Serrano Indians

The Serrano are a Native American people who historically resided in the San Bernardino Mountains and the surrounding areas of Southern California, including the Mojave Desert. They are part of the larger Serrano branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family. (also see Vanyume)

Here are some key points about the Serrano Indians:

  1. Language: The Serrano people traditionally spoke the Serrano language, a member of the Takic subgroup of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Like many Native American languages, the Serrano language is endangered, and there are limited fluent speakers today.
  2. Lifestyle and Subsistence: The Serrano were traditionally hunter-gatherers, relying on the region’s rich natural resources. They hunted game, gathered plants, and engaged in fishing. Acorns were a significant food source, and the Serrano developed various methods for processing and preparing acorns for consumption.
  3. Houses and Shelters: The Serrano traditionally lived in dome-shaped structures known as kish, which were constructed from a framework of willow branches covered with brush and reeds. These structures were well-suited to the climate of the region.
  4. Cultural Practices: The Serrano had a rich cultural and spiritual life, with ceremonies, rituals, and traditions that were closely tied to their environment. They believed in a variety of supernatural beings and spirits.
  5. Contact with Europeans: European contact with the Serrano people began with the arrival of Spanish explorers and missionaries in the late 18th century. Like many Native American groups, the Serrano experienced significant disruptions to their way of life due to the introduction of new diseases, cultural changes, and the influence of European settlers.
  6. Reservation: In the mid-19th century, as Euro-American settlers expanded into Southern California, the Serrano people faced displacement from their traditional lands. In the 20th century, some members of the Serrano Nation settled on the San Manuel Indian Reservation near Highland, California.
  7. Contemporary Issues: Today, the Serrano people, like many Native American communities, face challenges related to economic development, healthcare, education, and cultural preservation. Efforts have been made to revitalize cultural practices and traditions.

It’s important to note that the history and experiences of Native American tribes are diverse, and individual tribes have unique cultures, histories, and contemporary challenges.

Coyote Killers

Bill Frakes was a gentleman from Argentina who brought sheep out to his claim at the old Camp Cady along the Mojave River. As soon as he got there, it seemed he had sheep problems. They kept dying. They kept dying because the sheep had coyote problems. The coyotes had issues because they always seemed hungry, and the sheep were so tasty.

Bill Frakes noticed the coyotes rarely messed with the local bighorn sheep. The bighorn would kick the hell out of the coyotes and cause them more coyote problems than the meal was worth–like broken bones, punctured lungs, and death and stuff…

Bill Frakes had an idea on how to solve everyone’s problems–to interbreed the bighorn with the domestic sheep. He would make coyote killers, and Bill Frakes would be on Easy Street raising flocks and flocks of bad-ass sheep.

The details of what happened next are left in the gray fog of best-forgotten history, but there were rumors that several unfortunate and disturbing creatures were tied to a shed, and at night strange animal-like crying and sobbing could be heard.

Bill Frakes’ plan failed miserably with a possible exception; up there in the hills, a hybrid ram is said to have escaped; too ugly to die, too ugly to let itself be seen, the King Mutant Ram’s wailing and moaning can be heard to these very modern times in the mysterious night winds of the Afton Canyon highlands . . .

The End

Fiction inspired by a true event as described in “Daggett, Life in a Mojave Frontier Town,” by Dix Van Dyke – Edited by Peter Wild.

Mojave Desert Geology


Ryan Mountain, Joshua Tree National Park

The Mojave Desert, located in the southwestern United States, is known for its vast arid landscape and unique geological formations. Let us now look at Mojave Desert geology. We will explore its history, distinctive landforms, and the forces that have shaped this remarkable desert ecosystem.

Ancient History:

Afton Canyon, Mojave River

The geological history of the Mojave Desert dates back millions of years. It was formed through a complex interplay of tectonic forces, erosion, and climatic changes. The Mojave Desert is part of the Basin and Range Province, characterized by alternating mountain ranges and valleys. Over time, these forces have sculpted the desert’s diverse topography, creating a mesmerizing tapestry of geological wonders.

Distinctive Landforms:

Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve

The Mojave Desert is home to many distinctive landforms that capture geologists’ and nature enthusiasts’ imaginations. One such feature is the Mojave River, which runs through the heart of the desert, shaping its landscape and supporting its own ecosystem. Another notable landform is the Kelso Dunes, towering sand dunes that shift and change with the wind, creating an ever-changing desert scene.

