Popular Joshua Tree Trail Is Closed So Bighorn Sheep Can Get To Water During Drought
Joshua Tree National Park rangers have closed the popular hiking trail that leads to the Fortynine Palms so bighorn sheep can get to one of the park’s few oases undisturbed.
Now 100 to 200 sheep will be able to access the water without the disturbance of humans.
Starting today, June 1, the 49 Palms Trail will be closed to allow bighorn sheep undisturbed access to the oasis water. Under current drought conditions, herds must rely on this water to survive. The closure will remain until summer monsoons increase water availability. pic.twitter.com/YCK2RNwEah— Joshua Tree NPS (@JoshuaTreeNPS) June 1, 2022
The trail will open up again after summer monsoon rains fill up other water sources in the park.
Joshua is especially dry right now, meaning less watering holes are being replenished.
The survival of the sheep is under threat as their population dwindles in the western US. The National Park Service says there are probably about 13,000 left in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah.
The bighorn sheep aren't the only species threatened in the 800,000 acre national park. With hotter temperatures, the iconic Joshua Tree is also taking a hit. They’re drying up, sprouting less, and under threat of scorching fires sparked by warmer temperatures.
California has been in a prolonged drought for three years now, threatening the survival of the national park and many other natural ecosystems, as well as human water sources.