to collect supplies for a cleanup effort in Joshua Tree National Park during the government shutdown. Left to right: 29 Palms residents Jill, Anastasia Wasko, Anthony Arias, Dylan, Eric and Jen Smith; Hemet visitor Jose Cortez; City Code Enforcement Officer Jim Thornburg; City Director of Marketing Breanne Dusastre; 29 Palms Inn owner Jane Smith.

 

by Vickie Waite – 7/24/2018
You can live in the desert for decades, and never see it all, or really know it. All that land out there, those wide open spaces? They are filled with seeds waiting to sprout under the right conditions, alive with critters adapting to their ever-changing environment, and home to mountains and washes and trails containing the history of ancient inhabitants.

From my desert front yard in 29 Palms I have an unobstructed view for 50 miles to the Sheephole Mountains in the east, and my kitchen window has a fine view of the mountains in Joshua Tree National Park. I am not much of a hiker, so watching from a distance is just fine with me. My preferred experience is sitting with a glass of wine on my front patio watching the rose-tinted hills at sunset. Ahhh.

So when our local tourism folks asked me to accompany the group* on a field trip to the new Mojave Trails National Monument, I can’t say I jumped at the chance. In fact, I had to be coerced. You mean, actually go out there into that desert wilderness?

Mojave Trails National Monument encompasses a mammoth swath of Mojave Desert—1.6 million acres of rugged mountain ranges, ancient lava flows, spectacular sand dunes, early Native American trading routes, World War II-era training camp history, and the longest remaining undeveloped stretch of Route 66. The monument was established on Feb. 12, 2016, and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In 2018, the City of Twentynine Palms and the BLM signed an agreement designating our city as an official “Gateway to Mojave Trails National Monument.”

Well, okay, considering that I do some tourism marketing for the city, and this monument literally begins on our eastern border, I decided I’d better go along for the ride so I would know what to tell visitors. And what a ride it was.

Amboy Crater Natural National Monument, Mojave Trails National Monument, Mojave Desert, CaliforniaOur first stop was Amboy Crater Natural National Monument, an hour’s drive east, located on part of the historic Route 66. I hadn’t seen the crater in years and was amazed at the site improvements. Paved road and parking lot, restrooms (vault toilets), shade ramadas, picnic tables, interpretive signs, and a beautiful handicap-accessible ramp leading up to an observation deck with a commanding view of the ancient 10,000-year-old crater. It was very visitor-friendly, and so Instagrammable!

There is a 1.5-mile hiking trail up to the 250-foot-high crater, accessed through a field of black lava. Allowing about 3 hours for a round trip is sensible, but hikers need to bring plenty of water for the hike and wear a hat and clothes to protect from the sun and hiking boots or sturdy shoes. DO NOT attempt this hike in the summer when temperatures can exceed 110 degrees. Due to the extreme heat the basaltic rock reflects, it is suggested that hikers visit the area between October and April.

Cadiz Dunes Wilderness, Mojave Trails National Monument, Mojave Desert, CaliforniaNext was a bumpy ride on sand roads further into the desert to reach the Cadiz Dunes Wilderness, one of the most pristine and remote sand dunes in Southern California. While the Kelso Dunes in Mojave National Preserve might afford easier access, the reward for finding and exploring Cadiz Dunes lies literally in its peaceful remoteness. It’s a relatively easy hike to the tops of the dunes from the nearby parking area. The views are spectacular, and the peace and quiet is palpable. As for getting there, 4-Wheel Drive is recommended for this part of the journey. Seriously.

Camp Iron Mountain, Mojave Trails National Monument, Mojave Desert, CaliforniaCircling back towards 29 Palms on a series of roads that I tried to track on the map, our fearless leader, BLM Manager Kyle Sullivan, took us to Camp Iron Mountain, one of the Desert Training Center sites used by General George S. Patton Jr. to train soldiers in World War II. It’s amazing to see the stone altar still standing in the spot where troops once had open air church services in the desert encampment near their tents and training fields. A chain link fence around the site helps to protect it from vandals or desert trash hunters. Removing artifacts from the area is forbidden, and the BLM warns visitors that unexploded ordnance could still be present in the area.

