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Johnny Wilson, Bill Garrison and Montaque at Hexie Cabin
Johnny Wilson, Bill Garrison and Montaque at Hexie Cabin. Joshua Tree National Park, JOTR 20575, #1728

Mining and ranching changed how people used the land around Joshua Tree. The California Gold Rush and successful cattle ranching made the southwest deserts more appealing. Beginning in the 1870s, gold miners came to the rocky hills around Twentynine Palms, while ranchers used the highlands for spring grazing and built water catchments called “tanks” to capture water for the cattle.

The arrival of new groups deeply impacted Native American communities, cutting them off from their traditional food resources, water sources, and place-based culture. Pressured to leave traditional collecting and travel areas for nearby designated reservation lands, Serrano, Cahuilla, Chemehuevi, and Mojave communities lost access to traditional resources outside of these designated areas. Some tribal members adapted by working for early prospectors or were hired as farm hands and cowboys.

Today, nearly 300 historic mines are located in the park. Important ranching locations like Quail Springs, Hidden Valley, and Barker Dam are popular sites for visitors. Indigenous footpaths became wagon tracks and are now current roads.



Last updated: August 10, 2023