The report concerning the Palm - Washingtonia filifera - of Moapa - in SIX parts. [plus photos and bibliography]
'Washingtonia filifera - It's history in Nevada revisited'


A report regarding: The Palm - Washingtonia filifera - in Moapa NV

Intro to The Basis for the Current Official Listing
of Washingtonia filifera in Moapa Warm Springs Nevada
as a 'Non-native' Species - and the evidence which contradicts it

By: Spencer, Winton  - December - 1995 -

mail to: isat405oak (a) yahoo dot com

[NOTE: This 100 page document is written for distribution to LMNRA and Nev. Fish and Wildlife, Nevada Fish and Game, BLM and Other Agencies - specifically intended to be read by those having access to the original documents which were used as the basis for the current official Listing of W. filifera as an introduced or recently adventive species of plant in Clark County NV. As such it is written using some technical language and specific wording with references understood by the original documentation. Please allow these long documents to fully LOAD before attempting to jump to footnotes or they will NOT work.]

The Links to go to each of the six Parts of this document is at the bottom of each section.

Washingtonia filifera palms are subtropical relics (1) of the Miocene and Pliocene (Vogl and McHargue 1966). Additionally they are the only remaining native palms west of Cameron County Texas in the Contiguous United States.(2) (Although it should be noted that certain species of Palms of either genus "Brahea", or "Sabal" may be found very near the Mexico/U.S. border which is also a part of the 'Sonoran' desert.(3) )

Although the Desert Fan Palm is widely known as "The California Fan Palm", it was first named after seed collected near the Castle Creek area of Arizona -not California- and was sent to Belgium in 1869 by a naturalist named R. Roezl. This "type locality" as it is called, (the locality from whence a plant derives its first technical or botanical description) has formerly been a very disputed point.

The reason for this it seems is that this original description was not accepted by certain scholars because they simply didn't believe that a palm could exist in the area which Roezl described. Although James Cornett on page 11 of his book: "Desert Palm Oasis" states that ..."Roezl did not relate precisely where the seeds came from..." this is not precisely true. Using Roezl's description, a man named Fenzi published highly accurate coordinates placing the find very near Castle Creek Arizona. The reason some scholars did not believe this location is because they were misinformed regarding three important points: 1)-the immediate area's climate, 2)-the broad ranging hardiness of the Washingtonia filifera, and 3)-the meridian longitudinal reference used by Fenzi. ( S. B. Parrish, the California botanist primarily responsible for this longstanding & unnecessary debate was using Greenwich England and not Paris France <as Fenzi had> for the longitudinal meridian.) Arizona's Boyce Thompson Southwestern Arboretum, has much to say about this point. Frank S. Crosswhite, editor of DESERT PLANTS (4), also writes that:

"the originating 'type-locality' of Washingtonia Filifera "lies in Arizona, not California as residents of that state have long claimed. (and ) Although this may seem a trivial point to the average person, it should not be so regarded".

Dr. Victor J. Miller of Arizona State University, states on Page 99 of the same publication in his article entitled: Arizona's Own Palm, that:

"the original description of this palm in 1876 stated that the discovery and seed collection had been made in Arizona. Geographic coordinates published by Fenzi placed that discovery near Prescott, Arizona. But California Botanist, S.B. Parish incorrectly believing that such a palm could not possibly grow 38 miles from Prescott for climatic reasons claimed that the discovery would have had to have been made in California which was a gross inaccuracy perpetuated in scientific literature up to the current publication of this issue of Desert Plants. ...One must also bear in mind that the Longitude given by Fenzi was before the Washington Meridian Conference of 1884 which established Greenwich Meridian as the standard, and therefor Paris, France, not Greenwich was used." (emphasis and parenthesis mine.)

Editor's Note: The latitude given by Fenzi is actually closer to Perkinsville than to Prescott and at the most is only 16 or so miles from the actual Castle Creek area.

(The reader should note that this same 'climate' argument has been claimed by some with regards to the areas North of turtle mountains in California. While some have stated that the Mojave desert is an area "too cold for the genus today" (5) . This is provably and vastly incorrect. In truth is, this genus may be grown and in fact is found in literally every town in the Mojave and even points far north of there. The only exclusion would be at high elevations which are too "cold". If this argument were used however, then one should note this applies to Palm Springs area as well, not only the Mojave. In fact, less than a kilometer from the oases of Palm Springs one may find areas " far too cold for palms".. .simply by increasing elevation. The elevations at which growth in the palm is inhibited around Palm springs appears to apply to the same elevations farther north up to a point. St. George Utah has grown several genera of palms for at least 60 years. Cornett gives the elevation of 3950 feet on page 13 of his book "Desert Palm Oasis" by as the highest elevation for a fan Palm. This would seem to equate with St. George Utah. Beyond that geographical area, latitude and other factors limit subtropicals across the board. It would appear that the Mojave in fact has been hospitable to this particular palm for millennia whenever sufficient water has been available. It is this factor alone, and not cold, which appears to have been the limiting factor as far as the low elevations of the Mojave is concerned. See climate data and references later in this report and also in "The Desert Fan Palm- Evidence supports relict status." -by W. A. Spencer 1996. )

Although the above research by Dr. Miller for the Arizona State University, and the Boyce Thompson Arboretum decisively settled the 'type-locality' issue, the forgoing has been the subject of much debate in the past. This, however, has not been the only hotly debated issue involving this Palm. Another significant debate ensued over the 'native' status of those same Palms. For many years the Alkali Springs Grove spoken of in the article quoted above, was thought to be adventive (6) due to amply circulated anecdotes (as in the Moapa area) which, as it turns out, were apparently not based on a close enough examination of the available evidence. Hence it was not until 1976 (in a definitive report published by the Arizona Academy of Science,) (7) that four researchers finally established that this area was indeed a second native locality for the Washingtonia filifera. (Actually the 'first' since this as it turns out, was the actual type locality.)

The irony here is that the very oasis that was subject of such debate over it's possible origins turns out to be the same grove which had produced the very seeds upon which the German Botanist Herman Von Wendland erected the new Genus of Washingtonia. Although the later article does not point it out, the type-locality research from Dr. Miller definitively concurs with and proves that the grove is native by establishing that seeds were collected from the site at least twenty years earlier than the Academy of Sciences article published as being the earliest possible date for the occurrence of pioneer adventives. This point is not written anywhere, but is apparent after one simply compares the research published by both sources. When one considers that the trees had to have been sexually mature (or at least 15 years of age), the real date becomes approximately 35 years previous...clearly a date much too early to realistically consider the groves at Alkali Springs to be adventives of early white settlers.

The official notion that numerous local groves of Washingtonia filifera around Moapa Warm Springs and others East of Overton Nevada (near the Mormon Mesa's southwestern tip) are recently adventive, is also the result of several well circulated (and even published) anecdotes. These notions are also the result of rather cursory examinations of local history, as well as overlooked but available Ethnobotanical anecdotes. Additionally, (like the groves mentioned earlier in Alkali springs Arizona which endured climactical mislabeling,) the area in question where the Palm is found around Overton and Moapa has perhaps suffered from a somewhat misleading exclusion outside the boundaries of the Sonoran or even the Colorado Desert. This officially accepted, but overly simplified line (which shows the northern-most reach of the Colorado Desert somewhere near Bullhead City Arizona,) perhaps fails, in that it makes no exception to note that this climate in reality extends into a very small area of Southern Nevada around the Moapa region. The drainage of the immediate Moapa area is not great Basin but is rather to the Colorado. Topography and flora as well as fauna may indicate more properly that this should either be included with the Colorado desert or that it is a smaller sister zone rather than a part of the greater Great Basin and upper Mojave. (See comment from Nevada Museum Anthropological papers #5 June 1961 -R. Shutler page 3)(8) See portion at end of this Part one called endnotes ( go to endnotes)

One needs only to examine and compare freeze data from all the local stations to recognize that a different climate pattern applies to the surrounding area than has been generally accepted. (9)Some standard climactic references lump this area with Las Vegas which is actually from 100 to 310 meters higher in elevation than the muddy valleys and different in other identifying respects as well.

