Life, Part 2
In the Desert
What to look for
What is the Desert?
If you don't live in the desert; then what do you think of when someone says Life in the DESERT? I know for years the first thing that came to mind was sand dunes, no bushes, trees, nothing but sand. Endless miles of sand. In some places like the Imperial Sand Dunes you'd be right, and there are more places just like this in the Deserts of the Southwest. But most of us are probably thinking of the Sahara desert depicted in so many movies. Of Course it's in Africa. Our version is right here.
Some of you are thinking that the first thing to cross your mind is cactus. We have our share of them here in the Southwest. Some of them are as tall as a 4 story building, while others are very small - size of a lemon. Different varieties grow in different deserts here; some thrive and others don't do well during droughts. Some live for years without water. Some desert plants have adapted to their specific environments, like the Joshua Tree, which lives in one of the harshest deserts here.
Look at life in the desert a little more deeply and see what's out there in this inhospitable land.
There are several sources of year round water in the desert. Two of the biggest ones that come to mind are the two rivers; the Colorado River and the Rio Grande rivers. There are other tributaries that add to this supply, like the Gila river. The rivers are big business, and not just for tours services like the paddle-wheeler shown here on the Colorado river. People as far away as Los Angeles drink the water from the Colorado river. None of it ever reaches the Sea of Cortez because of the needs of the people in the desert and because of the farming interests.
Flash floods are pretty common in the desert and they leave a trail of water holes (Tinaja's) that the animals use for their supply. These dry up in years of drought though and leave the animals without a good source of water in the desert.
Farming in the desert is a necessary evil. We need what it produces, but it takes a lot of our drinking water in a place that wasn't meant to support crops -- like cotton, lettuce, broccoli, melons, peppers, cauliflower, wheat and sudan grass.
You may not know this, but the tee shirt your wearing probably came from Yuma, Arizona along with your lettuce and some vegetables. Very large farming communities exist in the Sonoran Desert of Southern Arizona and California. We're in a drought now (2009) and the high country rain and snowfall has slowed down; now the reservoirs like Lake Mead are getting very low. Our water supply is dwindling! Animal husbandry is also big business in the desert. Even exotic like this Longhorn and Buffalo are being raised here. Sheep and cattle fattening ranches are all part of the Desert. All because of the availability of water.
The photo on the left was taken in January of 2005; which was a particularly wet season early in the year. Normally the wet season in the lower part of the Southwest is during the monsoons in the late summer. The photo on the right was taken in April 2005 in the Sonoran Desert. This section of desert never had growth like this before!
Water in the desert means a lot of different things to a lot of people that live here. The cities are growing and thus their need for water grows too. This should have changed your view of the desert a little; especially if your visiting the deserts from a different area or from a different country. There's more to it than just sand dunes and cactus. A lot of the greenery was added by people diverting water sheds with canals.
So what else makes up life in the desert?
Pioneers, Minerals, and Hazards Part III
Content including photographs are Copyright © 2011 - Present - Don & Linda Gilmore