Water is precious in California, and nowhere is this more evident than in places like the Mojave Desert. Spanning more than 50,000 square miles, the Mojave is home to the hottest, driest and lowest places in North America. Only four rivers are found in the entire region (by comparison Oregon has over 240, and it’s only twice the size). In the western Mojave, where the most population growth has occurred, there is only one: the Mojave River.
California’s Mojave River flows 100 miles from the San Bernardino Mountains to its terminus at Soda Lake, near the town of Baker. The river supports the only significant riparian habitat in the western Mojave Desert, and its water, whether it is flowing underground or on the surface, is essential for that habitat and the fish and wildlife that rely on it, including many endangered, threatened and sensitive species.
At the same time, human communities increasingly rely on the Mojave River, and intense pressure is being placed upon the stream as a result of explosive growth around Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The Mojave Basin’s groundwater has been in overdraft since the 1950s, and excessive water withdrawals for urban development and agriculture, combined with rapid urbanization, are threatening the fragile Mojave River ecosystem more than ever.
Western Rivers Conservancy has the rare opportunity to conserve one of the most vital stretches of the Mojave River, in a reach of the stream known as the Transition Zone. The Mojave River flows below the surface for much of its length, and only portions of the stream—where the underlying bedrock pushes water up, or when a rare Mojave rainstorm sends a life-giving pulse down from the mountains—flow above ground. The Transition Zone is an oasis, one of those rare stretches where the river flows above ground, and perennial surface flows nourish a lush, 15-mile-long riparian corridor of cottonwood and black willow trees.
In an effort to revitalize crucial habitat for imperiled Mojave species, WRC purchased a 1,640-acre ranch within the Transition Zone. The effort will protect four miles of the Mojave River and 700 acres of riparian lands in an area that is threatened with dense residential development. Conservation of these lands is crucial to the recovery of imperiled species like the southwestern willow flycatcher, least Bell’s vireo and Mojave tui chub (all endangered), as well as the threatened western yellow-billed cuckoo.
Our work on the Mojave will also benefit populations of migratory birds and several California species of special concern, including the Mojave River vole, southwestern pond turtle, brown-crested flycatcher, long-eared owl, summer tanager, vermillion flycatcher, yellow-breasted chat, yellow warbler and the Mohave shoulderband snail. Potential habitat for the arroyo toad (federally endangered; California species of special concern) exists within this stretch of riparian area as well. Upland habitat adjacent to the riparian areas supports several listed species, including desert tortoise, Mohave ground squirrel and burrowing owl.
Funding for the Mojave River Project was made possible through generous contributions from multiple sources, including The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and with the generous support of many additional individuals, foundations and businesses.
Mar 10, 2016
In southern California, Western Rivers Conservancy has purchased 1,640 acres along one of the Golden State’s most imperiled streams: The Mojave River. In a region stressed by ongoing drought and where residential development continues to chisel away at sensitive desert habitat, the Mojave River is a lifeline. It provides the only significant corridor of riparian habitat in the western Mojave Desert.
Aug 31, 2015
Western Rivers Conservancy has a rare opportunity to conserve an important stretch of California’s Mojave River, one of the Golden State’s most imperiled streams. Often referred to as a “river upside down,” the Mojave flows subsurface for much of its length. The river sustains the only significant riparian habitat in the western Mojave Desert, and its water, whether underground or on the surface, is crucial to the rare fish and wildlife that rely on it.