Human use of Joshua Tree National Park may extend as far back in time as 10,000 years. From the early Pinto Culture to modern tribes, native peoples have lived and hunted here for centuries. Indian trails helped guide Spanish, Mexican, and American explorers who gradually revealed the desert's secrets, leading to an influx of cattlemen, miners, and homesteaders between 1860 and 1930. As rugged as the desert itself, the area's pioneer history featured cattle rustlers, claim jumpers, and occasional gunfights. Grit, determination, and a fierce independence marked the lives of these early settlers, and the mines, ranches, and cabins they left behind hold many unforgettable stories. During the 1920s, Minerva Hamilton Hoyt found a unique beauty in the desert's sweeping vistas, and she worked tirelessly for the Joshua Tree area's preservation within the National Park System. Success came in 1936 when Pres. Franklin Roosevelt created Joshua Tree National Monument. With the Desert Protection Act, Joshua Tree was designated a national park in 1994.
Joseph W. Zarki is a retired park ranger and a 25-year resident of the California desert. He has visited many of the places and met some of the people whose stories are told here. Numerous museums, public archives, and private collections were instrumental in the development of this book and are mentioned in the acknowledgments page.