Joshua Tree National Park Association, Desert Institute

Exploring Nature through Education


he Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park is an adult education program offering an in-depth exploration of the park’s natural wonders. Learn from highly qualified instructors who are passionate about sharing their expertise and committed to providing a personal and fun learning experience. The Desert Institute is sponsored by the Joshua Tree National Park Association and operates with the full endorsement of the National Park Service. Join us this season for an educational adventure.

This season of Desert Institute classes is made possible by the generous sponsorship of Visit 29 Palms. Check out to learn about all the great shops, restaurants, lodging and attractions in Twentynine Palms and start planning your visit.

If you are a member of JTNPA you will get a $10 discount off every Desert Institute class. Visit to learn more.

Geology and Geomorphology of Death Valley

Fri, Jan 7, 2022, 9:00 AM – Sun, Jan 9, 2022, 3:00 PM PST

$225 – 365


In this below-sea-level basin, steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Yet, each extreme has a striking contrast. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow, but the valley bottom can reach almost 130°F in summer. While rainstorms are uncommon, they bring many dramatic changes to the landscape. Join instructor Alessandro Grippo in the exploration of the geology and landscape of Death Valley. This course takes the students through the geologic highlights of Death Valley National Park. The class meets at Furnace Creek Visitor Center on Friday morning and, after an introduction to the geology of the Basin and Range desert and its natural physical processes, students will travel south by car to hike the Natural Bridge trail. They will then head back to the valley bottom to explore the playa lake at Badwater, with further stops during the day at Devils Golf Course and Artists Palette. On Saturday the class will visit Devils Cornfield and then wander through the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. After lunch at Stovepipe Wells, students will hike and explore Mosaic Canyon. Finally, on Sunday the class will drive to the westernmost part of the park by entering the Panamint Valley and later go for an easy hike at Darwin’s falls to complete their exploration. Please note that the registration does not include accommodations or meals. We have reserved campsites in Death Valley for this class for those who wish to camp. This class earns 2 college units from University of California, Riverside Extension.

Old Schoolhouse Lecture Jan 2022

January 14, Kim Stringfellow, Topic: TBD

The Old Schoolhouse Lecture series is brought to you by the 29 Palms Historical Society and the Desert Institute. The series is composed of ten monthly lectures on the second Friday of each month. The lecture series has returned to in-person lectures at the 29 Palms Old Schoolhouse Museum. The entrance fee for a single lecture is $5.00.

Beginning Bird Banding

Saturday, January 22, 2022, 7:30 AM – Sunday, January 23, 2022, 1:30 PM

$145 – 220


Beginning on Wednesday, January 19, from 6pm – 8pm, there will be a lecture by Steven Myer, at the Whitewater Preserve. Field activities will take place on Saturday, January 22, and Sunday, January 23. This course is a basic introduction to banding birds, which is a valuable tool in ornithological research and monitoring. An evening class session will briefly discuss the history, purpose, goals, and methods of banding. Among the topics discussed will be the federal and state permits required of bird banders, the submittal of data to the Bird Banding Laboratory, capture methods, the handling of wild birds, banding birds, the collection of morphological data, and the sexing and ageing of birds. The evening class session will be followed by two days of hands-on experience capturing, handling, and banding birds in the field. The banding location will be in Riverside, at John Green’s residence (directions will be included in the enrollment confirmation). All banding equipment will be provided.

Prerequisites: Basic bird identification skills helpful.

Summit Joshua Mountain

Saturday, January 29, 2022

8:00 AM – 5:00 PM PST



Looking west when approaching the north entrance to Joshua Tree National Park in Twentynine Palms you’ll notice a Quartz monzonite formation that juts out against the more gently sloping peaks. This proud countenance, known by some as “Indian Head”, is officially named Joshua Mountain. The approach for this hike will commence from the southeast in the lower-lying hills, where evidence of bighorn sheep is possible. A majority of the elevation gain will take place in a canyon that terminates due south of the peak and features excellent examples of alkali-feldspar megacrysts that can measure as much as 10cm across. Once attained, the peak provides panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and excellent views of the alluvial fans exiting the park at the north entrance. Hike Level: Moderate/Strenuous (Fitness Levels) Max 6.75 miles round trip. 1176’ Elevation Gain/Loss

Keys Ranch Nightscape Photography Workshop

Sat, Jan 29, 2022, 3:30 PM – Sun, Jan 30, 2022, 12 AM $160 – 170


With new digital camera technologies, nighttime has become the right time to make spectacular images! Unlock your creativity and take your photography to a new place in this one-night workshop on photographic techniques after dark including wide- field astrophotography, light painting, and light drawing. Learn how to photograph the night sky with your DSLR camera. Light painting and light drawing are photographic techniques in which images are made using long shutter speeds as the photographer uses a hand-held light source, such as a flashlight, to create the exposure. The photographer either points the light source directly at the camera to “draw with

light” or “paints with light” by shining the light source on an object or scene to create the illumination. From Ansel Adams to Pablo Picasso, these seemingly magical techniques have long inspired photographers and artists alike with their ability to make visible the invisible and to play with time.

Class participants will be sent an advance instructional video to review two days prior to the class to prepare and you will be able to contact the instructor with any additional questions prior to the course. Upon arrival on the day of the workshop, participants will meet at the Visitor Center in Joshua Tree for check-in and then participants will caravan out to the restricted historic Keys Ranch where participants will have the opportunity to photograph the cosmos amongst the historic ranch buildings and artifacts.

Class size is limited to 8 participants, only a few spots remaining!

Special note about Keys Ranch. We must be respectful of this historic site. Several areas will be off-limits for photography and to help ensure that invasive species are not introduced clean boots, socks, and tripod legs are required. A brief discussion of workshop protocol while at Keys Ranch will be provided before leaving the classroom.

Hike Level: Easy (Fitness Levels)

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