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California Deserts


Since ancient times, indigenous tribes have lived in those corners of the desert where springs, streams or lakes can sustain them. For early European explorers, such as Juan Bautista de Anza and Jedediah Smith, the desert was a barrier to the more habitable West Coast. The trails they pioneered can still be traced. Miners also came and went, establishing towns that died as the minerals played out, leaving their skeletons and stories scattered in the sand. After the turn of the 20th century, cities arose only where there were dependable water supplies. Military bases took over after WWII, when General Patton rolled tanks and trained troops in the eastern Mojave. Although not welcomed by some ranchers, hunters and OHV (off-highway vehicle) enthusiasts, the 1994 California Desert Protection Act created parks and reserved millions of acres of wilderness.