Cottonwood Spring Oasis is one of the best kept secrets in the park and is just seven miles from the southern entrance to the park.
The spring is the result of earthquake activity and was used by the Cahuilla Indians who left bedrock mortars and clay pots, or ollas, in the area. Miners planted the cottonwoods and the fan palms around the turn of the century to make the spring conform to their concept of an oasis.
A number of hikes begin at Cottonwood Spring. A short, easy walk down Cottonwood Wash leads past a second oasis to a dry falls. In wet years, the falls can become a scene of rushing water and red-spotted toads. Bighorn sheep often come up the wash for water in the early hours. An old teamster road drops down past the falls to the lower wash. A short hike leads through palo verde and desert willow trees to the remains of Moorten’s Mill site.
The three-mile loop trail to Mastodon Peak offers spectacular views, interesting geology, the Mastodon Mine, and the Winona Mill Site. And, for those looking for a longer hike—eight miles round trip—and the largest stand of fan palms in the park, the Lost Palms Oasis trail is a sure winner.
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