The Physical and the Ecological
The Mojave Desert is bordered by three mountain ranges, the Tehachapi to the west and the San Gabriel and San Bernardino ranges to the south. The northern border brushes against the Great Basin steppe while the eastern border is defined by the political border between California and Nevada.
The northern region of the Mojave is known as the high desert with elevations reaching above 600mm in most areas. The desert is essentially three unique regions that vary by elevation from the highest points in the west (900m) to the hill covered the central region that varies between 300m and 1000m with peaks at 2000m and the eastern region that tapers back up to the 2000m level near the California Nevada border. This area is home to several unique plant and animal varieties that occur only within this area.
The western desert is dominated by the Antelope Valley which lies between the San Andreas and Garlock faults. These faults have both raised areas of beautiful red rock at the edges of the valley, one such location is the popular tourist attraction of Red Rock Canyon State Park just north of the town of Mojave. The erratic weather patterns here often prevent the blooming of the poppies that dominate the area.
The central area of the northern Mojave Desert is comprised of various valleys between randomly jutting hills, some reaching as high as 2000m. The valley floors range from 300m to 1000m in parts of Joshua Tree National Park. This region is also home to the Mojave River and supports the most diverse flora and fauna of the entire desert. The only native turtle is the western pond turtle and it now survives only in ephemeral basins and man-made ponds. One of the overflow springs from the river is home to the only surviving wild Mohave tui chub fish.
The east region contains the highest peaks in the desert, topping out at over 2000m. The mountainous ranges in the east desert are responsible for one of the most interesting points in the northern desert, the Kelso Dunes. The formation of the dunes and their relatively secluded location has resulted in the development of several unique species in the Dunes.