An Iguana in the Desert?

When most people think of iguanas, they think of tropical beaches and giant lizards lounging on rocks.  But here in the Mojave National Preserve, we have our own iguana.  It may not be as large as lizards on the far away Galapagos Islands, but the desert iguana is larger than many other lizards in America's southwestern deserts.  Some can measure over 16 inches long.

This desert iguana was photographed during a hike in the creosote bush scrub habitat off of Essex Road in the southern portion of the Mojave National Preserve.

The desert iguana can be found in lower elevation creosote bush scrub habitat in the Mojave National Preserve and other parts of California, Arizona, southern Nevada, and Mexico. It can withstand fairly high temperatures.  This means that long after other reptiles have taken refuge in the shade of their burrows to escape the blazing sun, the desert iguana will still be out foraging for food.  It is not uncommon to spot these lizards climbing in creosote bushes to snack on the yellow flowers, although they'll probably dine on the occassional insect, too.

The author last encountered a desert iguana in the middle of the morning in the creosote bush scrub habitat along Essex Road in the southern portion of the Preserve.  If you want to explore this area, there are no marked hiking trails.  Just park safely along the shoulder, stay hydrated, and enjoy exploring among the washes and shrubs.