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Sand to Snow National Monument

On February 11, 2016, President Obama signed a proclamation designating three new national monuments across California’s desert region.  The Sand to Snow National Monument covers 154,000 acres from the floor of the Colorado Desert up to mountains more than 10,000 feet in the San Gorgonio Wilderness.
     Our new national monument is incredibly diverse, providing connectivity between ecosystems in the low and hi-deserts, and the San Bernardino Mountains.  It’s a rugged area, rich with wildlife.  A total of 12 federally listed threatened and endangered species live here, while its oases are frequented by more than 240 species of birds.  For human visitors, the national monument offers a variety of recreational opportunities. 

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve
Big Morongo Canyon Preserve is one of the most beautiful natural wonders of our region.  Existing between the lower Colorado Desert and the higher elevations of the Mojave, this unusual oasis thrives and is a perfect place for a hike or picnic.
     Here lush vegetation—willows, cottonwoods, and clematis, grows near yuccas, cholla, buckwheat, creosote, saltgrass, mesquite, and odd-sounding companions like bladder pod and paper-bag bush (one of our favorites!).  There’s Mormon Tea and wild cucumber, native herbs Yerba Mansa and Yerba Santa, a seasonal selection of wildflowers, and much more.
     If birds are your passion, the Big Morongo Canyon is likely to become your new favorite haunt.  The preserve is an internationally recognized birding site.  There have been 254 species recorded here, with several rare or unusual species known to nest here.  The preserve has been designated as one of our country’s Important Bird Areas by the American Bird Conservancy, the American Birding Association, and Watchable Wildlife National Program, and is featured in the National Geographic Guide to Birdwatching Sites.
     You may encounter other wildlife drawn to the waters of the oasis.  Bighorn sheep, coyotes, deer, and even the occasional cougar or bear have been spotted.  The preserve offers a great selection of hiking trails, including one through the oasis marsh that is wheelchair accessible.  Hours are 7:30 a.m. to sunset every day.  Admission is free. 

Whitewater Preserve
Want to visit a river in the desert?  Visit The Wildlands Conservancy’s Whitewater Preserve, inside the Sand to Snow National Monument.  The year-round Whitewater River helps sustain a rich riparian habitat that supports bighorn sheep, bear, deer, and a variety of birds.  You can access the Pacific Crest Trail, and enjoy picnic areas and campgrounds near the historic Whitewater Trout Farm building, now the preserve’s visitor facility.
     The preserve is open daily 8 am. to 5 p.m., except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Mission Creek Preserve
Another Wildlands Conservancy preserve, Mission Creek is connected by trail to the Whitewater Preserve, using part of the Pacific Crest Trail.  Included in the preserve are lush wetlands with deer, bighorn sheep, bear, and mountain lions.  The preserve is open dawn to dusk daily.

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