A nighttime view
Shown here is a nighttime view of one such place known as Cottonwood Springs Oasis, which is located in California in Joshua Tree National Monument.
Botanists tell us that across the North American deserts, there are only 158 desert fan palm oases — with Cottonwood and Salina Valley Springs being two of them.
Remote watering hole
Here, in one of the most remote and driest areas of the Sonoran Desert, a lush oasis of trees and grasses surround a small pond and provide life-giving water for a vast variety of desert wildlife.
What is a known fact is that Native American people have used Quitobaquito as a source of freshwater since at least 11,000 B.C. Quitobaquito also was a critical watering stop along El Camino del Diablo, the "highway of the devil,” for such early Spanish explorers as Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, Melchor Díaz, Father Francisco Tomás Garcés and Juan Bautista de Anza during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
An original source
Surprisingly, there appears to be little or no correlation between the monthly average discharge of water from Quitobaquito Springs and total monthly rainfall, a 1996 report from the U.S. Geological Survey found. This would indicate that there is, and has been for centuries, a sufficient flow of groundwater. Hydrologists contend that the water from Quitobaquito Springs is less than 2,000 years old and likely comes from local sources.
Beginning in the mid-1860s, a settler at Quitobaquito Springs named Andrew Dorsey changed this system by building an earthen dam and creating a small pond. He then built a series of irrigation canals to carry this water to his fields of pomegranate and fig trees. A modern day, cement-lined flow canal from Quitobaquito Springs is shown here.
This up to 2-inch-long (5 centimeters) fish is locally known as the Sonoyta pupfish and is one of the most distinct species of its genus. The adults are aggressive omnivores eating mosquito larvae, small invertebrates and even their own eggs and young. They have a unique ability to live in water that is very hot (upward to 113 degrees Fahrenheit, or 45 degrees Celsius), very concentrated with salt (twice that of seawater) and low in dissolved oxygen concentrations. Quitobaquito pupfish only live in the pond at Quitobaquito Springs and are considered an endangered species.
Native animals and plants
Quitobaquito Springs is also the only natural habitat in the United States for the black-pepper-grain-size Quitobaquito snail, Tryonia quitobaquitae and the desert caper plant, Atamisquea emarginata.
Making it home
Shown here, a flock of American avocets, Recurvirostra americana, fly over Quitobaquito Pond.
Local trading system
In 1957, Jim Orosco, a member of the Hia C-ed O'odham tribe, sold all of his remaining private land at Quitobaquito to the National Park Service for $13,000, ending his family's ownership of that land, which had begun in 1887.
A place of abundance
For now, the ecosystem of Quitobaquito Springs is stable and under the protection of the National Parks Service, but such a unique place will require constant monitoring to assure its survival into the future.