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Early Announcement Morongo Valley & Black Rock Field Trip: Sat. & Sun, 6-7 May, 2023

April 7, 2023

If you’re interested in this trip, we suggest you get your motel reservation (or Joshua Tree National Park campsite) as soon as possible. Rooms do fill up this time of year.

The leaders will be staying Saturday night at the Super 8 Motel in Yucca Valley (57096 Twenty Nine Palms Hwy, Yucca Valley, Ca 92284) 760-228-1773 or national Super 8 Wyndham 800-454-3213.

Nearby Yucca Valley has several motels and Joshua Tree National Monument has several campgrounds. Campsites at Mission Creek Preserve, several miles south of Morongo Valley, must be reserved at least a week in advance. (60550 Mission Creek Road, Desert Hot Springs, CA. 760-369-7105)

Joshua Tree National Park Camping
Black Rock Campground:
LINK 877-444-6777,
— We bird at Black Rock on Sat. afternoon; 16 miles from Morongo Valley Reserve.
Indian Cove Campground: LINK 877-444-6777,
— Between Joshua Tree town and 29 Palms; 29 miles from Morongo Valley Reserve.

We usually eat dinner Saturday night at La Casita (Mexican food) at 57154 Twenty-Nine Palms Hwy in Yucca Valley, just east of the Super 8 motel. Hearty food, brewskis, decent service, can be crowded.

Map of motels in Yucca Valley, the nearest town to Morongo Valley: [prices are from Google map, may be wildly inaccurate but also may reflect typical price difference between motels] America’s Best Value Inn ($94), Bungalows Homestead ($304), Super 8 Wyndham ($84), Sure Stay Plus Best Western ($127). Map also shows motels for Desert Hot Springs (17),  Joshua Tree (4), 29 Palms (9).

Aerial view of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve (taken before the June, 2005 fire)

Aerial view of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve
(taken before the June, 2005 fire)

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve is one of the finest birding spots in southern California, known as a springtime migrant trap, frequently catching rare eastern migrants, hummers and orioles at the feeders, regular but local specialties such as Vermilion Flycatcher,  Brown-crested Flycatcher, Summer Tanager and Yellow-breasted Chat. On a busy day, the trees are fulled with migrating birds, especially warblers. Many local desert species are also seen such as Gambel’s Quail, Costa’s Hummingbird and Verdin. Reserve hours are 8:00 a.m.-sunset.

Gambel's Quail (L. Johnson 5/3/08)

Gambel’s Quail (L. Johnson 5/3/08)

 Saturday, 3pm – Black Rock Campground near Yucca Valley: For those staying overnight Saturday, we meet at the Campground Visitor Center and bird in and near the campground, looking for Gambel’s Quail, White-winged Dove, Roadrunner, Ladderbacked Woodpecker, Pinyon Jay, Verdin, Scott’s Oriole and whatever else is around. If you’re late, just drive around until you spot some birders. The campground is nearly always fully occupied Saturday night. Know how to get there as local signs are not well marked. Allow at least 2.5 hours – better yet, three hours, for the 140 mile trip from Santa Monica.
Google Map to Black Rock Campground

Brief Directions: I-10 or I-10/I-60/I-10 for about 2 hours to Exit 117, Hwy 62 North. [Do NOT go south to Palm Springs on Hwy 111.] North on #62 (Twenty-Nine Palms Hwy) about 30 minutes through Yucca Valley business area to intersection with Old Woman Springs Rd (#247) to left / Joshua Lane to right, and turn RIGHT (south) onto Joshua Lane. Follow signs about 5 miles to Black Rock Campground (unit of Joshua Tree Nat. Park). Meet at campground HQ. If you’re late, drive around the campground and South Park Rd. (to NW past the ranger buildings – see map closeup) until you find us.

Leaders: Jean Garrett (424)-248-3801  Please call Jean if you are going.

Vermilion Flycatcher male (L. Johnson 5/3/08)

Vermilion Flycatcher male
(L. Johnson 5/3/08)

 Sunday, 7:30 am – Big Morongo Canyon Preserve: We officially start at 8am in the reserve parking lot, but feel free to arrive early. Birding is great in next-door Covington Park and some of the neighbors put out feeders and water, especially the corner house across from Covington Park. We’ll walk around the large reserve until we’re too hot, tired, thirsty,  hungry or all of the above to continue, then lunch, probably in the reserve where — before the days of Covid-19 — there were a group of hummingbird feeders. Allow a minimum of 2 1/4 hours for the 125-mile trip from Santa Monica. Special birds of the area are Brown-crested Flycatcher, Vermilion Flycatcher and Summer Tanager, plus Yellow-breasted Chat, MacGillivray’s Warbler and most of the local desert birds, plus whatever migrant passerines happen to be arriving or stayed overnight. It can be very birdy, but it’s the luck of the draw and the local winds.
Google Map to Morongo Reserve

Brief Directions: I-10 or I-10/I-60/I-10 for about 2 hours to Exit 117, Hwy 62 North. [Do NOT go south to Palm Springs on Hwy 111.] North on #62 (Twenty-Nine Palms Hwy) about 11.5 miles into Morongo Valley. Turn right on East Drive and go a short distance to the preserve entrance on your left. Meet in parking lot. Early arrivers can reach Covington Park, immediately south of the preserve, by continuing on East Dr. to Vale Dr., then left to parking area or along the road under the shady trees.
Leaders:  Jean Garrett (424)-248-3801

Family Guide: Can get quite hot; not for younger children. 1-2 miles of boardwalk, cinder and hard dirt paths. Dress in layers & hat. Bring water. Lunch near the cars.

Summer Tanager (L. Johnson 5/3/08)

Summer Tanager (L. Johnson 5/3/08)

Directions to Preserve: Allow a minimum of 2 1/4 hours. Santa Monica #10 Fwy East about 115 miles to Highway 62. North on #62 about 11.5 miles, passing partway through small Morongo Valley town.  Angle right on Park Ave. to Covington Park. Turn left on Vale St., then bear right through several turns until you reach Covington Dr., the entrance to the preserve.  If the preserve is not yet open (7:30am), retrace your path back to Covington Park where the birding is great.  [Chuck Almdale]

  1. benedicthamilton permalink
    April 30, 2023 11:43 am

    Hi, i was very much hoping to join you next week and had booked a place at the motel. Annoyingly i have some business to attend to abroad, and so will miss it. I very much hope to come next time and next trip.

    Good news i guess is that there is now a spare room at the motel if anyone is looking.

    Best regards, Ben



    • Chukar permalink*
      April 30, 2023 12:02 pm

      Thanks for the notification. I’ll pass this along to the leader.


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