Additionally it can be argued that many of the typical species of plants in this region occur with comparable regularity and in comparable percentages as they do in many parts of the Colorado (or Upper Sonoran) desert. With regards to Vogl and McHargue's lists given in 1966 for "prevalent and common riparian species in palm groves in California along the San Andreas Fault" (10) Some areas with clearly "native" Washingtonia filifera groves such as Castle Creek and KOFA palms actually possess fewer of those "prevalent" species as part of their habitat than does the Moapa area groves giving further impetus to re-examine this issue. Bear in mind however, that simply because certain plants are recurring or common in California's native palm groves (which is the point of Vogl and McHargue's prevalent species data) this does not mean those plants are proven to be obligate to all groves of native palms, I simply use this reference because it has been used by some to "indicate" likelihood of native status at other groves. (11)

This author has yet to see a climate map which appears to fairly define this area. In terms of real days of average freezing temperatures recorded. Most references lump the area together with Prescott, Kingman and Las Vegas. Some maps even show the area to be part of Zones 1 or 2 or like that of the Kaibab Plateau which is one of the coldest zones in the Nation. Further details and discussion on climate will show this to be inaccurate. (see section on Climate.)

I concur with the Boyce Arboretum, that it appears a very worthwhile endeavor to make certain that the official current 'definition' of this plant's place in the area's history and scientific journals is not taken lightly. Even more so since certain maintenance policies actually may threaten possible natively descended stands of palms in certain area springs (such as the refuge at Moapa where the Moapa Dace is being protected and other places.) If indeed, this plant proves to be a local Native the importance of making that determination cannot be overstated. For this would be the Northernmost remaining native reach of the plant. Most importantly however, is the impact this could have on other knowledge we have about the area.

There is compelling testimony for instance, which may not be so easily dismissed that theMoapas were using Palm products when the white settlers came to the valley. This fact profoundly complicates any possibility for White man to have introduced this palm.

The local Moapas dealt often with the Chemehuevi. (The Moapa language is of the Nihwi or Chemehuevi division in the Numic branch of the Shoshonean languages while the Cahuilla speak the Iviatim dialects in the Takic Shoshonean branch.) (12) It is believed that the Cahuilla probably intermarried and traded with the Chemehuevi-Paiute and very likely used these people further as intermediaries in trading agricultural technologies and pottery with other groups.(13)This as well as extensive evidence of long-standing trading practices with Lower Colorado peoples among the ancient peoples of the Moapa area and the fact that the Pima Papago and Cahuilla (all of whom represent "Palm using" cultures,) are all culturally and linguistically related (Shoshonean or Uto-Aztecan) argues for a high likelihood that the Moapas had to have come into contact at one point or another (or many times) with the uses of this palm by these southern groups. It should be pointed out however, that contact should not be a prerequisite for the idea that Moapas may have used this plant.

It is possible however, that the aborigines who used this plant may have transported the seed, planting it in various area springs. In fact the curator of the Palm Springs Desert Museum, James Cornett states in his book: Desert Palm Oasis, that:

"it appears that the desert fan palm is an excellent example of a plant species whose ecology can best be understood in light of its interaction with Indian people. Indeed, in many instances it appears that Indians may have taken this species to the geographical limits of its range." (14)

It would surprising if the Moapas in their 800 year (plus) history in Southern Nevada had never come into contact with this palm or it's uses by the Cahuilla, Pima or the Tohono O'otam. Especially when the fact that the Moapas traded for centuries in areas populated with these tribes is taken into account. (15)

Notwithstanding the forgoing, recurring and common scarcity of food would certainly have created strong impetus to be on constant lookout for new and useful foods used by trading partners and friends.

It is well documented how quickly the Moapa adapted to new foods when white man arrived in Mission Las Vegas. Furthermore they were known to plant and harvest a variety of traditional food crops hundreds of years before whites arrived. Agrarian practices were totally unknown in almost all other Paiute and Shoshone cultures to the North. (Santa Clara bands and Kaibab bands were noted growing various small crops but they are also part of the Southern Paiute)

Most importantly however, the signed testimonies of Evelyn Samalar, Irene Benn, Juanita Kinlichinie, and Maureen Frank, (All contemporary elder Moapa Paiute women), indicate that their Moapa grandparents earlier in this century were still using the palm fruit and grinding it in deep stone mortars (which still belong to the respective families on reservation property) and that they were also making huts and baskets from the palms. Since there apparently has never historically been any palms on the Moapa Indian reservation itself, (until the last 15 or so years) this indicates that the palm products used and fashioned by these four women's forefathers would have had to come from Warm Springs (which is as they have indicated to me) ... and that is a distance of about 11 km away. It should be mentioned that by 1900 that area had been claimed entirely by white ranches.

This presents a great difficulty for subsequent conjecture which has arisen surrounding the locally circulated anecdote which is known as the Mendis Cooper story. The original Cooper story simply and innocently lays claim to the fact that a White man (Mendis Cooper) planted the first palms in Overton sometime after 1893. The problems raised by this claim arises when later reporters and research inferred through conjecture alone that the palms he planted in Overton must have been imported from the Phoenix area. Mendis apparently never made such a claim. This "origins" part of the Cooper's Palms story has been purely speculative from the beginning. The only part of the story which has never been speculative has been the fact that Mendis Cooper was the first White man to plant Palms in the Overton area.

Some Background info about the area

It should be reiterated that the only substantiated claim of the Cooper story is that Mendis Cooper planted 9 seeds (or seedlings) in front of his house in Overton in 1893 at a distance of over 56 km from Warm Springs. This, (as were probably all early Mormon plantings), was completely accomplished in one perfectly straight line along the front border of the property. These palms still stand today about 25 meters from the edge of the river and are all about 13.2 meters in height. This is starkly contrasted I might add to Palms around the Moapa area itself where the oldest appearing palms reach heights of nearly twice that in some cases.(25.5 meters in height.)

It has since been assumed by some for years that since Mr. Cooper traveled to Overton from Phoenix that he must have procured seed in Phoenix. This will be shown to be anachronistic however, and the more plausible and likely scenario is that he actually obtained his seeds only after his arrival in the Overton-Moapa area. This possibility until now, has never been explored or alluded to by anyone except other old timers, eye witnesses and the Moapa Paiutes.

The areas in question in this report are collectively called the Moapa or the Muddy Valley. You should know however, it is not one valley but rather two very distinct and remotely separated valleys which are only connected geographically by the Muddy river itself. No road was ever built which actually ran along the river to connect the two Valleys because there is a several mile stretch of very steep and precipitous canyons called the "narrows" which made such a feet impossible.

Warm Springs is in the upper of the two valleys. This upper valley has never had a town in it, nor were the earliest homesteads here. It is adjacent to the current Paiute reservation and is the site of the original Moapa Paiute's sacred areas. It is the site of a number of large randomly planted oases and numerous warm springs as well as the Moapa Dace refuge, the old Blodale place, the Home place, The Harold Doty ranch, the Baldwin Ranch, the Mormon Ranch and the Pederson place. Overton and Logandale are in the Lower Valley with Overton being at the far Southern end...the farthest away from the Warm Springs one may go and still be in the Moapa valley. Also in the lower valley are: the Mendis Cooper homestead (in Overton,) the old Sanford Angel Ranch (or Angel ranch or Angel springs ...a small series of wild groves at seeps which are located on the bluffs south and east of Overton and past a veritable no man's land of brush and swamps), the Capalapa ranch (Bill Gann's original place between Logandale and Overton in the country), and the "Lost City" as well as all of the original and very first settlements of the early white settlers. These all came to the lower valley mostly because there was more and better farmland and it was considerably farther away from the Paiute's main settlements in the Upper valley whom they feared tremendously. (And incidentally...the main Oases.)

