"Extreme drought conditions prompted the open-ended closure of a popular hiking trail in Joshua Tree National Park to ensure water access for bighorn sheep.
The closure of the Fortynine Palms Trail began last week and “will remain in place until summer monsoons provide adequate rainfall to increase water availability,” the National Park Service said in a statement.
Bighorn sheep, with their iconic curled horns, increasingly must rely on an oasis spring in the trail area as drought has made surface water more difficult to find in other areas of the park.
The Fortynine Palms Oasis is one of a small handful of areas in the park with reliable access to water for wildlife. The oasis itself is always off-limits to hikers as it is a “sensitive biological area” and a “crucial water supply for plant and wildlife,” according to the National Park Service."