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Landforms & Erosional Processes


Kelso Wash Mojave National Preserve

Several hundred thousand people travel along Interstate 15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas every week, but typically less than one percent of these travelers venture off the main highway to spend time to view the desert scenery and to ponder its origin. However, even a brief stop will enchant visitors with the remarkable desert landscape. These pages are intended to provide basic geologic information about the origin of landscape features throughout the Mojave National Preserve and surrounding region. The map below (Fig. 1) provides location reference to many of the landscape features referred to in discussions.

map of Mojave National Preserve
Map showing the Mojave National Preserve and surrounding region.

Many natural factors and processes are responsible for the development of landforms in desert environments, particularly bedrock characteristics, and current and past climatic conditions and their changing plant communities. The landscape reflects the cumulative effects of geologic forces or events that have transpired over many millions of years. However, faulting, volcanism and erosion within the past million years, and particularly changing climatic conditions within the last 20,000 years, have had particularly strong effects on the physical appearance of the Mojave Desert landscape today.

The following pages provide basic discussions about the interplay of climatic factors with geologic characteristics and history of the Mojave Desert region primarily focusing on the Mojave National Preserve. Understanding regional climate history, physiography, and the physical characteristics and processes affecting earth materials are fundamental to interpreting the ongoing development of the Mojave Desert landscape and the ecosystem it supports.

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Weather Data
Geologic History
Changing Climates
Weathering & Erosion
Carbonate Rocks
Granitic Rocks
Volcanic Rocks
Stream Channels
Stream Terraces
The Mojave River
Sand Dunes
Human Impacts

Next > Physiography

Related Pages/Indexes

Volcanic Features

Rock Formations

Interstate 15

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These items are historical in scope and are intended for educational purposes only; they are not meant as an aid for travel planning.
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