Fall and spring are the best times to visit the Desert Studies Center. Because of limited staff and facilities, prospective visitors should contact the Desert Studies Center Office at Cal State Fullerton for details on reservations, fees and visitor information. Weekends in fall and spring often fill up several months in advance. Inquire about classes and special course offerings. Contact Norma Charest, administrative assistant, at (714) 278-2428, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the center's website.
The center provides remarkable opportunities for individuals from a variety of backgrounds to study, conduct research and experience the desert environment. Participants in this spring's "Flowering Plants of the East Mojave Desert" class, for example, included a third-grade teacher, representatives from Caltrans, a Bureau of Land Management hydrologist, community college professor, a nurse who likes flowers, several students and a handful of people fond of the desert.
As the gateway to the Mojave National Preserve and Death Valley National Park, the center provides easy access to fossil sites, the remains of Indian villages, historic wagon trails, old Army forts, mining sites and the salt flats of the Silurian and Soda dry lakes.
Research and educational opportunities include Kelso Sand Dunes, Devil's Playground, Cima Volcanic Field, Cima Dome, the Providence, Granite and New York Mountain Ranges, Afton Canyon, Salt Creek, Sheep Creek Springs and the Landfair and Ivanpah valleys. Elevations range from 945 feet at the center to 7,900 feet at Clark Mountain.
More than 750 native plant species are found in the area, along with about 40 mammal species, 30 reptile species and at least three types of amphibians. And despite preconceived notions about the desert's barren environment, the center has recorded sightings of more than 200 species of birds. During fall and spring migration periods, visitors can spot Canada geese, any number of duck species, herons, great blue herons, egrets, exotic wading birds, sandpipers and not-so-exotic birds such as warblers and sparrows. Even a tundra swan has paid a visit.
Residents also include untold numbers of invertebrates, from rare terrestrial snails to ground beetles, which can withstand body temperatures of 122 degrees.