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Illustrated by Margaret Herring


The Morongo Basin was once a crossroads for groups of Native Californians traveling between the mountains and the desert.  In wintertime, the Serranos came down from the San Bernardino Mountains to the pinon-juniper woodlands through Pipes Canyon, a few miles northwest of the area that is now reserve land.  The Cahuillas of the Colorado Desert traveled up to the valley in order to gather seasonal harvests.

Undocumented artifacts from these indigenous people are scattered through the reserve, and several documented sites lie in the vicinity of the reserve.  An extensive collection of artifacts and specimens, housed at Joshua Tree National Park, represents the region's cultural history and ethnobotany, and reaches back 7,000 years to the Pinto Era, when the western Mojave was characterized by shallow lakes and perennial streams.

Europeans first arrived in the region in the 1770s.  Smallpox followed and killed off most of the native peoples.  The Morongo Basin soon became the province of prospectors, ranchers, and homesteaders.  Cattle operations peaked in 1920, then declined along with the overgrazed native bunchgrasses.

Yucca Valley remained a tiny, isolated settlement into the mid- 1930s.  However, from 1937, when the rough dirt road that led up through the valley was improved, more people began to settle in the high desert.  Bruce and Jean Burns were among them.  In 1948, they purchased property there, but left the land surrounding their homesite in its natural condition.  This land would eventually become the Burns Pinon Ridge Reserve.

The Twentynine Palms Highway was paved in 1951, opening the way for a wave of development in Yucca Valley.  In 1972, Mr. and Mrs. Burns transferred most of their property to the University of California's Natural Reserve System.  In 1990, Mrs. Burns sold the remaining land, her home, and workshop to the University, which added valuable facilities to the Burns Reserve. 



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Copyright 2002
University of California, Natural Reserve System
Last Updated 10/03/02