Camp Iron Mountain was one of 11 camps in an area covering 18,000 square miles of desert terrain, which made it the largest military training area in the world. Close to 1 million troops were trained there between 1942 and 1944. Camp Young in the lower desert was the headquarters and is the site of the General Patton Memorial Museum, located off Interstate 10 at Chiriaco Summit. BLM is working to preserve and interpret the remaining features of these camps, and all of the camp sites are considered Historical Period Archaeological Sites eligible for the National Register.

After a full day of driving across the expansive desert, we had covered only a portion of the Mojave Trails National Monument. There were still many sites and thousands of acres left to explore. But it was nearing 5 o’clock and time to head back to town. Besides that, it was wine time.

As I sat on my patio that night, looking out across the desert, I felt more of a connection with the history of this land. I vowed to explore other sites in the monument and learn about those ancient trading routes that gave Mojave Trails its name.

For visitors who want to explore the Mojave Desert outback and really step back in time, the Mojave Trails National Monument is a quiet, remote, fascinating journey. But again, don’t do this in the heat of summer; plan this trip for next fall or winter. And heed all the warnings for safe desert travel: have plenty of water, snacks or food, gas and oil in a well-maintained vehicle (preferably 4WD), good hiking footwear, hat and sun-protective clothes. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return, and leave the pets at home. Enjoy your adventure, but remember the desert is bigger than you, a lot bigger.

See our Mojave Trails National Monument page on Visit29.org for a MAP and links to more information.

*The May 2018 field trip group included representatives from the BLM, the City of Twentynine Palms, Visit 29! TBID Advisory Board, Historic Inns of 29 Palms, and Mojave Desert Land Trust.

Vickie Waite is a freelance writer, author, editor, and marketing specialist, who has been a Mojave Desert resident for nearly 29 years in 29 Palms, California.

by Vickie Waite – 7/20/2018
What do we do on summer nights in the desert? We get a little star crazy. [Get it? Stir crazy, star crazy.] Okay, some of us desert dwellers suffer a bit of cabin fever from being locked up in our air-cooled buildings during the heat of the day, especially when it’s over 100 degrees, and we’ve been known to emerge from our cocoons at night, eternally grateful to breathe some cooler air and experience the explosion of stars in the desert night sky.

Stars, planets, myriad constellations, even satellites and occasional UFOs, all float over our heads in the balmy darkness, seemingly so close you feel like you could reach out and touch them. And in the midst of all this, the ethereal summer Milky Way rises over us like an ever-present guardian of the galaxy. It’s the desert night. Dark. Peaceful. Cosmic.

That’s what we get for living in the Mojave Desert next to Joshua Tree National Park, which was proclaimed an official Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association in 2017. And what else do we have? Right here in 29 Palms, next to the north entrance of our Dark Sky Park, we have our very own Sky’s The Limit Observatory and Nature Center. It’s one of our little desert city’s biggest assets for both residents and visitors.

Perched on a 15-acre site next to the national park entrance, Sky’s The Limit offers free star parties for the public every Saturday night (except during a full moon). Volunteer astronomers take visitors on a tour of the night sky through a variety of telescopes set up along a series of observation pads and a 14” Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope inside the observation dome. For visitors from the city who haven’t seen the stars for a while, this is an astoundingly rewarding experience.

Star-viewing events begin after sunset and often go until well after midnight, for those who wish to stay. See our Stargazing page for more information and a current schedule. And watch for news about this year’s Perseid Meteor Shower, which will reach its peak on the nights of August 11-12 and August 12-13. Additional meteor activity will be visible in our desert sky from about July 17 to August 24. Plan to come out and spend a few nights in the desert to experience this fascinating phenomenon.

[Sky’s The Limit Observatory, 9697 Utah Trail, 29 Palms, CA 92277, (760) 365-7897, located next to the north entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. www.skysthelimit29.org.]

