Considering the Gentrification of the Mojave Desert

Gentrification is a complex and multifaceted process that typically involves the transformation of a neighborhood or community due to an influx of wealthier residents and increased property development. While gentrification is commonly associated with urban areas, how it might manifest in desert regions is worth considering.

Barstow, California

In the context of desert areas like the Mojave Desert, some factors may contribute to changes in local communities:

  1. Tourism Development: Deserts are often attractive to tourists seeking unique landscapes and experiences. Developing tourist infrastructure, such as upscale resorts, could change the local economy and demographics.
  2. Environmental Conservation and Luxury Living: Some desert areas may become appealing to those seeking a more secluded or environmentally conscious lifestyle. This could lead to the development of upscale residences, potentially displacing existing communities.
  3. Renewable Energy Projects: The Mojave Desert, particularly, has seen increased interest in renewable energy projects like solar farms. This can bring economic development but may also change the local population dynamics.
  4. Artistic and Cultural Appeal: Artists and individuals attracted to the tranquility and unique landscapes of the desert may contribute to gentrification by establishing art communities or cultural hubs.

It’s crucial to note that the impact of gentrification can vary based on the specific characteristics of each desert region and the policies in place to address community concerns. Local governments and community organizations play a crucial role in shaping development patterns and mitigating the potential negative effects of gentrification, such as displacement of long-term residents and cultural erosion.

Wikiup (Shelter)

Mono Paiute wickiup – Edward Curtis 1900 (colorized)

A “wikiup” in the context of Native American culture typically refers to a traditional type of shelter or dwelling. It is a simple, dome-shaped structure constructed using a framework of branches or saplings. The frame is often covered with various materials, such as brush, reeds, grass, or sometimes animal hides. Various indigenous peoples in North America commonly used these shelters.

The design of wikiups varied among different tribes, reflecting the local environment and available resources. They were relatively easy to construct and could be adapted to different climates. Nomadic or semi-nomadic groups often used Wikiups as temporary or seasonal shelters.

It’s important to note that the term “wikiup” might be spelled or pronounced differently in various indigenous languages, and the specific features of these shelters could vary based on cultural and regional differences.

The Lost Breyfogle Mine

The most famous lost mine in the Death Valley area is the Lost Breyfogle. There are many versions of the legend, but all agree that somewhere in the bowels of those rugged mountains is a colossal mass of gold, which Jacob Breyfogle found and lost.

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes - Death Valley
Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes – Death Valley

Jacob Breyfogle was a prospector who roamed the country around Pioche and Austin, Nevada, with infrequent excursions into the Death Valley area. He traveled alone.

Indian George, Hungry Bill, and Panamint Tom saw Breyfogle several times in the country around Stovepipe Wells, but they could never trace him to his claim. When followed, George said, Breyfogle would step off the trail and completely disappear. Once George told me about trailing him into the Funeral RangeHe pointed to the bare mountain. “Him there, me see. Pretty quick—” He paused, puckered his lips. “Whoop—no see.”

Breyfogle left a crude map of his course. All lost mines must have a map. Conspicuous on this map are the Death Valley Buttes which are landmarks. Because he was seen so much here, it was assumed that his operations were in the low foothills. I have seen a rough copy of this map made from the original in possession of “Wildrose” Frank Kennedy’s squaw, Lizzie.

Breyfogle presumably coming from his mine, was accosted near Stovepipe Wells by Panamint Tom, Hungry Bill, and a young buck related to them, known as Johnny. Hungry Bill, from habit, begged for food. Breyfogle refused, explaining that he had but a morsel and several hard days’ journey before him. On his burrhe had a small sack of ore. When Breyfogle left, Hungry Bill said, “Him no good.”

Incited by Hungry Bill and possible loot, the Indians followed Breyfogle for three or four days across the range. Hungry Bill stopped en route, sent the younger Indians ahead. At Stump Springs east of ShoshoneBreyfogle was eating his dinner when the Indians sneaked out of the brush and scalped him, took what they wished of his possessions and left him for dead.

Ash Meadows Charlie, a chief of the Indians in that area confided to Herman Jones that he had witnessed this assault. This happened on the Yundt Ranch, or as it is better known, the Manse Ranch. Yundt and Aaron Winters accidentally came upon Breyfogle unconscious on the ground. The scalp wound was fly-blown. They had a mule team and light wagon and hurried to San Bernardino with the wounded man. The ore, a chocolate quartz, was thrown into the wagon.

