Colorado Desert

Colorado Desert Biome

Situated in the South western part of North America, California’s Colorado Desert is a large desert extending to as much as 7 million acres across the state.

Geography and Bioregion

Geographically, the Colorado Desert extends from Colorado River upto the Laguna Mountains. Most of the desert lies at lower elevations mostly below 1000 feet. The Salton Sea is considered as the lowest point –the desert floor and is located at 275 feet below the sea level. The Peninsular region of the desert has mountains as high as 10,000 feet but averaging at 3,000 feet. The desert is marked by the presence of the San Andreas Fault and hence is subject to frequent earthquakes.

The desert is known for its distinct climatic conditions. It experiences two annual rainy seasons and very high daytime temperatures in summer than any other desert.

Quick Facts

  • Also Called :Colorado State Desert
  • Part of Sonoran Desert
  • Area : 4000 square miles
  • Lowest Points : 245 feet below sea level
  • Valleys :Coachella and Imperial Valleys
  • Human Population :375,000 (1990)
  • Latitude & Longitude : 32.8300° N, 115.2700° W
  • Racing : Colorado Off Road Extreme Deertrail


The terrestrial habitats of the Colorado Desert include mixed scrubs such as yucca and cholla catus, sandy soil grasslands, desert dunes and creosote bush scrub. Junipers, Coulter pine and Pinyon pine are the abundantly found species in higher elevations. The winter rains help produce wild flowers in the spring. Smoke tree, palo verde and ironwood are the annuals supported by the winter rains in the southern parts of the desert. The wetland habitats include desert fan palms, fresh water marshes and desert arroyos. The native flora includes desert lily (Hesperocallis undulata), desert fir (Peucephyllum schottii) and Bigelow's nolina (Nolina bigelovii).

Wildlife & Animals & Mammals

The wildlife in deserts is dependent on the water bodies. The aquatic species typical to this desert include: desert pupfish, arroyo toad, clapper rail and the willow flycatcher. Other land animals include the desert rat, mule deer, cactus mouse, bobcat and the red-diamond rattle snake. Prairie falcon and Gambel’s quail are the commonly sighted birds here. Bighorn sheep is a big attraction of this desert.

  • Yuma antelope ground squirrels
  • White-winged doves
  • Muskrats
  • Southern mule deer
  • Coyotes
  • Bobcats
  • Raccoons

Rare Animals

  • Desert pupfish
  • Flat-tailed horned lizard
  • Prairie falcon
  • Andrew's dune scarab beetle
  • Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard
  • Le Conte's thrasher
  • Black-tailed gnatcatcher
  • California leaf-nosed bat

List of Birds

  • Greater roadrunner
  • Gila woodpecker
  • Burrowing owl
  • Abert's towhee
  • Phainopepla
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird


Spiders & Arachnids

  • Tarantula
  • Black Widow
  • Hairy Scorpion
  • Wind Scorpion (Sun Spider)
  • Giant Crab Spider

History and Culture

Archeological studies reveal that the Colorado Desert was inhabited by a number of native tribes. The most predominant among them was the Yuman or the Patayan tribe. They lived in this desert from about 770 AD to 1550 AD. They consisted of three major sub-groups namely: Havasupai, Hualapai and Yavapai. Even today the Colorado Desert has these tribes living in reservations made especially for them. They speak their native language and are completely dependent on their surroundings for their food, shelter and living.

The Colorado Desert is one of the many unique places for plants and animals. Many of them found else nowhere in the world. The desert encloses the imperial county and attaches the parts of San Diego County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino County.

Flora / Plants / Vegetation


Endemic Species

  • Hesperocallis undulata — Desert lily
  • Nolina bigelovii — Bigelow's nolina
  • Peucephyllum schottii — Desert fir
  • Salvia greatae — Orocopia sage

Species endemic to California habitats

  • Astragalus tricarinatus — Triplerib milkvetch
  • Chorizanthe parryi — Parry's spineflower
  • Ericameria pinifolia — Pinebush
  • Leptosyne bigelovii — Bigelow coreopsis
  • Pholisma sonorae — Sandfood

Blue Star Amsonia Jonesii

Height 10-14”
Width 12-15”
Soil Moisture Moderate to xeric
Hardiness USDA zones 4-9 (up to 8,000’)
Culture Clay, sandy loam or loam soils
Year Introduced 2011
Attracts birds, butterflies and/or bees Yes
Deer Resistant Yes
Flower color blue
Native Southwestern USA


The major part of the Colorado Desert is situated in the low evaluation of 1000 feet and it has the diminished point of 275 feet at desert floor, under the sea level at Salton Sea. The climate of the Colorado Desert varies from others. This area senses a great summer, daytime temperature and humidity are very high when compared to other high-elevation desert.