Smith's Ranch Drive-In Movies in 29 Palms, CaliforniaFor star watching of a different kind, we also have Smith’s Ranch Drive-In in 29 Palms, one of America’s last drive-in movie theaters. The drive-in shows first-run movies on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, beginning after sunset. Just $5 gets you a double feature under the desert night sky. And they have a great concession stand, too, that offers nachos and pulled-pork sandwiches along with the standard popcorn and sodas. This is a favorite summer night activity for locals and visitors, great for a family outing, an event with friends, or a date night. Baby boomers will especially appreciate the nostalgia of it all. Bring some lawn chairs, or sit in the bed of your truck, and enjoy the star-filled cinema under the stars.

[Smith’s Ranch Drive-In, 4584 Adobe Road, 29 Palms, CA 92277, (760)367-7713. www.29drive-in.com]

Vickie Waite is a freelance writer, author, editor, and marketing specialist, who has been a resident for nearly 29 years in 29 Palms, California. Starry night photograph in Joshua Tree National Park by Chip Morton.

by Naturalist Pat Flanagan – 3/13/2018
Early in the year you often see kettles of turkey vultures in Twentynine Palms, with the birds gracefully rocking from side to side as they ride the thermals of rising hot air in the desert. In the early evenings they begin their roost—dark brush strokes hunkered in the tamarisk trees or the towering fan palms; mornings, black wings spread, they absorb the warm sun before take-off. This is a yearly spectacle that always lifts my spirits.

So, I decided, these vultures, dour reminders of life’s shortness, were worth looking into. I have discovered a number of interesting facts about vultures, and surprisingly, none of it is gloomy or forbidding.

“Well,” you say, “they make disgusting dining choices; they eat dead (frequently long dead) things! Imagine the putrefying stench… and the texture.” I am, but first let us agree that we don’t want a great mass of smelly dead critters lying about, covering the landscape and fueling epidemics as well as the atmosphere.

When first researching turkey vultures I found a statistic that natural resource managers from neighboring Nevada estimate there are 10 million rabbits living in the state with several million dying each year. Rabbit populations fluctuate in rhythm with available resources, but accepting these numbers, mentally add up all the animals worldwide that die on the surface of the earth and you can begin to appreciate the important work of scavengers. (While appreciating vultures, please also appreciate the blow flies, carrion beetles, ravens, and coyotes for this important nature’s service.)

This carnage brings up two interesting olfactory points. Most birds have an underdeveloped sense of smell, which is why, regardless of what you have been told, it is permissible to return a baby bird reeking with your scent to its nest. The mother will not reject it. However, New World Vultures, especially the condor and turkey vulture, have a keen sense of smell along with excellent eyesight, both of which are used to find carrion.

You will be relieved to know (had you been worrying) that turkey vulture excrement is sanitized. They can bury their naked red heads in rotten, disgusting, diseased carcasses and eat their fill without harmful effects because their digestive systems kill off all the bacteria and viruses. Medical scientists are intrigued and have begun exploring the vulture’s ability to disinfect rodent carcasses tainted with Hantavirus and to consider the implications for biological warfare and worldwide epidemics (what would those scientists be thinking here?).

A turkey vulture pellet, a compact odorless mass of indigestible hair, bone, and vegetation regurgitated from the mouth, is smaller than a chicken egg. Pellets are not vomit that contain the stinky contents of the stomach. Pellets are common among many groups of birds like owls, ravens, and flycatchers that eat their food whole, or partly so, and end up with indigestible remains deep within their body.

A study of 400 turkey vulture pellets collected near Livermore, CA, were found to contain animal remains of rodents ranging in size from shrews to gophers, rabbits, birds, reptiles, raccoons, badger, skunk, coyote, and more. But the single most common ingredient, averaging 25% of the total dried weight, was vegetation! They need the roughage just like we do. Finally, years of turkey vulture observations confirm that they are clean animals, taking two to three hours a day to preen their feathers. Flocks of birds have been seen bathing in ponds, scrubbing, shaking, and slicking their feathers for up to half an hour.