Resting Springs Ranch - Old Spanish Trail, Mormon Road
Resting Springs

“I saw some of it at Phi Lee’s home, the Resting Spring Ranch,” Shorty Harris said. “It was the richest ore I ever saw. Fifty pounds yielded nearly $6000.”

Breyfogle recovered, but thereafter was regarded as slightly “off.” He returned to Austin, Nevada, and the story followed.

Wildrose (Frank) Kennedy, an experienced mining man obtained a copy of Breyfogle’s map and combed the country around the buttes in an effort to locate the mine. Kennedy had the aid of the Indians and was able to obtain, through his squaw Lizzie, such information as Indians had about the going and coming of the elusive Breyfogle.

“Some believe the ore came from around Daylight Springs,” Shorty said, “but old Lizzie’s map had no mark to indicate Daylight Springs. But it does show the buttes and the only buttes in Death Valley are those above Stovepipe Wells.

“Kennedy interested Henry E. Findley, an old time Colorado sheriff and Clarence Nyman, for years a prospector for Coleman and Smith (the Pacific Borax Company). They induced Mat Cullen, a rich Salt Lake mining man, to leave his business and come out. They made three trips into the valley, looking for that gold. It’s there somewhere.”

Francis Marion "Borax" Smith
Francis Marion “Borax” Smith

At Austin, Breyfogle was outfitted several times to relocate the property, but when he reached the lower elevation of the valley, he seemed to suffer some aberration which would end the trip. His last grubstaker was not so considerate. He told Breyfogle that if he didn’t find the mine promptly he’d make a sieve of him and was about to do it when a companion named Atchison intervened and saved his life. Shortly afterward, Breyfogle died from the old wound.

Indian George, repeating a story told him by Panamint Tom, once told me that Tom had traced Breyfogle to the mine and after Breyfogle’s death went back and secured some of the ore. Tom guarded his secret. He covered the opening with stone and leaving, walked backwards, obliterating his tracks with a greasewood brush. Later when Tom returned prepared to get the gold he found that a cloudburst had filled the canyon with boulders, gravel and silt, removing every landmark and Breyfogle’s mine was lost again.

“Some day maybe,” George said, “big rain come and wash um out.”

Among the freighters of the early days was John Delameter who believed the Breyfogle was in the lower Panamint. Delameter operated a 20 mule team freighting service between Daggett and points in both Death Valley and Panamint Valley. He told me that he found Breyfogle down in the road about twenty-eight miles south of Ballarat with a wound in his leg. Breyfogle had come into the Panamint from Pioche, Nevada, and said he had been attacked by Indians, his horses stolen, while working on his claim, which he located merely with a gesture toward the mountains.

Subsequently, Delameter made several vain efforts to locate the property, but like most lost mines, it continues to be lost. But it was good bait for a grubstake for years and served both the convincing liar and the honest prospector.

Nearly all old timers had a version of the Lost Breyfogle differing in details, but all agreed on the chocolate quartz and its richness.

That Breyfogle really lost a valuable mine, there can be little doubt, but since he is authentically traced from the northern end of Death Valley to the southern, and since the chocolate quartz is found in many places of that area, one who cares to look for it must cover a large territory.

From: Chapter XXII
Lost Mines. The Breyfogle and Others
Loafing Along Death Valley Trails by William Caruthers

Goldstone Index


Gold Stone is the name of a new camp, thirty-five miles north of Barstow, where some phenomenal ore has been found. Quite a stampede followed the discovery.


The area is the site of the only commercial opal mine in the California Desert. Waterman. Five years before the famous silver discoveries at Calico, George G.

Barstow Index – Notes

4 days ago  Post Views: 12. Goldstone, Barstow California, Mojave Desert. › goldstone-ghost-town. Goldstone Ghost Town. More of a site …

Harper Dry Lake – Hinkley California, Barstow region

Goldstone – Mojave Desert. Several people were involved in mining during this same time, including John Harper and Goodrich. 289. One of the most active …

Mojave Desert Ghost Towns

… Goldstone — Goldstone* — Gold Valley* — Goler Gulch — Goodsprings, Nevada — Greenwater — Greenwater* · Harrisburg — Hart · Ibex — Ivanpah · Johannesburg

Timeline / Chronology of Mojave Desert Mining History

Persistent rumors have it that gold … 1859: Bodie, California … by prospector Wakeman S. Bodey, who the town was named after. Bodey died in November making …