Example of faulting and jointing in granite. Geology Tour Road #6, Joshua Tree National Park
Geology Tour Road stop #6, Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park, located within the Mojave Desert, is renowned for its iconic Joshua trees, which dot the barren landscape. These trees are adapted to the harsh desert environment and symbolize resilience in the face of adversity. The park also boasts mesmerizing rock formations, such as Hidden Valley and Jumbo Rocks, which showcase the desert’s ancient geological past.

Forces of Shaping:

Rainbow Basin photo
Rainbow Basin, Barstow, Ca.

Several key forces have shaped the Mojave Desert’s geological landscape. The San Andreas Fault, a major tectonic boundary, runs through the region, causing periodic earthquakes and contributing to the uplift of mountain ranges. Erosion, primarily driven by wind and water, has significantly sculpted the desert’s landforms, creating deep canyons, rugged cliffs, and intricate rock formations.

Amargosa River
Amargosa River

The climate also shapes the Mojave Desert’s geology. The region experiences extreme temperature fluctuations, with scorching hot summers and chilly winters. These temperature extremes and sporadic rainfall contribute to rock weathering and erosion and the formation of unique geological features.


West Fork, Mojave River
West Fork, Mojave River

The Mojave Desert stands as a testament to the immense power of geological forces and the intricate beauty they can create. From its ancient history to its distinctive landforms, the desert offers a glimpse into the Earth’s ever-evolving landscape. As we explore the Mojave Desert’s geology, we gain a deeper appreciation for the natural wonders that surround us and the forces that have shaped them over millions of years.

The Waning Character of the Victor Valley: A Reflection on Change


The Victor Valley, once known for its vibrant character and idyllic charm, has witnessed a gradual decline in its unique essence over the years. Let us examine the factors contributing to the waning character of the Victor Valley and reflect upon the changes that have shaped its present state.

The Historical Significance:

The Victor Valley has a rich history, deeply rooted in the California Gold Rush and the railroad system development. These historical events played a pivotal role in shaping the valley’s character, attracting settlers, prospectors, and entrepreneurs seeking opportunities. The region blossomed with small communities, bustling industries, and a strong sense of community.

Urbanization and Economic Shifts:

Over time, the Victor Valley has undergone significant urbanization and economic shifts, which have profoundly impacted its character. With the expansion of cities and towns, vast open spaces have been replaced by commercial developments and residential neighborhoods. This rapid growth has led to a loss of natural beauty and a decline in historical landmark preservation.

Furthermore, economic changes have influenced the character of the Victor Valley. The decline of traditional industries, such as agriculture and mining, has resulted in a shift towards a service-based economy. While this has brought economic stability and employment opportunities, it has also contributed to a loss of the valley’s unique identity as small businesses struggle to compete with larger corporate chains.

Cultural Shifts and Loss of Community Spirit:

Another significant factor contributing to the waning character of the Victor Valley is the cultural shifts experienced by its residents. As the valley has become more diverse, the sense of community and shared values that once defined its character has diminished. People are now more connected virtually than physically, and the traditional community spirit has given way to individualism and isolation.

The Impact of Modernization:

The advent of modern technology and social media has further eroded the character of the Victor Valley. The constant connectivity and virtual interactions have replaced face-to-face communication, making it harder for residents to connect and engage with each other. The valley’s unique charm, once fostered by personal connections and local events, now struggles to compete with the allure of the digital age.

Preserving the Victor Valley’s Character:

Despite Victor Valley’s challenges, there is hope for preserving its character. Community-driven initiatives, historical preservation efforts, and a renewed focus on local businesses can help restore the valley’s identity. By embracing sustainable development practices and promoting cultural events celebrating the valley’s heritage, residents and local authorities can work together to attempt to revive the character that once defined the Victor Valley.


The waning character of Victor Valley reminds us of the ever-changing nature of our society. The forces of urbanization, economic shifts, cultural changes, and technological advancements have left an indelible mark on the valley’s identity.

Mojave Black-collared Lizard: A Fascinating Reptile of the Southwest


The Mojave Black-collared Lizard, scientifically known as Crotaphytus bicinctores, is a captivating reptile found in the arid regions of the Southwestern United States. With its distinct appearance and unique behaviors, this lizard species fascinates scientists and nature enthusiasts alike. Let us explore the intriguing characteristics of the Mojave Black-collared Lizard and its importance to the ecosystem.

Physical Features:

The Mojave Black-collared Lizard boasts a striking appearance, with a dark black collar around its neck that contrasts beautifully against its vibrant, patterned body. Typically, adult males have a more prominent collar than females, making it easier to identify their gender. This medium-sized lizard can grow up to 8 inches in length, with a slender body and long tail. Its skin is covered in small granular scales, providing both protection and flexibility.

