Surprise Canyon Wilderness

The Surprise Canyon Wilderness lies in the Panamint Range of California adjacent to Death Valley National Park to the East. The Canyon is a very steep slot-like canyon and features waterfalls and lots of beautiful riparian flora. The "Surprise" is finding water in such a dry location. This Wilderness area is about 24,000 acres and was designated in 1994 by Congress. It is now managed by the BLM. Since it is on the edge of the Panamints, it rises quickly all the way up to Pinyon forests. Creosote bush scrub and desert holly live in the lower areas where it is very dry and hot.

Rare plants such as the Death Valley round-leaved phacelia and Federally endangered Panamint Daisy occur here. The Panamint Range is very dry and steep, but a full-time creek runs through here, providing valuable water for Bighorn Sheep and other important desert dwellers like the rare Panamint Alligator Lizard. The lizard is listed federally as a Species of Concern and is found only in 16 disjunct locations. Most of Surprise Canyon has been designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern in order to protect these animals and plants.

 

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Creosote Bush

Many animals make their burrows underneath creosote bushes, including Merriam's Kangaroo Rat and the federally threatened Desert Tortoise. The leaves and tiny seeds of this species are an important food source for rabbits, woodrats, mice, lizards and birds. The USFS has estimated that Creosote Bush covers 35 - 46 million acres in the southwest. A massive clonal colony of this plant was discovered in Lucerne Valley, CA.  Through radiocarbon dating it was placed at 11,700 years old, thus one of the oldest living things on earth and dubbed King Clone.

Creosote Bush shrub in the desert
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