Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Cow Camp Revisited

My one and only visit to Cow Camp in Joshua Tree National Park was way back in May 2016. The most direct route (straight to the dam) is not allowed because the land below the dam is administratively off limits, and is fenced off.
Caretaker? What caretaker?? This sign was in the middle of nowhere. Closest caretaker would probably be over at Key's Ranch, about a mile away. But the point of the sign is clear!

So to get to Cow Camp, you need to go in the back way, crawling over/under/around lots of boulders in between two rocky peaks. It quickly turns your legs into noodles! It's a hidden spot in the Park. Not on any maps, and it appears that nobody goes there. Also, I checked in with a park ranger to see if the area behind the dam is off limits. I was pleased to learn only the "footprint" of the water is off limits. So stay off the flat area (see photo below) and you're OK.

Cow Camp has a fascinating history, including being associated with cattle rustling in the 1880's and 90's, and it rivals Barker Dam (one of the busiest spots in the park) for water holding capacity and natural beauty.

Here's what it looked like on my first visit. Bone dry, and kind of a disappointment. I made a mental note... someday I need to visit again, hopefully after some rain, and see what it looks like when there's water behind the dam.

So here's my someday photo. Taken a couple months ago after a summer with higher than normal rainfall. Now that's more like it!! And with all the recent rain (and even snow), the water behind the dam is likely a lot higher now (Cow Camp trip #3??). If you look closely, you can see banding across the dam and the rocks indicating how high water levels have been in the past. Looks like the water can get MUCH higher, which would turn this into a small lake!




A true oasis in the desert!


At the far end of the water behind the dam, the tall grasses make it hard to believe you are still in the desert.

Bighorn sheep remains. Likely taken down by a mountain lion.

Freshwater snails totally blanketed the muddy areas.

A cool looking cave not far from the dam. No easy way to climb up and explore, so cave depth and contents will remain a mystery. Mountain lion den? Here kitty kitty!

Straddling Cow Camp Dam. Look at how the dam builders, all those years ago, used the huge boulder as part of the dam structure, almost like a big plug. Interesting, wouldn't you agree?

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by!!

48 comments:

  1. Wow, nature never fails to amaze me!

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  2. As always your words are as involving as your pictures. I'm glad you're trudging around to these marvelous spots. And thanks for taking us along.

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  3. Yeah, after this winter, that place must be getting fuller. (I was going to say filled up, but I think things have been so dry for so long that it'll take more than this year's rains to get there.)

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  4. What a cool place - with the water it's very photogenic.

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  5. What a great place! The photos are pretty great too.

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  6. What a pretty spot! Glad you were able to visit after a healthy rainfall.

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  7. Unexpected but very welcome in the desert I guess.

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  8. Oh wow! What a difference water makes, I'm not saying without water it's not ruggedly attractive, but with water it looks amazing! Beautiful captures SPP ✨

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  9. The water created some awesome reflections. Beautiful photos as always,

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  10. What a difference some water made in the landscape! Everything came to life. I think you were wise not to stoke your nose in the cave. Who knows who is at home there!

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  11. Uh, yeah. Reminds me of the runner who just recently fought off a mountain lion.

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  12. So glad to see that everyone gets the benefits of all those rain water. Excellent shots.

    Worth a Thousand Words

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  13. Beautiful 'oasis' in the desert shots! What a place ~ you always have great photos!

    Happy Day to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

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  14. Quite a difference. Yes, it does feel like an oasis.

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  15. You are quite the stalwart detective on these photo hikes!! The presence of animal remains and freshwater snails creates a whole series of questions and answers about the area. But, I am spooked by your going on these ventures alone...

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  16. Wow! fantastic pictures of dam. The persistence pays off!

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  17. A lovely oasis in the desert. You show us the hidden gems in Joshua Tree.

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  18. You are such the explorer. Maybe you should be a guide, except that there are always whiny people who ruin it for everybody. I had a hard enough time leading cub scout hikes way back when. Kids tossing water bottles off in the woods when they were empty and such.

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  19. Such beautiful shots. I love the reflections!

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  20. Changed a few things on firefox, and trying out to see if I can get through with my comment. So let me know if you get this! Wow, this is a beautiful area, and I can see after your explanation how in the early days it might have been a watering place for cows. Sorry you can't go to Joshua Tree right now! Snow, snow everywhere! We had 2 x 7 inches and couldn't get out of the driveway (our garage is about 5 feet below the road.)

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  21. Hello, it does look like an oasis. Just beautiful, love the pretty reflections. I would stya away from the mountain lion den. Great find! Enjoy your day, have a great weekend ahead!

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  22. Intersting place to visit, please don't tell me you took the hard way to visit the dam. I'm dam sure I would be taking the easy way

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  23. Gorgeous pictures. I bet this has turned into a lake after all the rain we've had lately. Now that you have thought about this place and shared it here, I have a feeling you may be headed back.

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  24. Great to see pictures from there
    Very beautiful

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  25. Great pictures. Loved the No Trespassing sign.

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  26. We have a "cow creek" actual two of in North Idaho, looks complete different.
    Happy Sky.
    Coffee is on

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  27. The water makes a huge difference! Neat boulder photos!

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  28. I am learning to appreciate the desert through your fabulous photos. The oasis is really gorgeous. Have a great weekend!

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  29. loved the pictures. It looks like a very calm and serene place!

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  30. the water made a wonderful difference. Looks gorgeous!


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  31. Unas fotos magnifmagn, incrincre como cambia el paisaje con el agua.

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  32. That sign would encourage me to step away very quickly

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  33. The cow camp looks beautiful with all the water and greenery. However did you learn about it since it seems so inaccessible?

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    1. Thanks for your comment. Cow Camp is very visible using Google Maps or Google Earth. After spotting it on the map, I couldn't resist an exploratory hike!

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  34. Oh my gosh yes, I would agree....I would agree that this whole post was fascinating and so beautiful. We saw Barker Dam once when it was full (or at least had a lot more water than it had had on our past visit) and I loved that. Places that turn your legs to noodles are off limits for us now (we’re kind of noodle-legged to begin with)...so thanks for showing this incredibly beautiful place. Sure would like to visit the (relatively) easier parts of JT again someday though.

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  35. Yes I do agree, very interesting and ingenious. Where there's snails there's water and so much water, wow. Do you ever take a dip or drink the water?

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    1. Thanks, Jeanna. The water looks muddy and murky. I would never drink it without filtering. I might be tempted to take a dip in the hot summer months!

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  36. I'm not used to seeing reflections in your photos - a nice development! And maybe it's just my imagination, but the vegetation around the water looks much greener than the non-water photos. Gorgeous!

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  37. Wow the difference with the addition of water is breathtaking although there is beauty in the desert look as you well know
    Cool info too
    Thanks
    MB

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