Joshua Tree park closes trail so bighorn sheep can get water

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. oasis / oʊˈeɪ sɪs / (n.) – an area in a desert where one can find water and plants

    The oasis in the desert serves as a home for some animals.

  2. reliant / rɪˈlaɪ ənt / (adj.) – describing someone who needs help or support

    Most students are reliant on the internet when doing research.

  3. in effect / ɪn ɪˈfɛkt / (adj.) – describing something that is active or operating

    The policy is no longer in effect.

  4. monsoon / mɒnˈsun / (n.) – the wind that causes heavy rains

    Farms in the region were damaged because of extreme monsoons. 

  5. seep / sip / (v.) – to flow or pass slowly through small openings

    Flood water seeped through the cracks.


Read the text below.

A popular hiking trail to an oasis in Joshua Tree National Park has been temporarily closed so bighorn sheep can get undisturbed access to water.

“The park is under extreme drought conditions and herds in the area are increasingly reliant on the oasis spring to survive the hot summer months,” a park statement said.

The Fortynine Palms Oasis spring is surrounded by palms in mountains on the northern side of the park.

The closure started June 1 and will remain in effect until summer monsoon rains provide enough water for the bighorns.

An estimated 100 to 200 desert bighorns live in the park. They are among a population of about 13,000 in parts of California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah, according to the Joshua Tree website.

The current population is about 10% of what it was before the settlement of the western U.S., the website said.

Bighorns are very sensitive to disease, and research in Joshua Tree shows there has been a significant loss of water from springs and places where water seeps from the ground that has contributed to a significant loss of bighorn habitat.

The park also warned hikers that summer temperatures on trails can reach more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 Celsius). Hikes should begin before or at sunrise and be completed by 10 a.m., or not begin until after 4 p.m., to avoid risk of heat illness and death.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Bighorns have been listed as endangered species. Do you think the park should permanently close the trail to prevent disturbance to bighorns? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Wolves and coyotes are known to be natural predators of bighorns. How would you feel if predators were killed to protect endangered species? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • What are some of the best places to go hiking in your country? Discuss.
  • How can hikers be educated about protecting the natural habitats of animals? Discuss.