The connecting road between the two valleys diverted away from the river and off to the north of the narrows canyons which ran in a north-westerly direction from the north west tip of the "lower Muddy valley " and was a good days journey in the 1800's. It is an historical fact that a great many settlers from the "lower Muddy or Moapa valley" never actually visited the upper valley. There is an interim valley which is called the Meadow Valley Wash. It is very important and was settled early on although there was a lot of reported trouble with Indians there. The railroad came through this valley and it runs right down between the area of desert which separates the upper and the lower muddy. Only a few ranches ever persisted in the upper valley while a great number of residents and several towns and all services were quickly established in the lower or "Overton" valley.

The main railroad (Union Pacific) which ran through the Meadow Valley Wash, ran North and South between Caliente and Las Vegas. The roads from all three valleys met around the point where this railroad crossed the Muddy river and the old Spanish trail just west of the "narrows". The area just east of the tracks where the Spanish trail crossed the Muddy was a very historical meeting place and was referred to as "the Muddy crossing". This is basically where the Spaniards originally met the Moapas as well as Fremont and the early Settlers to Las Vegas.

Fremont who was usually very thorough in his descriptions of areas was visibly short and somewhat terse in his descriptions of his Moapa meeting. He apparently was not having a good time and hence he seems to have left abruptly, notably grumpy and with very little good to say. It is not surprising that he did not find a fan palm oasis since he never ventured in the direction of the Warm Springs itself. In fact, he instead left the Muddy crossing (which he called the Rio Los Angeles ) from Las Vegas, and headed down to the confluence of the Virgin and proceeded into Utah. This he did quite quickly and on the West Side of the River away from other possible encounters with Palms. Other trips by Powell and Kit Carson as well as several other reports missed the areas as well. Not only did all of them fail to find or describe this plant but often they failed to even describe the Moapa people themselves! (See The Paiute People by Euler.)

About three miles west of the "Muddy crossing" the town of Moapa began in 1904 (a year after the death of Mendis Cooper). From 1904 to 1912 Moapa thrived from the railroad business which was the reason for the town in the first place. Although small, it was busy until a spur was set for the lower muddy in 1912. Up to this time Moapa appears to have been the extreme western boundary of most of the white settlers experience in the area. Hostilities are almost redundantly mentioned in reference to the "Indians" farther to the west before the 1890's which would have been the "upper Muddy" or toward the Warm Springs area and since there were no services or routes through that area the only drawing point would have been to visit one of the two very early ranches there.

Very little mention is ever made of this however in any documents until after the turn of the century and by that time most people from the lower valley as well as those who came after 1920, (which means almost everyone...) seem to have assumed that Mendis Cooper must have had something to do with the Palms in the upper Muddy as well. (Remember they saw his palms first for a number of years.)

Although this "lack" of mention of Palms or even the Moapa people in the upper valley has been used by some to imply "evidence" that these palms are somehow "adventive" this point of view should be approached with great caution. Repeated omissions of descriptions about the palms of Tahquitz canyon (at Palm Springs) and even the lack of mention of Cahuilla living there has been noted by more than one source. Omissions of the agricultural practices of these people are common as well. Lowell Bean and others have suggested that this may have been because what

the "pioneers" saw was so "unimpressive" to their way of thinking.

It is definitely no secret that few appeared impressed with the Paiute. (16) (17)

Except for the few ranches which located near the source of the Muddy in the upper valley after or around the turn of the century, the vast majority of all the white settlers had settled in the Overton Valley or "lower Muddy". This was also where all of the four or five main towns had been established. Not everyone believed that Mendis was responsible for the Palms at Moapa however. Among those who had always known otherwise: Bill Gann owner of the Capalapa ranch (a very early settler) related this fact to several people who themselves are old time pioneers of the Upper valley. So did Lawrence W. Perkins born in 1906.
Personal Communication with Ute Perkins (Leavitt) daughter of Lawrence Whitney Perkins. born 1906. Lawrence ran the Home Ranch in the early 1900's. The Home Ranch is on the current Site of the Moapa Warm Springs Fish and Wildlife area where Palms are being removed. Lawrence Perkins' dad, Ute Warren Perkins and other old timers passed the story to their Children, that the palms had always been in the Warm Springs at the upper Valley. Lawrence told Ute that : "The palms had been there as long as he knew and that old timers had told him they'd always been there." (18)

Mr. Cooper planted his palms in Overton. Actually in an area called "Stringtown" which was slightly north about .25 km of the center of Overton at the Moapa river's crossing. Overton was at the lower extreme south of the lower valley and (according to old roads which were more curvaceous) between 35 and 45 miles from the upper Valley proper where one encounters the first Palm oasis of Warm Springs as one goes west. (This is the old Home Ranch.) The Overton or lower valley was typically subject to intense flooding from surrounding hill and storm drainage as well as constant changing of the main course of the river. (19)

A small outpost or store was located at "Arrowhead or Glendale" as well and this was located midway between "Moapa" and the descent into the lower valley from the surrounding higher desert hills. (The Store at Arrowhead was started by Harold Doty's Father whose testimony follows later in this report.) Most settlers only went to the Muddy crossing or to Moapa to gain access to a main route to Las Vegas, Mesquite or to connect with train service. Very few had any business to conduct further to the west in the upper Valley. A look at the map at the end of this section may help to clarify this rather involved description.

Now that you have a little background on where Mr. Cooper planted his palms and where the Mormons had pretty much settled and just how widely the two valleys are separated... just for a moment follow the necessary logic of the Cooper story as it relates to other necessary ingredients of this entire picture.

A discussion regarding some of the Conjecture surrounding the palms...

Mendis Cooper is said to have introduced Palms sometime after 1893. (This is the earliest date since that is when he first arrived in Overton-Moapa area from Phoenix.) Nine palms were planted a minimum of 56 kilometers by road from the current palm oases in Warm Springs. All of these palms were planted in a perfectly neat straight line along the front border of Cooper's original homestead. (See last section with pictures and maps)

These palms would have needed to mature very quickly if any of the Palms of Warm Springs are to be considered the progeny of those original seeds. It is likely that growing conditions were very even and stable for the nine palms because each palm is identical in height and girth. They were all about 13.2 meters tall (approx. 36 feet) as of January 1996, and are located at a distance of about 25 meters or so from the actual Muddy river banks.

At the earliest date, some seeds could have been collected from Cooper's original trees by 1908. I say "earliest" because 15 years is considered by experts to be the minimum number of years for a growing palm to reach maturity under good conditions. (Please note that by this time Mendis himself had died some five years earlier in 1903. Also please note that by 1900 the area completely surrounding Warm Springs were owned by families: Beach, Blodale and Baldwin, all unrelated to Mr. Cooper .) The earliest mention we have of an Oasis at Warm Springs is the simple mention of the Baldwin ranch in Hookey Beans and Willows, by Orville Perkins. It does not actually mention the Palms but it mentions that it became a favorite "cooling off spot" for the hot and weary traveler. The Baldwin place was the first at warm Springs to build a "pool" which took advantage of the Warm Springs. One of the first of the Perkins clan to move to the upper valley was Ralph Perkins and he did so to work for George Baldwin after he married. (The earliest date this is possible would be after 1906 or 1907 and that of course is three or more years after the death of Mendis Cooper.)

Let's examine this information further. If we assume 2nd generation seeds were planted at Warm Springs, (which is the conjecture inferred by those who claim that the Palms are adventive)then by the time those trees could have matured from those second generation seeds the year would have been 1923. That's 73 years ago. (As of 1996) If one does some simple math this conjectural story suggested by some makes it highly unlikely for there to have been any seeds produced by such hypothetical palms at Warm Springs until sometime after 1923 at the earliest. This is profoundly significant in light of signed statements which come to us from elder Moapa Paiutes.

Evelyn Samalar is a Moapa Paiute who is 76 years of age. She remembers her grandmother grinding Palm seeds in a deep bedrock stone mortar which she still owns and can point out on her property. She furthermore has stated that she recalls her grandfather (who would have had to have been born no later than the early 1880's,) making palm frond structures or huts and that her grandmother made baskets from palm fibers.