Habitat and Distribution:

These lizards are primarily found in the Mojave Desert region, which spans across parts of California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. They thrive in arid, rocky landscapes, where they can bask in the sun and seek shelter within crevices and rock formations. The ability of the Mojave Black-collared Lizard to adapt to such harsh environments is truly remarkable.

Behavior and Diet:

The Mojave Black-collared Lizard is diurnal, meaning it is most active during the day. It spends a significant amount of time basking in the sun to regulate its body temperature and increase its energy levels. This lizard is an opportunistic hunter, preying on a variety of insects, spiders, and small reptiles. Its diet consists of grasshoppers, beetles, ants, and even smaller lizards.

Reproduction and Survival:

During the breeding season, which typically occurs in the spring, males engage in territorial displays to attract females. These displays involve head-bobbing, push-ups, and even changing their body colors to impress potential mates. After mating, females lay a clutch of eggs in sandy soil, carefully burying them for protection. The eggs incubate for several weeks before hatching, and the young lizards are fully independent upon emergence.

Conservation Status:

The Mojave Black-collared Lizard is currently listed as a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, it is important to monitor their population numbers and habitat conditions, as the destruction of their arid habitats could pose a threat in the future. Conservation efforts, such as habitat preservation and controlled tourism in their natural habitats, can help ensure the long-term survival of this unique reptile.


The Mojave Black-collared Lizard is undoubtedly a fascinating creature, with its distinct appearance, adaptive behaviors, and important role in the ecosystem. As we continue to explore and appreciate our planet’s biodiversity, it is crucial to protect and conserve species like the Mojave Black-collared Lizard, ensuring their survival for generations to come.

Walter Feller – 2023

The Desert Horned Lizard: Masters of Camouflage


The Desert Horned Lizard, Phrynosoma platyrhinos, is a fascinating creature found in the arid regions of North America. With their unique appearance and amazing camouflage abilities, these lizards have adapted perfectly to survive in their harsh desert environment. In the following, we will explore the impressive features and behaviors of the Desert Horned Lizard.

Physical Characteristics:

The Desert Horned Lizard is easily recognized by its spiky appearance and distinctive horns on its head. These horns, along with its flattened body and rough texture, help to break up its outline and blend in with its surroundings. Their coloration ranges from sandy brown to gray, providing excellent camouflage against the desert’s sandy terrain. On average, they grow to about 3 to 5 inches in length, making them relatively small reptiles.

Camouflage and Defense:

One of the most remarkable features of the Desert Horned Lizard is its incredible camouflage abilities. They have the ability to change their skin color to match their environment, allowing them to blend seamlessly into the sand, rocks, and vegetation around them. This camouflage helps them evade predators and remain hidden from potential threats.

In addition to their camouflage, Desert Horned Lizards have a unique defense mechanism. When threatened, they puff up their bodies to appear larger, making it more challenging for predators to swallow them. They also have spiny scales on their bodies, which deter potential attackers. If all else fails, they can shoot a stream of blood from their eyes, which is not harmful but can confuse and deter predators.

Diet and Habitat:

Desert Horned Lizards primarily feed on ants, which make up the majority of their diet. Their specialized jaws and teeth allow them to quickly consume large quantities of ants. These lizards are well-adapted to their desert habitat, where they can be found in sandy areas, rocky outcrops, and even shrublands. They are mainly active during the day, basking in the sun to regulate their body temperature.


During the breeding season, which typically occurs in the spring, male Desert Horned Lizards engage in courtship displays to attract females. Once mating occurs, the females lay a clutch of 8 to 18 eggs in a shallow nest dug in the sand. The eggs hatch after about 6 to 8 weeks, and the newborn lizards are independent from birth.

Conservation Status:

The Desert Horned Lizard is not currently listed as a threatened species. However, habitat destruction and fragmentation due to human activities potentially threaten their population. It is crucial to conserve their natural habitat to ensure their survival in the future.


The Desert Horned Lizard’s ability to blend into its surroundings using camouflage is truly remarkable. These masters of disguise have adapted to survive in the harsh desert environment, relying on their unique appearance and defense mechanisms. By appreciating and protecting these fascinating creatures, we can contribute to the preservation of biodiversity in our world.

Walter Feller – 2023

Discovering the Mojave Fringe-toed Lizard: A Desert Marvel


The Mojave fringe-toed lizard, scientifically known as Uma scoparia, is a fascinating reptile species that calls the arid Mojave Desert home. With its unique adaptations and impressive survival skills, this lizard has captured the attention of researchers and nature enthusiasts alike. Now, we will dig into the world of the Mojave fringe-toed lizard, exploring its physical characteristics, habitat, behavior, and conservation status.

