The Mojave Desert

A mysterious landscape full of rocky hills, canyons, badlands, wide open basins, and creosote flats.

This geographic area covers most of southern Nevada, a large portion of southeastern California, and small sections of western Arizona and the southernwestern tip of Utah. To the east the Mojave blends into the Sonoran Desert. To the north with the Great Basin desert habitats of sagebrush.

A dominant shrub is the creosote (Larrea tridentata), a very hardy and long-lived shrub that grows in some of the most arid landscapes. They will flower with yellow blooms after a strong rain event at any time of year. You can see creosote around the ghost town of Rhtolite, as well as the uplands around Beatty and Oasis Valley.

Rainy springs bring wildflowers like Mojave aster. The bursage and creosote bushes also green up and flower. Amargosa Valley, Nevada.

Red Cone: geology ranges from volcanic--such as this cinder cone at Crater Flat south of Beatty, to limestone, sandstone, and metamorphic rocks.

Banded limestone of the Bare Mountains, south of Beatty.

Rhyolitic rock hills, Bullfroh Hills.

Joshua trees

Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) thrive in the Mojave Desert. These tree yuccas can grow to nearly 50 feet, and bloom after good rains in late winter or spring. The flowers are pollinated by yucca moths.

The Mojave desert basins may look dry and meager during cold winters or hot summers. But when rainy seasons come, the desert can explode with wildflowers.

Rain in Oasis Valley and desert uplands.


Sky-blue larkspur

Flower fly pollinating a Mojave aster.

Flowering brittlebush.

Fremont phacelia.

Broad-flowered gilia.

Flowering Fremont pepperbush.

Purple blossoms of wolfberry, or Lycium.

Mojave aster.

Desert dandelion.

Showy penstemon.

California bush buckwheat in bloom.


Drying colorful punctured bract (Oxytheca perfoliata).

Native bee pollinating a desert gold flower.

Blossoming wolfberry (Lycium sp.).

Woolly daisy.

Desert sand verbena, Amargosa River channel.

Amargosa Valley, Nevada just below Rhyolite, greened up after a rainy winter. Looking south towards the Funeral Mountains in Death Valley National park.

Desert dandelions.

Desert chicory.

Fremont phacelia and yellow-flowering blazing start (Mentzelia sp.)

Broad-flowered gilia, Bare Mountains.

Broad-flowered gilia, Sarcobatus Flat.

Golden evening primrose, Bare Mountains.

Fremont phacelia, Beatty, NV.


The Mojave Desert is home to a diversity of cactus species, including this magenta-flowering calico cactus.

Flower of silver cholla.

Fishhook cactus.

Beavertail cactus flower.

Beavertail cactus pads.

Calico cactus, also known as hedghog cactus.

Another pink-flowered cactus, the Mojave fish-hooked cactus in full bloom after a rainy year, Bullfrog Hills.

Moonrise over Mojave Desert rocky hills.

Rains drench the Amargosa Valley in spring.

Winter snow blankets the Grapevine Mountains, as seen from northern Amargosa Valley near the ghost town of Rhyolite.

The morning after a winter snowstorm in the northern Mojave Desert, Bullfrog Hills, Nevada.

Canyons in the Funeral Range.

Desert bighorn sheep skull.

Sunset and snowshowers.

Moonrise. Photo: Kevin Emmerich.

Unnamed ravine.

Desert horned lizard.

Upper Monarch Canyon spring in the Funeral Range, Death Valley National Park.

Creosote flower.

Rhyolitic hills overlooking Crater Flat. Bare Mountains in the distance.

Explore the public lands in the Mojave Desert. Be sure to take plenty of water, sunscreen, hats, clothing for hot and cold temperatures, and wind! Be aware that cell phone coverage can by spotty.

Mojave desert tortoises dining on desert apricot flowers, Bullfrog Hills, Nevada.