Please note that by the 1920's these practices must have been on the decline and not on the rise.(20)

She has stated furthermore that these memories date from some of her earliest childhood at Warm Springs.(21)

If we assume Mrs. Samalar must have been five years of age or even younger at this time, this would appear to place some significant number of mature seed bearing palms at Warm Springs on White settler property (not reservation property some 11 km away) by or more likely before 1925. According to this hypothetical scenario Coopers trees would have had to begin bearing seed by 1909 (or say 16 years of age,) and the Warm Springs trees by 1925 (or 16 years of age.) Credulity of this type of conjecture above becomes severely stretched since it demands that the Paiutes had only just learned about using palm fruit and fronds in the very fist two years (1923 -1925) that the first palm fruit of their valley would have ever have been available. Although this is not at all believable, this is exactly what is implied by those who are suggesting that the palm is recently adventive to the entire area and that the Warm Springs Palms are offspring from Cooper's original palms in Overton.

Once again, the notion that these elder Paiutes would have suddenly discovered this new food crop (on private land) and that they would have begun using it and grinding it, and calling it by Paiute names as well as using it's fronds and other parts for baskets and shelters only after 1923 would seem to absolutely stretch reasonable conjecture to its very limits. Further more the idea that these people would deliberately then deceive their grandchildren by stating that these plants were "always there" is unthinkable.

Such stretched conjecture also presents an irony which is hard to ignore. For while at once there is an implication that the Moapas had to have quickly "adapted" and learned uses for this "new" plant, there is the begging question: "If these people were so ambitious and ingenious why had they not already experimented with this plant after over 900 years of contact with people who used it everyday?"

It should not be necessary to point out that the white Mormons saw no uses for the plant outside of a certain landscaping value. (22) Even then, this use of the palm appears to have been tenuous judging from the paucity of historically planted palms in the Overton Valley outside of Mendis Cooper's own homestead itself.

Furthermore while it is not completely unlikely that an early settler might choose to randomly plant palms to create an 'Oasis environment' it would have been extremely unusual for one to have rigidly stuck to this planting rule. It is abundantly apparent that few settlers could resist at least a few straightly planted lines along property demarcations or roads. But straight lines of Palm trees is not the case in the Upper Muddy valley. Contrast this with the fact that not some, but All of the historical plantings in the lower valley (23) are always in straight lines. (This includes the Capalapa ranch which apparently preceded Mendis Cooper and was owned by Bill Gann. This will prove to be significant later in this report.) The only exceptions to this are several groves at seeps along the bluffs...but deep bedrock mortars and other artifacts as well as the proximity to springs suggest that these are also native groves.

Adding interest to this is the fact that none of the lower valley plantings even come close to approaching the height of the tall palms at the warm springs which in some cases is around 26 meters. This is not apparently due to under-watering or less than ideal conditions since the Cooper palms are actually as close to surface water as some of the tallest Warm Springs palms and are also treated to regular irrigation. In fact the Warm Springs palms are more typically ignored while the Historical Mormon plantings all obtain regular irrigation. In fact why is it that all of the historically proven planted palms around the Moapa valley (no matter what the location) are around the same height, while the tallest palms at Warm Springs dwarf them all?

Although warm water could be said to be a factor, if this were true then why are the historically planted Palms at Blue point Springs (once again in a straight line ) of similar height to Mendis Cooper's trees? They are shown elsewhere to be approaching 100 years of age.(24) This of course makes them contemporary with Cooper's palms suggesting that the warm water of Blue Point springs which is very similar to Warm Springs in temperature, did not accelerate growth.

Some old-timer white people who have been queried by other researchers about the existence of the Palms at Warm Springs have apparently suggested that there were no palms extant in the late 20's and early thirties or that they were smaller and fewer. Other more substantial testimonies however, invalidate such conjecture.

According to Mr. Harold Doty who has lived in the upper Muddy Valley since 1913 such a suggestion would be very misleading. He states that there was a large scale removal of palms which occurred in the mid twenties around Warm Springs.

Continuing this Mr. Doty stated to me that in the mid nineteen-twenties some engineering crews arrived and literally cut and removed most of the palms of the area. He stated that furthermore they left only about 20 to 30 full size tall palms. The reason for the destruction was that flood control was being initiated for the lower valley. They also intended to create a more permanent pathway or channel for the river's source. Hence later comers to the valley which may include Maurice Perkins and James Hayworth, may not recall any palms in the late twenties or early thirties for this reason. (Maurice and Harold Doty were born the same year in 1912, but Mr. Doty actually lived in the valley beginning that date while Maurice moved there much later in the 1920's. Meanwhile apparently Mr. Hayworth moved to the farm near or directly on where Harold Doty grew up. Harold Doty preceded them both to the valley by many years. His testimony is therefore considered more compelling and decisive.)

The testimonies of four Moapa Indian women also strongly challenges any notion that palms were not extant by the mid twenties. In fact for their testimonies to be valid regarding widespread cultural uses and adaptation, there had to have been quite a number of seed bearing mature Palms of 15 years of age or more by 1923. This of course places Palms in the valley before any of these other white testimonials. That is, with the exception of whites such as Harold Doty, Bill Gann and Kleon Winsor and Lawrence W. Perkins and Ute W. Perkins. All of these much more compelling testimonials seriously challenge any reports that there were no palms in the Upper Moapa Valley until after the late twenties or early thirties.

Demonstrating this, is this statement issued by Mr. Doty:

"I moved to the Doty Ranch across from the Baldwin Place just north of the Home Ranch in 1913. I was born in 1912. When I was around six years old (1918,) I was at the Home Ranch (Where the Warm Springs resort is today ) At that time there were bunches of tall Palms all around covering the areas where the headwaters came out. An older man named "Ross" worked there as a caretaker and he told me then that the Palms in that valley had been there a very long time. He also said that no one knew how long they had been there but that they were very old.At that time there were large palms at Big Springs, The Baldwin Ranch, The Home Ranch, and the Blodale place. Later of course, they cut and removed most of them because they were trying to make a more consistent channel for the river and also they were considered a nuisance by some. They came up everywhere you couldn't seem to kill them. This was in the early twenties sometime. It was probably before Chick Perkins saw it as a kid because his Uncle didn't bring him over there until he bought his first vehicle and he bought his first vehicle from me. For many years you could still see the stumps and large piles of Palm logs just over the hill where the dump is. They still dump dead palms over there to this day." (Harold Doty, summer 1994 pers. com.) (25) (parentheses mine) (This story is almost identical to the one told me by Ute Perkins <Leavitt> regarding her father Lawrence Whitney Perkins born in 1906.)

I have photographs of hundreds of dead palm logs piled there as of 1996. Eighteen years ago (in 1978) before the Nevada Game and Fish had possession of the Pederson property there were palm logs over the hill as well. James Cornett has noted in one report what he refers to as the absence of "dead palms" thereby suggesting this was an indication that the groves were likely or recent origin. This was in his report on the Oases at Warm Springs in Desert Plants in 1986. He fails to mention the dead palms piled up over the hill from the area during that time. I lived there and worked in Glendale at Arrowhead at that time, and can attest to the fact that dead palms were removed routinely. The resort which owned the property for many years kept the property in tip top shape and would naturally have removed any dead palms. There are also stumps of dead palms and aged very weathered palms at Angel's Ranch which is an area that has been ignored for a great many years. In fact the last time anyone lived near there would have been in the 1930's. (See Photos.)

Curiously, the owner of the resort (a Mr. Robert Plumber at the time) also knew and advertised that the Palm oasis there was very ancient. He told my father that he knew this from what the Indians had said. He stated that the Indians had conveyed to him a saying which went something like this: "The Palms are always here". Although this is partly alluded to on the old brochures for the Resort, this fact has been repeatedly missed by all.

