Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area
The Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area (DTRNA) is 39.5 square miles of prime natural habitat set aside for the desert tortoise, the official California State Reptile. The preserve boasts a rich flora and fauna representative of the intricate Mojave Desert ecosystem. In 1980, the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of Interior, recognized the significance of the DTRNA by designating it an “Area of Critical Environmental Concern” and as a “Research Natural Area”.
The Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area lies in the northwestern Mojave Desert on the western edge of the Rand Mountains in eastern Kern County. It is northeast of California City- a two-hour drive north from Los Angeles or east from Bakersfield.
The Interpretive Center, with parking lot, information kiosk, restroom, and access to self-guiding trails is located about 4 miles northeast of California City just off the unpaved Randsburg Mojave road — marked by the red marker on the map.
THE INTERPRETIVE CENTER
The Interpretive Center, with a parking area and a kiosk containing descriptive panels, shelter and benches, was dedicated April, 1980.The spring months (mid-March to mid-June) are the best times to visit the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area because of the milder temperatures. A Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee naturalist is present during these months for site protection and interpretation.The Interpretive Center is the trail head for the self-guiding trails that are the inspiration for this virtual field trip.
WILDLIFE IN THE NATURAL AREA
There are many other animals present including the threatened Mohave ground squirrel, desert kit fox, coyote, badger, jackrabbit, desert woodrat, and kangaroo rat. Some of the lizards present are the collared lizard, the side-blotched, leopard lizard, chuckwalla, and the western whiptail. Examples of birds to be seen are the cactus wren, LeConte’s thrasher, ash-throated flycatcher, red-tailed hawk, and ladderback woodpecker. Snakes common to the area are coachwhip, gopher, sidewinder, and Mohave rattlesnake.
Wildlife is best observed in the spring months. Some species are most abundant during years when there are carpets of wildflowers as a result of a wet winter. There are over 160 different kinds of plants: desert candles, Mohave asters, primroses, blazing stars, coreopsis, lupines, phacelias, thistle sage and gilias, to name a few. Among the flowering shrubs, the creosote bush is conspicuous for its height and abundance, and essential for providing shelter for wildlife.
Take our Virtual Field Trip on our Main Loop to discover more about the flora and fauna of the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area.