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Thousand Palms Oasis
Coachella Valley Preserve
The Coachella Valley Preserve (CV Preserve) System (see “Coachella Valley Preserve System” below) was designed to protect an endemic, threatened reptile, the Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard (Uma inornata). This lizard is found on the sand dunes that are located on the southern edge of the CV Preserve. The CNLM Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve (TP Preserve) is a part of the CV Preserve, and primarily protects Thousand Palms Canyon, part of the alluvial system that feeds the sand dunes of the CV Preserve, but also contains a few acres of sand dune habitat. The Thousand Palms Canyon is a wide canyon that sweeps down from the little San Bernardino Mountains, through a gap in the Indio Hills, and washes onto the wide alluvial fan that borders the north edge of Palm Desert. Rainfall in the upper reaches of the hills moves rock, sand, and soil in torrential flash floods from the mountains and the Indio Hills onto the vast floodplain at the foot of the Indio Hills. From there fierce desert winds pick up the lightest of the soil particles, and carry them southeast along the valley floor. As wind speeds slow, the particles drop onto the desert floor, creating sweeping dunes of glittering sand. These are protected dunes. Only a fragment of the once-abundant dunes remain. In addition, the canyon contains a large, rare desert wetland and two palm oases containing the only palm tree native to California, the California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera). Many rare and listed species use these habitats: A California species of special concern, the western yellow bat, (Lasiurus xanthinus) flits and twitters in the palm oases; the Swainson’s hawk (Buteo swainsoni) (an endangered species) soars over the valley floor in migration between their breeding and wintering territories; a US Forest Service special animal, the Rosy boa (Lichanura orcutti), slithers in the shadows of the palms, and the Federally endangered Coachella Valley milkvetch (Astragalus lentiginosus var. coachellae) can be found tucked into desert dunes in the spring. Preserve staff is also working to reintroduce the endangered desert fish the Desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius) to Simone Pond.
Coachella Valley Preserve System
The Coachella Valley Preserve is actually a system of preserves. It is and has been a model of cooperation between federal, state, and private conservation efforts for managing sensitive natural areas. It is comprised of three separate Units set aside for conservation in a landmark Habitat Conservation Plan signed in 1986. These are the Whitewater Floodplain Unit, the Edom Hill/Willow Hole Unit and the Thousand Palms Unit. The Whitewater Floodplain Unit is primarily managed by the Coachella Valley Water District, and the Edom Hill Unit is managed by the BLM and Coachella Valley Association of Governments. For information on these two units, please contact those agencies.
CNLM owns the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve which is the heart of the Thousand Palms Preserve Unit of the Coachella Valley Preserve. This Preserve contains the Thousand Palms and McCallum Oases. The Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve is also often referred to as the Coachella Valley Preserve—which can create confusion because it is only part of the CV Preserve. The extensive trail system that goes across the entire CV Preserve System starts here in the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve. CNLM staff coordinates the management of the trail system on the Preserve.
The other major land owners within the Thousand Palms Unit of the Coachella Valley Preserve System are the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).
The BLM portion of the CV Preserve System has been designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). These are areas where special management attention is needed to protect important historical, cultural, and scenic values, or fish and wildlife or other natural resources. There are no approved camping areas, nor are there any approved off-road vehicle access areas anywhere on the Preserve and we ask the public to stay on approved trails. For specific information about camping and off-road vehicle opportunities in the region, contact the local BLM office: https://www.blm.gov/office/palm-springs-south-coast-field-office.
The USFWS’s Coachella Valley National Wildlife Refuge makes up the lower third of the CV Preserve/Thousand Palms Unit. This refuge is closed to public entry to protect the federally endangered Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard: https://www.fws.gov/saltonsea/coachella/cv_index.html.
CDFW has declared their portion of the CV Preserve/Thousand Palms Unit an Ecological Reserve. Hunting and fishing are not allowed on this land. CDFW owns land containing sand dunes and sand fields in the southern portion of the CV Preserve/Thousand Palms Unit. For information on lands open to fishing and/or hunting, contact CDFW at http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) was one of the major forces behind the formation of the Coachella Valley Preserve System. TNC transferred ownership of the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve to the CNLM in 2013.
CNLM’s objective is to manage and protect the desert wetlands which are the focal ecosystem of this Preserve. The hydrologic and fluvial processes that occur in the wash are crucial for the protection and creation of the sand dune habitat that occurs at the base of the Indio Hills on the south side of the Coachella Valley Preserve System. In addition, the oases serve as important migration stopovers for migrating birds, residence for bats, as well as an important resource for the desert animals in the hot, arid summers. One of the biggest threats and CNLM’s goals include control of invasive species like tamarisk species (Tamarix aphylla and Tamarix ramosissima). These plants can clog and damage fluvial systems and can spread widely and quickly.