That particular resort is the site of the old Home place referred to by Harold Doty and this information reported here was passed down from owner to owner. It is interesting to note that those new comers to the Upper valley who were familiar with Cooper of the Lower Valley immediately ascribe all the palms to Mendis Cooper, while those not associated with the Lower Valley previously or those having owned ranches predating this loop of local information invariably assign the palms to a more ancient origin.

Another interesting note involves the Pools around the Warm Springs area. The main area of Pools was one of those which belonged to the Blodales earlier in this century. Among other things is the fact that at least one pool possesses a date written in the concrete of 1936. What makes this interesting is that the pool's concrete circumscribes the bases of several large palms where this date is noted. Clearly for the builder of the pool to do this he would have had to feel comfortable that the diameter of the palm would not eventually grow larger and break out the concrete. Since the concrete makes a coved shape around the base of the palm it is clear that not only was the palm already full grown when this structure was built, but that the concrete was placed against the trunk and coved up around it in 1936. For this to have been possible, the palm would have had to have been there before 1920 and most likely substantially so. All of these palms are randomly planted. And it is clear since some of them are clumped very tightly and encompassed completely with concrete, that they were that way a very long time ago. In fact this fact virtually proves that what Orville Perkins referred to as a "favorite resting stop for weary travelers" was in fact an oasis of Palms. Why the palms were not specifically mentioned is somewhat of a mystery since the palms were clearly present when this "favorite resting stop" began getting it's reputation. The palms surrounded by concrete would have had to be large and very well established by 1936 which means that they were extant before the 1920's making them the certain subject of this reference. If the reference had been about Cottonwoods it is highly doubtful these would have been cut and removed to replace them with Palms. The Mormons were far more fond of Cottonwoods.

It would seem very odd and highly unreasonable to think that practical Mormons who had little in the way of luxuries in 1900 would have cordoned off all areas nearest the main source for all the water in the two valleys...just to plant acres of Palm oases. The Mormons were far more likely to plant practical crops and graze their cattle there (who incidentally love to eat young Desert Fan Palm eophylls.) Not to mention that in this case they also would have had to have exhibited remarkable restraint in resisting the planting of even just one straight row of palms anywhere in the Upper Valley. In the lower valley it is clear that no one could resist the straight lines. (Although for many years I thought one particular long apparent "row" of palms was "planted" in the upper valley across from the Resort near the gates of the Mormon Ranch, I have discovered recently that they are in fact random and simply appear to be a straight line since the stream follows an almost straight course in that location. Some of these particular palms are up to 26 meters in height! )

This preceding small sampling of the more compelling anecdotes I have collected show that the late conjecture which attempts to suggest this Palm is a recent adventive is lacking in substance and chronological veracity. This will become even more evident as I expand upon these anecdotes and detail the Moapa Women's stories more thoroughly later. For now however, I would like to include a short discussion which will help to round out the picture on who the Moapa were, where they descended from, and some of the climate and topographical considerations which affect this report.

Collected excerpts on the area's Ancient Background

o gain a better understanding of the interweaving of the Pueblo and Moapa culture as well as of their early agrarian practices and trading partners, length of time known to have been in the area, description of the areas climactical affinities and vegetative communities I offer some excerpts from The Nevada State Museum Anthropological papers #5 (Richard Shutler Jr. -June 1961) I have shortened passages for clarity and edited out remarks not immediately relevant to this research. Later some of these points will be addressed more thoroughly such as Plant communities. Parenthesis are mine.

(page 29)..."The lost city phase (in the Moapa Valley)...lasted from A.D. 700 to somewhere near 1100..." ..."Southern Paiute brown ware is found in almost every site in the lost city area...the Paiutes must have been in Southern Nevada since the Lost City phase." (almost 900 years ago minimum.)

(again on page 69:) "Southern Paiute sherds were noted at almost all of the pueblo sites of the area , in both the Lost City and the Mesa House phases. The sherds were found within the rooms of the houses, mixed with Pueblo sherds at campsites, and in the caves and rockshelters. It is CERTAIN that these sherds were left by the Moapa. The pottery is identical to pottery made in historic times by (Southern Paiute) Moapa Paiute, and the Paiute have legends which tell of their encounters with the Pueblo people. (see Hayden 1930; Meighan 1956)" (Since modern day Hopi in places like old Oraibi still live in similar homes to the lost city dwellings and since they also speak a dialect of the Shoshone language as do the Moapa it would not seem completely unreasonable to speculate that the Hopi and the Moapa may have both descended from the same Lost city type of cultures.)

"The Moapa Paiute are almost the only Great Basin Shoshone speakers who practice agriculture (Steward 1938: 33). Remains of corn and squash in Paiute deposits in Southern Nevada caves (Harrington 1930) indicate that the Southern Paiute have been cultivating these crops for a long period of time. It may be reasonable to assume they learned this practice from the Pueblo people."

..."Hunting seemed to have played a more minor role here (as opposed to Great Basin Paiutes) as game was scarce...The communal rabbit drives characteristic of the Great Basin was lacking here. The crops grown (by the Moapa Paiutes) were planted in damp spots near streams. (This is very similar to the Cahuilla method) Only minor surface irrigation was practiced...water being diverted from the streams onto plots. The fields were individually owned and worked by families. They were destroyed at the death of the owner. (This too appears to parallel a Cahuilla tradition) Not each family owned fields and it appears that they traded both wild and cultivated foods."

(on page 3:)..." The bulk of (Southern Nevada) is in the Basin and range province (Fenneman 19321; Steward 1938; U. S. dept of Interior 1946) ...In these Great Basin areas all streams drain into the valleys to evaporate... (These) areas are generally high in elevation ...with the valleys between 4,000 and 6,000 feet. ...(However) extreme southern Nevada and the adjoining parts of Arizona are drained by the Colorado river. ...During the winter the temperature is mild in the low lying valleys. ...Most of the (high valley basin)areas (are) in the upper Sonoran life zone, with Artemisia a characteristic plant. ...(But) in the low valleys to the south, the lower Sonoran life zone prevails. Here the principal plants are: (among others), Atriplex polycarpa, Acacia greggi, Prosopis glandulosa, Stromocarpa odorata, Echinocactua, Opuntia, Agave and Helianthus." (go back to referring text)

"The area under consideration in this report includes the Muddy and the Virgin river drainages in Clark County, Nevada...The Muddy has it's source in warm springs northwest of Moapa, Nevada, and runs approximately 30 miles southeast throughout the Moapa Valley to where it joins with the Virgin. ...Before the formation of Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam it was joined by the Muddy near St. Thomas, Nevada. Only camping sites were found along the Colorado itself in Nevada, since the stream current, volume and cliff-lie banks preclude irrigation. (There are historical accounts of encounters with Paiutes along the Colorado south of the Muddy who were growing corn. See original Las Vegas Mission diaries) However the wide valley through which the Muddy River flows is dotted with the remains of Pueblo occupation, among them the enormous Pueblo Grande de Nevada. (The Lost City)"

"(page 4) The valley floor is generally level, and fertile soil is found in the area of the river flood plain. In addition to the main source of water at the warm springs, some small springs occur in the gravel terraces on the eastern side of the (lower) valley."

(Editor's Note:) Palms are extant at each of these springs as well as the main warm springs in the upper Moapa valley. Palms are not found in random groves anywhere else in the lower valley. (With the exception of some volunteer clumps of palms at Blue Point and Roger's Springs) These very small groves are just east of present day Overton about a mile from the original homestead of Mendis Cooper. The main grove is near the old Sanford Angel homestead. See the maps for details. This area was homesteaded nearly 20 years before the Cooper place (1876). Note that these springs and the groves associated with them are not immediately visible from either Cooper's homestead or the town of Overton. Curiously and amazingly, I have discussed these groves with many long time residents of Overton and a great number of locals aren't even aware that these small palm groves exist. This may assist the reader in understanding how difficult these groves are to spot from populated areas around Overton as well as how infrequently they are visited by the majority of people. The groves have furthermore always been separated from the main settlements around Overton by swampy or flooded areas.(26) (see Photos which show view toward Overton from one of these groves.)