States: Primarily in California and Nevada, with smaller portions in Arizona and Utah. Extent: The Mojave Desert is part of the larger North American Desert and …

Mojave Valley – Granite Mountains: Mojave Desert Ecological … › ecosections

Some of the dry lake beds are Bicycle, Coyote, East Cronese, West Cronese, Goldstone, Langford Wells, Leach, Manix, Nelson, Pilot Knob Valley, Red Pass, and …

Romantic Heritage of the Mojave River Valley

And now, with the operations of the Goldstone tracking station ushering the “space age” into the desert, the future holds promise far beyond the wildest dreams …

Mojave Desert Human (Historical) Geography

Mojave Desert Geography

A long interaction history between people and the challenging desert environment marks the human (historical) geography of the Mojave Desert. Here are key aspects of the human history and settlement patterns in the Mojave Desert:

  1. Indigenous Peoples:
    • Before European contact, various indigenous groups inhabited the Mojave Desert, including the Mojave, Chemehuevi, and Serrano peoples.
    • These groups adapted to the arid environment, relying on hunting, gathering, and seasonal migrations to exploit available resources.
  2. Spanish Exploration and Missionaries:
    • Spanish explorers and missionaries, including Francisco Garces and Juan Bautista de Anza, ventured into the Mojave Desert in the 18th century.
    • These explorers sought routes to link Spanish missions in California and establish trade connections.
  3. Old Spanish Trail:
    • The Old Spanish Trail, a trade route connecting Santa Fe, New Mexico, to California, passed through the Mojave Desert in the early 19th century.
    • This trail facilitated the exchange of goods and cultural interactions between Spanish settlers and indigenous groups.
  4. American Pioneers and Westward Expansion:
    • During the 19th century, American pioneers and settlers ventured into the Mojave Desert as part of westward expansion.
    • The discovery of gold and other minerals in the region, such as the Calico Mountains, led to mining booms and the establishment of mining towns.
  5. 19th Century Military:
  6. Railroads and Transportation:
    • The construction of railroads, such as the Southern Pacific Railroad, was crucial in connecting the Mojave Desert to the broader transportation network.
    • Railroad towns, including Barstow, developed as important transportation hubs.
  7. Mining and Boomtowns:
    • Mining activities, particularly for silver and borax, flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
    • Boomtowns like Calico, once a significant silver mining town, experienced periods of rapid growth and decline.
  8. Military Presence:
    • The Mojave Desert has been home to various military installations, including Edwards Air Force Base and the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.
    • These installations have played roles in aviation testing, research, and training.
  9. Route 66:
    • The historic Route 66, a major U.S. highway, passed through the Mojave Desert, bringing increased traffic, commerce, and tourism to the region during the mid-20th century.
  10. National Parks and Conservation Efforts:
    • Establishing national parks and preserves, such as Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve, reflects efforts to conserve the unique ecosystems and landscapes of the desert.
  11. Modern Urbanization and Recreation:
    • Urban areas on the periphery of the Mojave Desert, such as Las Vegas, have experienced rapid growth.
    • The desert attracts tourists and outdoor enthusiasts interested in hiking, rock climbing, and stargazing.

Understanding the human history of the Mojave Desert involves recognizing the diverse ways in which different groups have interacted with the desert environment over time, from indigenous peoples adapting to the harsh conditions to the various waves of exploration, settlement, and economic activities that have shaped the region.

Mojave Desert Physical (Regional) Geography

Mojave Geography

The Mojave Desert, situated in the southwestern United States, has a distinctive physical geography shaped by its unique combination of topography, climate, and ecosystems.

Here is an overview of the physical (regional) geography of the Mojave Desert:

  1. Location:
    • The Mojave Desert spans southeastern California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah, and northwestern Arizona. It is one of the four major deserts in North America.
  2. Size:
    • The Mojave Desert covers approximately 47,877 square miles (124,000 square kilometers).
  3. Topography:
    • The Mojave Desert features a diverse topography with mountain ranges, valleys, and extensive desert plains.
    • Prominent mountain ranges include the Mojave, Providence, New York, and Clark Mountains.
  4. Landforms:
    • Playas: Dry lake beds like Soda Lake and Silver Lake are common in the Mojave Desert.
    • Mesas and Buttes: Flat-topped plateaus and isolated hills are scattered across the landscape.
    • Dunes: Notable dunes include the Kelso Dunes and Eureka Dunes, among North America’s tallest.
  5. Climate:
    • The Mojave Desert has a cold climate characterized by hot summers and mild winters.
    • Summer temperatures often exceed 100°F (38°C), while winter temperatures can drop below freezing, especially at higher elevations.
    • Rainfall is generally low, with most precipitation occurring during the winter months. The desert experiences occasional flash floods during intense rainstorms.
  6. Vegetation:
  7. Wildlife:
  8. Water Sources:
    • Natural water sources are limited, and the Mojave River is one of the few perennial rivers in the region.
    • Springs and oasis areas, such as Ash Meadows in Nevada, provide critical water sources for both wildlife and human activities.
  9. Human Impact:
    • Human activities in the Mojave Desert include mining, military training areas, and recreational activities.
    • Cities such as Las Vegas, Nevada, and Lancaster, California, are located on the periphery of the Mojave Desert.
  10. Protected Areas:
    • The Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park, and portions of Death Valley National Park are examples of protected areas within the Mojave Desert, preserving its unique ecosystems and landscapes.

Understanding the physical geography of the Mojave Desert involves recognizing its diverse landforms, climate extremes, and the adaptations of both flora and fauna to the arid conditions. Additionally, human activities and efforts to preserve the desert’s unique features contribute to the overall regional geography of the Mojave.

Mojave Desert Geography


The Mojave Desert is a vast desert in the southwestern United States, primarily in southeastern California, southern Nevada, and parts of Arizona and Utah.

Here are some key geographical features and characteristics of the Mojave Desert:

  1. Location:
    • States: Primarily in California and Nevada, with smaller portions in Arizona and Utah.
    • Extent: The Mojave Desert is part of the larger North American Desert and is the smallest of the four major deserts in the United States.
  2. Size:
    • The Mojave Desert covers approximately 47,877 square miles (124,000 square kilometers).
  3. Topography:
    • The desert’s topography is varied, featuring flat basins, rugged mountains, and expansive valleys.
    • Some prominent mountain ranges include the Mojave, Providence, New York, and Clark Mountains.
  4. Landforms:
    • Playas: Dry lake beds or playas are scattered throughout the desert.
    • Mesas and Buttes: Flat-topped plateaus and isolated hills dot the landscape.
    • Sand Dunes: The Kelso Dunes and Eureka Dunes are examples of extensive sand dune fields in the Mojave.
  5. Climate:
    • The Mojave Desert has a typical cold desert climate with hot summers and mild winters.
    • Summer temperatures can exceed 100°F (38°C), while winter temperatures can drop below freezing, especially at higher elevations.
    • Rainfall is generally low, and the desert experiences occasional flash floods during intense rainstorms.
  6. Vegetation:
    • The desert is home to various plant species adapted to arid conditions, including Joshua trees, creosote bushes, yuccas, and cacti.
    • Higher elevations may support juniper and pinyon pine forests.
  7. Wildlife:
    • Desert wildlife, including desert tortoises, bighorn sheep, kit foxes, and various reptiles, is adapted to harsh conditions.
    • Bird species such as roadrunners, eagles, and vultures are also common.
  8. Human Impact:
    • Human activities in the Mojave Desert include mining, military training areas, and recreational activities.
    • Cities such as Las Vegas, Nevada, and Lancaster, California, are located on the periphery of the Mojave Desert.
  9. National Parks and Protected Areas:
    • The Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park, and portions of Death Valley National Park are located within the Mojave Desert, protecting its unique ecosystems and landscapes.

Understanding the geography of the Mojave Desert involves recognizing its diverse terrain, climate, and the various plant and animal species that have adapted to this challenging environment.

Mojave Desert Ecological Transitions

The Mojave Desert, located in the southwestern United States, is a unique and ecologically diverse ecosystem known for its extreme temperatures, arid conditions, and distinct plant and animal life. Various factors, including topography, climate, and human activities, influence the transitions within the Mojave Desert ecosystem.