They are great neighbors with exemplary family lives. During nesting season, a mated pair live by themselves, laying two eggs, and raising their young. Rather than building trophy-size stick nests, they lay their eggs on bare ground in protected sites such as a rock ledge on the face of a cliff, a cave, even a hollow tree or an abandoned barn. For the remainder of the year they live in family-oriented communal roosts. These roosts can go back more than 100 years, which means generations of the same family, have called the same trees home. Banding records show that individual birds will use the same branch in the same tree throughout their lives. They also like to go visiting other roosts, often being gone for several days before returning home. Skilled observers find it possible to interpret the eye contact and body language vultures use to maintain their communal pecking order. Interestingly, roosts are frequently chosen to be close to human habitation.

Turkey vultures appear to like humans. Caretakers in avian rehabilitation facilities report that they become attached to their handlers, following them around and watching much like a dog might. There are numerous examples of vultures adopting humans, showing up day after day just to keep company. The following story is nearly unbelievable.

In the wild and open country, a turkey vulture will sometimes become attached to a person. A lady in Southern California wrote that she and her husband would drive their car five miles from town and take a daily walk in the country with their dog. A turkey vulture would join them, soaring above and watching for a while. One day she broke her leg and stopped walking in the country for a while. During her recovery, she went into her backyard and there was her turkey vulture sitting on the fence, waiting to say hello—he had found her in a town of 12,000 people and come to visit.

Flying Eagle

Here is another example of their intelligence to consider. A woman built her vulture friends a tower-like feeding station in her backyard. One day, after they finished eating, she noticed the vultures standing in a circle around a soccer-sized ball, butting it back and forth to each other with their heads. Having invented this game, they played it each day, always choosing the same orange ball from a choice of four colored balls.

To quote caretakers from two Florida nature parks, “We find the vultures to be gentle, inquisitive, and very intelligent.” Great link: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Turkey_vulture.

When researching turkey vultures on this site, range maps show where and when you can expect to find each species. A great portion of the United States is shown as the summer or breeding area for turkey vultures. The remainder of the map, namely the southwest, mainland Mexico, the Baja California peninsula, and the western fringe of California north to above San Francisco, and then the Pacific Northwest into Canada, are shown as year-round sites. In this case year-round does not mean that you are necessarily seeing the same birds all year, just that you are apt to see turkey vultures any time. Mostly, these birds are migratory, flying north in January and February from Central and South America to breeding areas in the Pacific Northwest, passing, in our case, through the Morongo Basin and Twentynine Palms on their way. They return south in the fall.

Turkey vultures are extraordinary fliers, considered by many to be the most graceful soaring bird in the world. They fly with their wings in an outstretched V, and rarely flap, in contrast to other birds of prey that tend to fly with their wings straight out and flap more often. Gently rocking them from side to side, vultures soar with an unsteady look as they rise, circle, and glide, their flight describing the great thermal updrafts lifting from the warm desert floor.

Turkey Vulture Fact Sheet

Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura. Translated as “pacifier” or “cleanser.” Length 26”; wing span 67”; weight 4 pounds. Color: dark brown to black, with silvery under-wing linings. The adult has a red head, the juvenile a black head. When perched they have a hunched posture and their pale, naked legs are visible. Both wings and tail are long.

Turkey vultures are large birds of prey once thought to be related to hawks and eagles. Adapted to feeding on carrion, their head and neck are naked of feathers, their feet are weak, adapted more for running than clutching, although the aggressive black vulture is known to take live prey and even attack horses, cows, and people. Their large beaks lack the shape and strength to tear into fresh flesh.

The Cherokee Nation called the turkey vulture “peace eagle” because its shape resembles an eagle and it does not kill.

The turkey vulture’s range extends all across the United States and into Canada. In warmer areas they may be year-round residents, but many migrate to Central and South America for the winter. Mainly seen in open country, they are also found in many cities such as Miami, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, and Reno. ###

Naturalist Pat Flanagan leads nature walks in the Oasis of Mara at 29 Palms Inn on weekend mornings. She is a longtime desert conservationist and recent recipient of the 14th annual Minerva Hamilton Hoyt Award presented by Joshua Tree National Park Association for her dedication to preserving and educating others about the desert.

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Your health and safety is the top priority for our hospitality businesses. In accordance with State/County guidelines we kindly remind you to wear your face mask/covering, practice healthy hand-washing, maintain a safe social distance, and postpone travel if you are sick.

Together, our everyday actions can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.