Almost all of the areas in the Lower Moapa valley were subject to intense flooding. (see footnote #26) The groves of palms here are all just above the areas which periodically flooded. The flooding is caused by rain-runoff and not the Muddy river's source itself. The upper muddy or Moapa valley where the large Oasis at warm springs lies is not subject to flooding as the lower valley is.

It is interesting to note that every grove of palms which is suspected of being native occurs only at permanent water sources which are protected from the severe flooding which was typical of the area. This is very significant in that it may help to explain why only in the last century has there been incidence of volunteer palm trees occurring throughout the lower valley and then only since white settlers have dealt with the flooding problem and have furthermore provided permanent irrigation to most areas in the lower valley.

Continuing the Nevada State Museum Anthropological Papers #5: (page 4)...

"Cottonwoods that grow in the valleys today are said to be introduced by Mormon settlers. Mesquite and Screwbean occurred in prehistoric times but ...Yucca had to be collected at higher altitudes."

(Also see page 277 of "Nevada Ghost towns and Mining Camps" by -Stanley W. Paher 1970 Howell North Books as well as "Hookey Beans and Willows" page 136 and many other historical references to this. Also see summary of part one.)

"Just below Glendale... (about 15 miles from its source)... the Muddy River flows through several miles of narrow canyons. These canyons divide the Moapa Valley into two parts. The Upper Moapa Valley to the north of the Narrows and the Lower Moapa Valley to the south. The western edge of the Upper Moapa Valley is composed of a high steep-sided mesa, while the eastern edge is bordered by low eroded hills. The flat valley floor afforded ample arable land for the prehistoric farmers. ...The Lower Moapa Valley is the area encompassing the Pueblo Grande de Nevada. For some 16 miles from the junction of the Muddy river with the Virgin, the sites stretched along both sides of the muddy river to the Narrows. This region was intensively occupied by agricultural people for many hundreds of years..."

(page 29) "Southern Paiute brown ware is found at almost every site in the Lost City area. Although as was pointed out seems reasonable to assume that at least some of the many Paiute sherds found in the course of excavation must have been deposited while the ruins were in use. If such is the case, the Southern Paiutes (Moapas), must have been in Southern Nevada since the Lost City phase." ..."The intrusive pottery indicates that throughout the occupation of Lost City these people were in contact, probably trading, with the upper Virgin river, the Kayenta Branch of the Anasazi, and the Patayan to the east of the Colorado River and other peoples of the Lower Colorado River. The great quantities however of Pyramid Gray (sherds) indicates an especially close relationship with the Lower Colorado River peoples."

Following is a Summary of Part one

The foregoing shows that anachronisms or constrains of time and culture weigh heavily upon the veracity of the later conjecture which followed the Mendis Cooper story, while reports from the Moapas and others following, corroborate each other as to the more likely possibility that Palms predate the early Whites.

A later section detailing the relevant plant species of the Moapa area, will clarify this and other points.

In the following material in Part Two and the remainder of this research I will show, (using the methodology of: David E. Brown Az . Fish and Game Dept., Neil B. Carmony U.S. Geological Survey, Tucson, Charles H. Lowe Univ. Az Tucson and Raymond M. Turner U.S. Geological Survey, Tucson,) that there is a very strong case for effecting a change in the currently accepted status of this species in the entire Moapa region. Additionally I will introduce other evidence (some of which I have already alluded to,) which will provide further impetus to arrive at the same conclusions. The methods I will use are identical to the ones these men published which concluded that: "...populations of Washingtonia filifera at and near Alkali Springs in the vicinity of Castle Creek in southern Yavapai County AZ are indeed NATIVE..."

The following discourse will strongly recommend careful reconsideration of this plant's status by all agencies.

Editor's note:

It seems extremely important to point out that most botanical surveys of the Lake Mead area have disregarded inclusion of three or four small groves of historically extant Washingtonia filifera along seeps at the southern tip of the Mormon Mesa whenever surveys were conducted of the Lake Mead area. Perhaps these groves could not be included because technically the Recreation area ends just before the groves. However inclusion of these groves may have had bearing on the way "more juvenile appearing palms" at Roger's springs were treated. None of these palms at Rogers Springs were ever included although there is sufficient evidence that palms existed at several locations around the area when the surveys were made. Tamarix was included as were cottonwoods although these are known introductions.(27) These groves closely fit referenced descriptions of native groves in California and in both native locations in Arizona. These groves near Angel Ranch are all described in currently unpublished data by this author.

Since palms were most certainly extant however at the time of all the surveys, there is no logical reason for this curious absence. These groves were most definitely extant with some being very old whenever botanical researchers conducted surveys of the area. Deep bedrock mortars of the type used by Cahuilla for palm fruit and of the type described and pointed out by each of the four Moapa elders mentioned in this report, occur within several meters of all the small groves. The fact that these botanical surveys omitted this plant in these areas while including Tamarix (a known nuisance introduction in the early 1900's) is odd. Perhaps the surveyors were persuaded by the anachronistic local conjecture following the Cooper anecdotes or perhaps they never surveyed the exact locations where these palms persisted and subsequently missed the plants in their survey. Other flora surveys of the Warm Springs area also apparently included Tamarix although literally hundreds of palms surrounded them during their surveys. (Bradley & Deacon 1965 as reported by Jeanne Clark -Nevada State Museum anthropological Papers #5 1984)

These recurring omissions however inaccurate they may be proven to have been by this report, are at this time, the sole basis for the current listing of Washingtonia filifera as a Non-native exotic plant in the Lake Mead Area as defined by: J. Holland, Wes Niles, and Patrick Leary: (Vascular Plants of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Feb 1971.)

These surveys are also cited in the Recreation Area's bulletins to area residents which include the Washingtonia as a "NON-NATIVE" plant. A recent News release from the Park Service on September the 8th 1995 95-083 released by area supervisors states: (regarding some trees being replaced at Roger's Springs)

"...The trees will be replaced by planting native cottonwood and willow trees..."

I object strenuously to this policy as it overlooks the true history of both the Palms and the Cottonwoods of the area. No apparent difficulty has been demonstrated by official botanical sanctions with regard to the acceptance of the Cottonwood as a native plant (which is shown repeatedly to have been "introduced by the following cited literature") Why is this not the case with Washingtonia filifera, when (as this report shows,) there is so much evidence that it not only predates whites to the area but is culturally linked to the Moapas and unlike the cottonwood...almost certainly a native?

The following cited literature demonstrates that Cottonwoods were not extant when the early white settlers arrived. : (Settlers brought "whips" of budded sticks of Cottonwood with them from Utah.) Apparently they did this all over the west. They simply loved the tree.

From: "History of Nevada" by Sam P. Davis Elm Publishing Company -1913

"Early in 1865 a number of people settled the area from Utah, in the Muddy. (28)

Others followed rapidly and four towns were established: St. Thomas, St. Joseph, Overton, and West Point. There came to be about two thousand whites in the valley. They constructed irrigation canals and planted cottonwoods along the water courses. They thought they were in Arizona but when Government surveyors demarcated the boundaries and they discovered they were in Nevada the inhabitants abandoned their homes and returned to Utah."

"Hookey Beans and Willows" Art Press, Orville Perkins.

"When the first white explorers came to Southern Nevada, they were appalled at the absence of trees. Only in the mountains could trees be found. John Fremont only mentioned the Acacia (mesquite) when he crossed the southern part of the state in 1844. ...The first white people to the muddy suffered greatly because of the lack of shade trees...Native Ash grew in a few places but not to any height or spread. ...But soon they planted trees, both fruit and shade, but the most popular was Cottonwood. Black Willow was also planted by the settlers as was Osage orange...

"Southern Nevada's first Towns" from Hookey beans and Willows, Orville Perkins. (page 20)

" at Overton, they laid out a town with city lots and streets. Many trees were planted, mostly cottonwoods."

