Physical Description: The Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) manages a large and diverse preserve in the Coachella Valley called the CNLM Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve (CNLM Preserve). This Preserve is approximately 880 acres in size and is contiguous with other conserved areas collectively known as the Coachella Valley Preserve System. Tucked into the northern edge of the Indio Hills, the CNLM Preserve offers sweeping views of the Little San Bernardino Mountains and the southern edge of Joshua Tree National Park.
Conservation Purpose: The Coachella Valley 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 Coachella Valley Preserve (CV Preserve). The CNLM Preserve protects the Thousand Palms Canyon, part of the alluvial system that feeds the sand dunes of the CV Preserve. This wide canyon sweeps down from the little San Bernardino Mountains, through 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 hills onto the vast floodplain at the foot of the Indio Hills. From there the fierce desert winds pick up the lightest of the soil particles, and carry them southeast along the valley floor. As wind speed slows, the particles drop onto the desert floor, creating sweeping dunes of glittering sand. Only a fragment of the once-abundant dunes remain. The canyon contains a large, rare desert wetland and two palm oases. Many rare and listed species use these habitats. Protected southern yellow bats (Lasiurus ega) flit and twitter in the rare desert palm oases. Endangered Swainson’s hawks(Buteo swainsonii) soar over the valley floor as they migrate between their breeding and wintering territories. Rosy boas (Lichanura trivirgata) slither between the California fan palm shadows, and the endangered desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius) finds refuge in the desert seeps.
Habitat Types:The Preserve contains a rare and fragile habitat type ˗˗ palm woodland oasis and desert wetland. Water from the springs along the San Andreas earthquake fault feed perpetual water features in the form of seeps, creeks, and ponds. A rare resource in the desert, the water feeds the majestic California fan palm which creates a cool and shady respite from the hot summer sun. Wide sweeps of desert wash, dotted with smoke tree and indigo bush, feed into the oasis, and tucked around the oasis lie the rare desert wetlands, lined with arrowweed, willows, cattails, and cottonwoods.
Management: CNLM’s objective is to manage and protect the desert wetlands that are the focus 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 are important migration stopovers for migrating birds and bats, as well as an important resource for the desert animals in the hot, arid summers. An important part of CNLM’s management strategy includes control of invasive species like tamarisk. These plants can clog and damage fluvial systems and can spread widely and quickly. Current work also includes restoration of the Simone Pond at McCallum Grove. Invasive crayfish and several aquarium snails and fish have caused all the native species of frogs and fish to die off. This restoration work hopes to reclaim the pond for our native species.
Coachella Valley Preserve System: The Coachella Valley Preserve System includes the CNLM Preserve, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Area of Conservation and Ecological Concern (ACEC), the US Fish and Wildlife Service Coachella Valley Wildlife Refuge (Refuge), the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) Ecological Reserve and the California Department of Parks and Recreation (State Parks) Indio Hills State Park. BLM is the largest landowner. The BLM ACEC surrounds the Thousand Palms Preserve. This special ACEC is set aside as a special conservation zone, protecting threatened, endangered and rare plants and animals. Next largest is the Coachella Valley National Wildlife Refuge that harbors the Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard. Adjacent to this, and also part of the lizard’s sand-blown habitat, is the CDFG Ecological Reserve. The eastern side of the Preserve contains the remote Indio Hills State Park, owned and managed by State Parks. The size of the entire Coachella Valley Preserve System is just over 18,000 acres. The Preserve system also includes two other preserves, the Edom Hill/Willow Hole Preserve and the Whitewater Preserve. These two preserves are on the western side of the valley.
Visitor Opportunities: CNLM maintains a Visitors’ Center and a gated parking lot at the hub of the trail system of the Coachella Valley Preserve System in Thousand Palms Canyon. The CNLM Preserve gates are open from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. from May through September and from 7:00 am to 5:00 p.m. October through April. The parking area at the Visitors’ Center is small, so plan on carpooling or bringing a smaller vehicle as the lot is not well-suited for RVs and campers. Large groups should call ahead. At the heart of the CNLM Preserve in the shade of the Thousand Palms Oasis, CNLM maintains a rustic Visitors’ Center. This charming old building was built in the 1930s and 1940s and contains displays of the natural and historic features of the CNLM and CV Preserves. It is closed in the summer from June 1 through August 31, but the preserve remains open for hiking and picnicking year-round. The Visitor Center hours are dependent on the availability of Volunteer staffing. Call the Visitors’ Center to confirm the current hours of operation at 760-343-2733.
From the Visitors’ Center, 28 miles of trails lead to a wide range of habitats. From easy to moderately difficult, from flat terrain to ridges, hikes of all varieties are available for your enjoyment. There are several designated equestrian trails as well as hiking. Currently there are no bike trails or dog-friendly trails available. A downloadable trail map can be found here. During the visitors’ season (October through March) we offer a variety of guided hikes. Call the Visitors’ center (760-343-2733) for current schedules.
There are picnic tables at the 1000 Palms Oasis, McCallum Grove, and Pushwalla for picnics. No fires or barbecues are permitted as a precaution towards protecting the ecologically important palm groves from fire. Please pack out what you bring in! The Visitors’ Center is located at 29200 Thousand Palms Canyon Road. (Click here for Regional Map). From Palm Springs take Ramon Rd. to Thousand Palms Canyon Rd., turn left and come up Thousand Palms Canyon Road to the Visitors’ Center parking lot.
Volunteer Opportunities: CNLM’s Visitors’ Center is staffed entirely by volunteer docents. Docent Volunteers greet visitors and answer questions at the visitors’ center. Other volunteers prepare new displays, lead hikes, pull weeds, or help maintain trails. We are always looking for new, energetic volunteers.
For information and inquiries please contact:
P.O. Box 188
Thousand Palms, CA 92276
(760) 343-1234 Phone