Weather Forecast

  • Summer :Between 100F, 120F
  • Winter :Below Freezing

Average Temperature

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Average High 45 48 54 62 71 81 87 85 76 66 54 45
Average Low 18 24 28 35 44 52 58 56 48 38 28 21
Mean 34 36 41 48 58 67 74 71 62 54 41 34
Average Precipitation 0.6 in 0.7 in 1.6 in 2.3 in 3.0 in 2.3 in 2.0 in 1.3 in 1.9 in 1.3 in 1.1 in 0.8 in


This desert experiences the rainy season twice a year. The desert is fully surrounded with the Uncompahgre national forest and gets 10-11 inches of rain per year. This desert area is also situated in the Colorado plateau and gets 7-10 inches of rain every year. The area of this desert is a bit long. It is about 60miles from east to west, from north to south it is away of 100 miles beyond the roan plateau.

National Parks and State Parks

  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Imperial NWR
  • Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR
  • Indio Hills Palms
  • Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
  • Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area
  • Picacho State Recreation Area
  • Heber Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area
  • Salton Sea State Recreation Area

Tourist Attractions

Things to Do & See

  • Picacho State Recreation Area
  • Boat rides on the Colorado River
  • Migratory cormorants
  • Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge
  • Dos Palmas Preserve
  • Imperial County


  • Rock climbing in western Colorado
  • Canyoneering & Trekking

Camping / Campsites in Colorado

  • Little Molas Lake Campground, San Juan national forest
  • Angel of Shavano, San Isabel national forest
  • Oh Be Joyful Campground, Crested Butte
  • Pinyon Flats Campground, Great Sand Dunes national park
  • Saddlehorn Campground, Colorado national monument
  • Bassam Guardstation and Cabin, Buena Vista
  • Fowler-Hilliard Hut, Eagle
  • Dunton Hot Springs, Dolores
  • 4 UR Ranch, Creede
  • Vista Verde, Steamboat Springs
  • Rocky Mountain National Park Camping
  • Record-Setting Fishing
  • Miles of Shoreline
  • Hike Among the Ancients

Mountain Ranges of the Colorado Desert

Maria fold and thrust belt In-Ko-Pah Mountains Palen Mountains
Arica Mountains Indio Hills Palo Verde Mountains
Big Maria Mountains Jacumba Mountains Pinyon Mountains
Black Hills (Imperial County) Laguna Mountains Riverside Mountains
Buried Mountain Little Maria Mountains San Felipe Hills (San Diego County)
Cargo Muchacho Mountains Little Mule Mountains Santa Rosa Mountains (California)
Chocolate Mountains Little San Bernardino Mountains Sawtooth Mountains (California)
Chuckwalla Mountains McCoy Mountains Sawtooth Range (San Diego County)
Coxcomb Mountains Mecca Hills Superstition Hills
Coyote Mountains Mopah Range Turtle Mountains (California)
Eagle Mountains Mule Mountains (California) Vallecito Mountains
Fish Creek Mountains (California) Ogilby Hills Volcanic Hills (California)
Grapevine Hills Orocopia Mountains Whipple Mountains

List of Resorts

  • Marriott Vacation Club Resort
  • Palm Springs
  • Lost Lake Resort
  • RCI Timeshare and II Resorts
  • Scottsdale Resort

Colorado Desert Images / Photos

Colorado Desert
Colorado Desert
Colorado Desert Bighorn Sheep
Colorado Desert Bighorn Sheep
Colorado Desert California Map
Colorado Desert California Map
Colorado Desert Cholla Cactus
Colorado Desert Cholla Cactus
Colorado Desert Fringe Toed Lizard
Colorado Desert Fringe Toed Lizard
Colorado Desert Location
Colorado Desert Location
Colorado River in Colorado Desert
Colorado River in Colorado Desert
Colorado Desert Sand Dunes
Colorado Desert Sand Dunes
Colorado Desert Shovel Nosed Snake
Colorado Desert Shovel Nosed Snake
Colorado National Monument
Colorado National Monument