"Nevada State Museum Anthropological Papers #5:" (page 4) Shutler 1961

"Cottonwoods that grow in the valleys today are said to have been introduced by Mormon settlers."

"Nevada Ghost towns and Mining Camps" by -Stanley W. Paher

1970 Howell North Books page 277

"Members of the Las Vegas mission in 1855 ...planted cottonwood trees..."

A book called the History of the Las Vegas Mission which is a collection of diary notations also bears out this fact.

Even though it is clear that Cottonwood trees were brought to the area by very early Mormons as early as 1855 and though this fact has been reiterated in literature some continue to insist that Cottonwoods are local natives. Furthermore they also have proposed to replace the Palms with whenever opportunity permits. (See photos at end of this report which show stump of large cut palm which was taken out by the Park Service at Blue Point springs. ) This would entail planting Cottonwoods at Roger's Springs for instance, where there has never been any evidence of this tree having existed there. All the while no one can recall a time when palms were not in evidence at that location...even if they were but smaller.

Will they do the same for the palm after it is shown here to be native? Will they re-establish it in area springs and Natural areas as they propose with Cottonwoods if they find the Palm is native?

As of this writing This Non-native definition is the criteria currently being used by all area agencies which states that the Washingtonia filifera is an introduced non-native species in Southern Nevada.

go to endnote, if you haven't yet read this.

End of Part One,

CLICK here for PART Two:

Footnotes follow:

1. The Desert Fan Palm-evidence still supports relict status -Spencer, W. A. Unpublished research 1996. (Back to text)

2. Clover, E. U., 1937. Vegetational survey of the lower Rio Grande valley, Texas. Madrono 4:41-72. (back)

3. Specifically Brahea-Armata(sp), and Sabal-Uresana (sp.). (back)

4. Desert Plants, Volume 5, Number 3, 1983 pg. 98, Frank S. Crosswhite- published by The Boyce Thompson Southwestern Arboretum and Univ. of AZ. (back)

5. The Desert Fan palm-not a relict -Cornett, J. W. San Bernardino County Museum Association quarterly Vol xxxvi #2 -summer 1989. (back)

6. That is to say, disseminated, planted, or propagated by recent human means, rather than by naturally evolving on it's own in that particular locale. (back)

7. Brown, Carmony, Lowe and Turner "A Second Locality For Native California Fan Palms, (Washingtonia Filifera) In Arizona." -Arizona Academy of Science Volume 11, Number 1, Feb. 1976 . (back)

8. (Fenneman 19321; Steward 1938; U. S. dept of Interior 1946)...In these Great Basin areas all streams drain into the valleys to evaporate... (These) areas are generally high in elevation ...with the valleys between 4,000 and 6,000 feet. ...(However) extreme southern Nevada...(is) drained by the Colorado river. ...During the winter the temperature is mild ...(and)...the lower Sonoran life zone prevails. (back)

9. The sole exception here is Logandale NV., which is apparently a micro climatic cold sink and consistently has as many as 12 to 50 more freezing days than other surrounding areas. The low temperatures are also colder by as much as twelve degrees Fahrenheit. See climate reference: The Desert Fan Palm--Evidence supports Relict status, -Spencer, Winton  (back)

10. The actual riparian species present in the springs around the Moapa region as well as detailed climate information collected and compared for a period of at least ten years for various recording stations around the local areas in question will be presented in following portions of this report. (back)

11. It seems extremely important to point out that botanical surveys of the Lake Mead area have all completely missed three or four small groves of historically extant Washingtonia filifera along seeps at the southern tip of the Mormon Mesa whenever surveys were conducted of the Lake Mead area. These groves closely fit reference descriptions of native groves in California and in both locations in Arizona. Since the palms were most certainly extant at the time of all the surveys, there is no logical reason for this curious absence. These groves were most definitely extant and old every time botanical researchers conducted any surveys of the area. Deep bedrock mortars of the type used by Cahuilla for palm fruit and of the type described and pointed out by each of the four Moapa elders mentioned in this report, occur within yards of the small groves. The fact that all botanical surveys completely omitted this plant indicates that the surveyors were either persuaded by the anachronistic and superficial local Cooper anecdotes discussed in this report or else they never surveyed the exact locations where these palms persisted and subsequently missed the plants in their survey. This unfortunate recurring omission is the entire basis for the current listing of Washingtonia filifera as a Non-native exotic plant in the Lake Mead Area as defined by: J. Holland, Wes Niles, and Patrick Leary: (Vascular Plants of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Feb 1971.) This definition in addition to others and specific local anecdotes, is the criteria currently being used by all area agencies. (back)

12. "it is very likely that few, if any, of these linguistic divisions meant anything to Indian people with the exception of the idiomalities themselves and these latter seldom possessed political significance." Native Americans of California and Nevada -Forbes, Jack D. Naturesgraph, publishers, Healdsburg CA 1969 (p) 181 (back)

13. "Mukat's People" -Lowell John Bean -Univ. of Ca Press ,1972 (back)

14. Cornet, James W. "Desert Palm Oasis" J. W. Cornett and the Palm Springs Desert Museum 1989, page 29 (back)

15. "...great quantities however of Pyramid Gray (sherds) indicates an especially close relationship with the Lower Colorado River peoples." Nevada State Museum anthropological Papers #5, R. Shutler Jr. 1961 (back)

16. I have my own theory about possible reasons for that... which involve the distinct likelihood that all the settlers arriving after the 1830's very possibly saw the Paiutes in constant states of mourning over disease, and child slavery kidnaping by the Navajo or Mexicans. (back)

17. There are significant exceptions to this which should be noted, namely that certain cavalrymen were so impressed by the marksmanship of Moapas at their first meetings that they felt their own guns insufficient as defense. It was said that a Moapa could hold three arrows in one hand and release an arrow with the other all in one graceful motion. Furthermore in contrast to some reports that they ate whatever they could get their hands on (including one report of "lice") One early settler noted that the Moapa had not "bothered" with shooting the mourning doves saying they believed them to be a waste of munitions for such a little bit of meat. (back)

18. Personal Communication with Ute Perkins (Leavitt) daughter of Lawrence Whitney Perkins. born 1906. Lawrence ran the Home Ranch in the early 1900's. His dad, Ute Warren Perkins and other old timers had said that the palms had always been in the Warm Springs at the upper Valley. He told Ute that : "The palms had been there as long as he knew and that old timers had told him they'd always been there." (back)

19. An interesting note for comparison is that throughout the Salton Sea trough the area typically exhibits palm oases mostly only in areas with both, some protection from flooding and with permanent ground water, but not "swamp". According to Ole J. Nordland "Coachella Valley Golden Years. 1968:15-18 from 1840 to 1910 the Colorado flooded some 15 times, "destroying much of the desert Biota". Since this encompasses the same time period when white settlers settled down permanently in Moapa valleys and since the Moapa is a tributary of the Colorado it is reasonable to think that on at least some of these occasions the lower Moapa experienced the same type of vegetative destruction. It is known for instance that in 1910 a flood known as the "granddaddy of all floods" flooded the Valley. (Hookey beans and Willows-Orville Perkins) The flood lasted a week and Logandale would "never be the same." (back)

20. This is true of even the Cahuilla whose cultural practices were in "the throes of death" by the early 1920's. ("The Cahuilla Indians of the Colorado Desert" -Wilke p 17. and others.) (back)

21. She stated that : "She was as young as a person can be and have memories of their surroundings." (back)

22. Contrast this to the fact that this palm was central to several groups of the Moapa's southern cousins and was not only a vastly important food and building material but even figured centrally in their oral histories. (back)

23. with the exceptions of several small groupings of apparent age near seeps and bedrock mortars in the lower valley which incidentally are suspect of being native. (back)

