Saving the Joshua Tree National Natural Landmark

Did you know that there is a Joshua Tree National Natural Landmark in addition to the Joshua Tree National Park? I didn’t. In fact, when I read the newspaper clipping that Jay’s grandma saved for us about volunteering to help with revegetation of a Joshua Tree forest, I just assumed we were headed to California. It wasn’t until I was looking up directions to the recommended campsite at Pearce Ferry, that I found out we were actually headed to Meadview Arizona at the eastern edge of Lake Mead.  Good thing I checked – that’s a 5 hour difference!

View near our campsite at Pearce Ferry

View near our campsite at Pearce Ferry

Just as well, since neither of us had been to that particular spot and it was only a four hour drive from Flagstaff. We arrived Sunday evening in time to set up camp, explore our surroundings and cook dinner. We had an early morning ahead of us, since we needed to break down camp and then meet the crew at 9 am along Pearce Ferry Road, a 30 minute drive away.  We were camped at Pearce Ferry, a lovely camping spot that is also a historic landmark.  It’s named for a pioneer ferry crossing created by Mormon settlers.

drive to the volunteer project at Joshua Tree National Natural Landmark

The drive to the volunteer project at Joshua Tree National Natural Landmark

We met the other volunteers and BLM staff at Milepost 30 on Pearce Ferry Road.  I must say, I’ve never done a volunteer project for which I met on the side of the road.  I was a bit nervous.  My nerves got further rattled in the roadside “pep talk”.   The project coordinator quickly listed off some potential dangers: rattlesnakes, scorpions, Cholla cactus … you know, the usual desert crew.  EEK!

the area surrounding the National Natural Landmark includes a lot of cattle grazing

We caravaned out to the project site.  About 12 pickup trucks and our little Rav4 with 2 bikes on top.  Most of the volunteer crew were local retirees from the Meadview community.  Even though most of volunteers were older than our parents, they were ready to get to work and not shy about getting their hands dirty (or prickly as the case may be).

volunteer site at Joshua Tree National Natural Landmark

the volunteer site at the Grapevine Mesa Joshua Tree National Natural Landmark

This was the second volunteer work day in the Grapevine Mesa National Natural Landmark.  Both days of work were focused on revegetating an area that had been crushed by illegal motor vehicle traffic.  The area is off limits to off road vehicles, but has seen a lot of damage from people taking their ATVs or trucks and just driving over this beautiful landscape.  In order to prevent further such atrocities, we covered the tire tracks with plants from the surrounding area.  We also dug holes and “planted” dead Joshua Trees in order to create a more substantial barrier to vehicles.  This technique is called “vertical mulching”.

The video shows Jay being ambitious in his “vertical mulching”.

Sharon at Joshua Tree National Natural Landmark

Sharon posing at the volunteer site

Ok, I have to admit it, I did not actually use this tool.

But it looks good.  Much better than the plain looking rake that I actually used to cover up the tire tracks.

revegetated road

Our completed work!

With a big crew of hard workers, the project was completed in no time!

We followed up with the volunteers at the local pizza joint and got to hear their plans for monitoring the area and working towards securing further protection by getting the National Landmark established as a National Monument (a federal distinction that would protect it from mining claims and other risks).  This area is federal land that is federally managed, but the local residents have taken ownership over protecting their neighboring wild habitats.  We could see that the Joshua trees were in good hands.

This effort is led by a local resident named Sharon Baur.  If you are interested in learning more about this project, you can contact her at

These 3 hours of volunteering were sponsored by Kim Durand.  Thank you so much for the support!



2 responses to “Saving the Joshua Tree National Natural Landmark

  1. Please let me know how we can help. Will you need finacial donations.

    Thank you for the update and our best to both you and Jay
    Let me know how to stay in touch is it through your blog or anothe e-mail?

    • Thank you Sharon. You can stay in touch through the blog or through email at We hope to be back on the road in April and may be looking for sponsors for certain volunteer projects that are more expensive (including a volunteer trip to Alaska!). Right now we are still on track with our budget, but the hospital bill hasn’t shown up yet!

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