Physical Characteristics:

The Mojave fringe-toed lizard is a medium-sized reptile measuring 3 to 4 inches long. Its slender body is covered in scales, which reduce water loss in desert environments. One of the most distinctive features of this lizard is the fringed scales on its hind toes. These scales help it run on loose sand. These specialized scales allow the lizard to move swiftly and effortlessly across shifting dunes.


This remarkable lizard species is primarily found in the sandy desert regions of the Mojave Desert, which spans parts of California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. The Mojave fringe-toed lizard prefers habitats with loose sand dunes within this arid landscape. These dunes offer the perfect environment for the lizard to burrow and seek refuge from extreme temperatures. It is well-adapted to the desert’s harsh conditions, where temperatures can reach scorching highs during the day and plummet to freezing lows at night.


The Mojave fringe-toed lizard is diurnal, meaning it is most active during the day. It spends much of its time foraging for food, mostly small insects, spiders, and other invertebrates. When threatened, this lizard exhibits a fascinating defense mechanism known as “fringe running.” Rapidly moving its hind legs creates a small sandstorm, which confuses predators and allows the lizard to escape. This unique behavior showcases the lizard’s remarkable adaptation to its sandy habitat.

Conservation Status:

While the Mojave fringe-toed lizard is not currently endangered, it faces several threats to its survival. Habitat loss due to urbanization, off-road vehicle use, and climate change poses significant challenges to this species. Efforts are being made to protect and conserve its habitat, such as establishing protected areas and implementing conservation measures. Research is also ongoing to further understand this unique lizard’s ecology and behavioral patterns, which will inform future conservation strategies.


The Mojave fringe-toed lizard is a truly remarkable creature that has adapted to thrive in the harsh conditions of the Mojave Desert. Its specialized physical characteristics, habitat preferences, and unique behaviors make it a fascinating subject of study for researchers and nature enthusiasts. By raising awareness about the Mojave Fringe-toed Lizard and supporting conservation efforts, we can ensure the long-term survival of this desert marvel and preserve its place in the delicate ecosystem of the Mojave Desert.

Walter Feller – 2023

The Intriguing World of Side-Blotched Lizards


Side-blotched lizards, scientifically known as Uta stansburiana, are a remarkable species of reptiles that inhabit the arid regions of North America. These small, agile creatures have captured the attention of many researchers and reptile enthusiasts due to their unique characteristics and intriguing social behavior. In this blog post, we will delve into the world of side-blotched lizards, exploring their physical attributes, habitat, feeding habits, and the fascinating dynamics of their social interactions.

Physical Attributes:

Side-blotched lizards are relatively small, measuring 2 to 3.5 inches long. They have slender bodies covered in scales, providing protection and aiding their movement across rocky terrains. These lizards are known for their distinct color patterns, with males displaying three primary throat colors – orange, yellow, or blue – each representing a different mating strategy.

Habitat and Distribution:

Side-blotched lizards are native to the western regions of North America, ranging from Oregon and California to Mexico. They are well-adapted to arid and semi-arid environments, including deserts, rocky slopes, and shrublands. These habitats provide them with an abundance of crevices and rocks to hide under, allowing them to regulate their body temperature and protect themselves from predators.

Feeding Habits:

As opportunistic predators, side-blotched lizards have a varied diet. They primarily feed on small insects, such as ants, beetles, and spiders. Due to their small size, these lizards need to consume significant food to sustain their energy levels. They rely on their keen eyesight and quick reflexes to catch their prey, making them efficient hunters in their habitat.

Social Behavior:

One of the most intriguing aspects of side-blotched lizards is their complex social behavior. With their distinctive throat colors, the males employ different mating strategies to ensure their successful reproduction. The three primary throat colors – orange, yellow, and blue – represent different strategies: orange-throated males are dominant and defend large territories, yellow-throated males are sneaker males that mimic females to gain access to mates, and blue-throated males are territorial and monogamous.

These different mating strategies create a dynamic social structure within the population of side-blotched lizards. The success of each strategy is dependent on various factors, such as the number of available mates and the presence of other males with different throat colors. Researchers have found that these lizards can undergo rapid shifts in their mating strategies depending on the prevailing conditions and competition.


Side-blotched lizards are a captivating species that exemplify the diversity and complexity of the natural world. Their unique physical attributes, habitat preferences, feeding habits, and intricate social behavior make them a subject of great interest among scientists and reptile enthusiasts alike. By studying these remarkable creatures, we gain valuable insights into the intricacies of evolutionary adaptations and the fascinating dynamics of social interactions in the animal kingdom.

Walter Feller – 2023