Humans have occupied the area we now know as Joshua Tree National Park for at least 5,000 years. The first group known to inhabit the area was the Pinto Culture, followed by American Indians including the Serrano, the Chemehuevi, and the Cahuilla.
In the 1800s, cattlemen drove their cows into the area for the ample grass available at the time and built water impoundments for them. Miners dug tunnels through the earth looking for gold and made tracks across the desert with their trucks. Homesteaders began filing claims in the 1900s. They built cabins, dug wells, and planted crops.
Everyone who has lived in this desert has left an imprint on the landscape. Some individuals have left an especially big mark. Without the passion and commitment of Minerva Hoyt, for example, Joshua Tree might never have been set aside and protected. Elizabeth Campbell was a pioneering archeologist in the region. Explore their stories here.
Last updated: May 10, 2021