24. The Desert Fan Palm--evidence supports Relict status- Spencer, Winton  unpublished data 1996 (back)

25. I spoke to Harold Doty on several occasions in his home and in Overton from 1993 to 1996. He repeated these stories to me several times over the course of this time and they are backed up by corroborating anecdotal information from Kleon Winsor. (back)

26. (In 1910)... there was no flood channel as there is today; in fact a great deal of what is farmed today was swamps...Orville Perkins, from "Hookey Beans & Willows" page 60. (back)

27. "When the first white explorers came to Southern Nevada, they were appalled at the absence of trees. Only in the mountains could trees be found. John Fremont only mentioned the Acacia (mesquite) when he crossed the southern part of the state in 1844. ...The first white people to the muddy suffered greatly because of the lack of shade trees...Native Ash grew in a few places but not to any height or spread. ...But soon they planted trees, both fruit and shade, but the most popular was Cottonwood. Black Willow was also planted by the settlers as was Osage orange... "Hookey Beans and Willows" Art Press, Orville Perkins. (back)

28. Muddy actually comes from the Paiute word "moody" which was their name for Mesquite and had nothing to do with the river being muddy. (Sarah Laub Perkins Moapa Pioneer 1938 from unpublished original letter in possession of Perkins family-Moapa.) (back)

Endnote comments (if you have already read this, click here for end of part one.)

from: THE CALIFORNIA DESERT by Mildred E. Mathias

(Fremontia, October 1978, Vol. 6 No. 3, California Native Plant Society. pp. 3-6)

(Editor's note: This endnote explains why the areas around Moapa should be considered as part of the Sonoran Desert rather than as Great Basin in reference to Plant communities, climate and elevation considerations. )

In California we can recognize either two or three deserts depending on one's classification of vegetation. The northernmost high desert or Great Basin Desert lies at elevations of approximately 1200 to 1500 meters (4000 feet) and is characteristic of the Great Basin of much of Utah, Nevada, and northeastern California north of Bishop. For present purposes I shall exclude this cold sagebrush steppe from discussion and concentrate on the middle- and low-elevation deserts, the Mojave and Sonoran or Colorado. These latter deserts, comprising some 40,000,000 hectares, extend in California from Owens Valley in the north to the Mexican border and east from the mountains to the Nevada and Arizona state lines.

Of course deserts are not delimited by arbitrary political lines and they continue across southern Nevada into southwestern Utah, across Arizona into New Mexico and west Texas, and south into Baja California and other parts of Mexico.

The Mojave Desert lies to the south and west of the Great Basin at elevations between approximately 600 to 1200 meters (2000 to 4000 feet). It has a distinctive topography of closed basins surrounded by mountain ranges. The only major drainage system is that of the Mojave River which drains from the north side of the San Bernardino Mountains to dissipate eventually in the vast bed of Soda Lake at Baker. This largest of California's deserts has a normal rainy season from late November through March, with occasional snow. On the western edge of the desert rainfall may average 250 mm (c. 10 inches) or more a y ear but the major part of the desert to the east receives less than 65 mm (2-1/2 inches). Summer rains may occur, but they are usually highly localized and may be of cloudburst proportions. Average winter temperatures are 5-10 C (40-50 F) and may go as low as - 18 C (0 F). Average summer temperatures are 27-30 (82-87 F) but locally may average 32 (90 F) and high temperatures of 48 (120 F) have been recorded.

The Sonoran Desert

The low-elevation desert, the Sonoran, or Colorado, lies largely below approximately 300 meters (1000 feet) elevation and includes the Coachella, Imperial, Borrego, and Palo Verde valleys, and the areas bordering the Colorado River. If elevation is used as a primary criterion for defining the boundaries of this desert one must also include Panamint and Death valleys as northward extensions of the Sonoran Desert. This desert is both hotter and drier than the Mojave. Average recorded rainfall is from 43 mm (1-1/2 inches) in Death Valley to 142 mm (5-1/2 inches) at Palm Springs with an average for the entire area of about 88 mm (3-1/2 inches). Some areas may have no measurable rain for several years. Almost the entire seasonal rainfall may occur in one single violent summer thunderstorm. Precipitation from December through February normally accounts for about half the yearly total. From mid-May through September temperatures may be 48 C (120 F) or higher every day for six to ten weeks or occasionally longer. All-time extremes have been recorded from 49 C (120 F) at Bagdad, 54 C (130 F) at Amos, to 56 C (135 F) in Death Valley. During the winter months temperatures from 27 to 32 C (80-90 F) have been recorded at all stations. Diurnal fluctuation in temperature is wide, with 22 to 33 C (70-90 F) being common. Winters are mild, the usual minimum ranging from -2 to - 1 C (29-31 F). Severe freezes occur infrequently when temperatures drop to as low as -10 C (14 F), with an all-time record of - 15 (5 F) recorded on one occasion at Blythe.


As might be expected the vegetation reflects the differing temperature and rainfall regimes of the two deserts. Both are dominated by creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) scrub. In the Mojave Desert creosote bush scrub is widespread, particularly on well-drained sandy flats and bajadas (alluvial slopes). Saltbush scrub (Atriplex spp.) is found in the basins surrounding the dry lakes, and associated salt tolerant plants (halophytes) Allenrolfea occidentalis, Nitrophila occidentalis, Salicornia subterminalis, Suaeda species, and Sarcobatus vermiculatis occur on the playas (shallow dry lakes) and in the sinks. Blackbush scrub, dominated by Coleogyne ramosissima, occurs on upper bajadas, and rocky areas. In Owens Valley to the north, shadscale scrub, dominated by Atriplex confertifolia and Artemisia spinescens, is common, particularly on rocky slopes. Throughout the Mojave Desert the basins are bordered by Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia). Yucca schidigera is also widespread.

In contrast to the shrubby vegetation of the Mojave, the Sonoran Desert has a number of trees along the arroyos, such as the palo verde (Cercidium floridum), mesquite (Prosopis sp.), and screw-bean (Prosopis glandulosa var. torreyana and P. pubescens), desert willow (Chilopsis linearis), desert ironwood (Olneya tesota), and smoke tree (Dalea spinosa). These trees presumably are unable to become established in the Mojave because of the colder winters. Another distinctive tree of the Sonoran Desert is the California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera), confined to oases with permanent water supply. As in the Mojave, creosote bush scrub dominates on the well-drained soils of the bajadas. Cactus scrub is locally prominent. Areas of high salinity contain the same salt-tolerant halophytes as the Mojave, and saltbush scrub also occurs.

Furthermore one may read in "Mukat's People" by Lowell John Bean on page 25 - 27

-Lower Sonoran

Grinnell and Swartz (1908:3) states that the desert region of the Lower Sonoran life zone is that zone which lies below the juniper pinyon belt, but warns that this indicator must be viewed with caution as there are "tongues of this zone [which] extend into the foothills on slopes and occupy hot pockets at somewhat higher elevations owing to variations in soil, water, wind, and other climatic conditions that are critical for the growth of plants and animals."

Some characteristic plants used by the Cahuilla in the Lower Sonoran zone (like the Moapa) are:

Pluchea sericea, Echinocactus acanthodes, Isomeris arborea, Washingtonia filifera, Acacia greggii, Agave deserti, Adenostoma fasciculatum, Larrea tridentata, Ephedra nevadensis, Chilopsis linearis, Simmondsia chinensis, Prosopis glandulosa, Asclepias sp., Yucca sp., Atriplex spp. Abronia villosa, Prosopis pubescens, among others.

Furthermore we read in:

"Clark County The Changing Face of Southern Nevada" By- Frank White (Nevada Historical Society)

..."John C. Fremont named this region the "Great Basin." In the Great Basin, streams do not flow into the ocean. They drain instead into interior valleys or basins. The waters of some streams and washes in Clark County Nevada reach the sea by way of the Colorado River. Thus much of Clark county lies WITHIN THE COLORADO DRAINAGE SYSTEM AND NOT WITHIN THE GREAT BASIN." (PAGE 3) (go back to referring text if you are not finished with the document part one by clicking here.)



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