Big Morongo Canyon is a large oasis, among the 10 largest of its type in California, just off Hwy 62 in Morongo Valley just west of Joshua Tree National Park and about 15mi (24k) north of Palm Springs. While Big Morongo is an oasis, it distinctly different than the fan palm oases one will find nearby in Joshua Tree and the Indian Canyons; it is a cottonwood and willow riparian habitat more reminiscent of a marsh. Admission to the preserve is free, although there is a donations box, and there are trail guides and other pamphlets, including a birding list, available at no charge at the entrance. The trails consist five, short interconnecting loops from 0.65 to 0.84mi (1.0 to 1.4k) long with the wheelchair accessible Marsh Trail being an elevated boardwalk with benches and decks along the way, and the 8.3mi (13.5k) roundtrip Canyon Trail. We arrived midmorning and walked many of the shorter loop trails and found Big Morongo to be teeming with birds, lush with varied flora and a few small animals (squirrel, rabbit, and snake) with walks that are surprisingly shady for being in the middle of the desert. Marsh Trail and the companion numbered guide were quite interesting. It was certainly a worthwhile side trip during our visit to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree NP and worth a stop if one can make a little extra time and a must if a birder.
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