Here are some key ecological transitions within the Mojave Desert:

  1. Elevation Gradients:
    • The Mojave Desert exhibits significant elevation gradients, ranging from below sea level in Death Valley to higher elevations in mountainous regions such as the Spring Mountains and the Mojave National Preserve. These elevation changes lead to variations in temperature, precipitation, and vegetation types.
  2. Flora and Fauna Shifts:
    • Plant and animal species are adapted to specific elevation ranges within the Mojave Desert. As you move from lower to higher elevations, you may encounter shifts in vegetation types, with desert shrubs giving way to pinyon-juniper woodlands and eventually to coniferous forests.
  3. Water Availability:
    • Water availability is a critical factor influencing ecological transitions in the Mojave Desert. Oasis ecosystems, supported by underground aquifers or natural springs, provide unique habitats in contrast to the surrounding arid landscapes. These oases can support a higher diversity of plant and animal life.
  4. Playa Ecosystems:
    • Playas, or dry lake beds, are common features in the Mojave Desert. During rainfall, playas can fill with water, creating temporary wetland habitats that support a burst of life, including migratory birds and amphibians. However, these ecosystems are highly dependent on unpredictable precipitation patterns.
  5. Human Impact:
    • Human activities, such as urban development, agriculture, and infrastructure projects, have significantly altered the Mojave Desert landscape. Urban areas like Las Vegas and Los Angeles have expanded into the desert, leading to habitat fragmentation and loss. Human activities can disrupt natural ecological processes and contribute to invasive species encroachment.
  6. Climate Change Effects:
    • The Mojave Desert is not immune to the impacts of climate change. Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns can affect the distribution of plant and animal species, alter vegetation composition, and influence the timing of biological events, such as flowering and migration.
  7. Fire Ecology:
    • Fire is a natural ecological process in many ecosystems, including the Mojave Desert. Some plant species in the desert have adapted to fire, and periodic wildfires can shape vegetation patterns. However, altered fire regimes due to human activities or climate change can have complex effects on the ecosystem.
Spring Mountains
Desert Front
Ibex Spring
Emerson Dry Lake
Human Impact – Victorville

Understanding these ecological transitions is crucial for effective conservation and management of the Mojave Desert. Conservation efforts need to consider the interconnectedness of various factors and address the challenges posed by human activities and climate change to maintain the health and biodiversity of this unique desert ecosystem.

Mojave Desert Ecotones

Ecotones are transitional zones between different ecosystems, characterized by a mix of species from adjacent ecosystems and often exhibiting unique ecological dynamics. In the case of the Mojave Desert, there are several ecotones where the desert transitions into other ecosystems. Here are some notable ecotones in the Mojave Desert:

  1. Mojave Desert Scrub to Pinyon-Juniper Woodland:
    • At higher elevations in the Mojave Desert, the vegetation transitions from typical desert scrub, dominated by creosote bush (Larrea tridentata), Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia), and other drought-tolerant plants, to pinyon-juniper woodlands. Pinyon pine (Pinus monophylla) and juniper (Juniperus spp.) become more prevalent in these transitional areas.
  2. Pinyon-Juniper Woodland to Coniferous Forest:
    • The pinyon-juniper woodlands transition further into coniferous forests in the higher mountainous regions surrounding the Mojave Desert. Species such as ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and white fir (Abies concolor) become more dominant. This transition is often associated with increasing elevation and cooler temperatures.
  3. Desert Washes and Riparian Zones:
    • Where desert washes, or arroyos, intersect with the Mojave Desert, there are ecotones characterized by riparian vegetation. These transitional zones may include cottonwood (Populus fremontii) and willow (Salix spp.) trees, providing habitat for different plant and animal species compared to the surrounding arid landscape.
  4. Desert to Playa Ecosystems:
    • The transition from the desert to playa ecosystems, such as dry lake beds, represents another ecotone. Playas can support unique vegetation adapted to periodic flooding and provide a habitat for migratory birds during wet periods.
  5. Urban-Wildland Interface:
    • There is an ecotone known as the urban-wildland interface, where urban areas encroach upon the Mojave Desert. The interaction between human-dominated landscapes and the natural desert environment characterizes this transition zone. Human activities in these areas can have significant impacts on the desert ecosystem.
  6. Mojave Desert to Great Basin Transition:
    • In the northern reaches of the Mojave Desert, there is a transition zone where the desert ecosystem merges with the Great Basin. This transition is marked by changes in vegetation and species composition influenced by elevation and precipitation.

Understanding and protecting these ecotones is crucial for preserving biodiversity and maintaining ecosystem resilience in the Mojave Desert. These transitional zones often support unique assemblages of plants and animals that are adapted to the specific conditions found at the boundaries between different ecosystems. Human activities, including urban development and climate change, can impact these ecotones, emphasizing the importance of conservation and sustainable management practices in the region.