Amid thirsty bees and lightning strikes, Joshua Tree closes two popular spots

The sun looms behind a Joshua tree.

The sun looms behind a Joshua tree.

(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Thirsty honey bees, which forced closure of two Joshua Tree National Park campgrounds earlier this summer, are alarming visitors again.

This time, rangers have shut down the White Tank Campground and the popular Keys View observation point while also dealing with a summer storm.

San Bernardino County fire officials said in a tweet Tuesday that lightning from the storm has sparked numerous fires in the area, including one near Fourth Street and Cascade Road in the town of Joshua Tree, just outside the park.

Rangers tweeted the Keys View closure at noon Tuesday, saying the site would stay shut “until further notice” because of bee activity. The viewpoint offers a panorama of the Coachella Valley.

The White Tank Campground is a first-come, first-served campground with 15 sites and no water at the north end of the park. It’s popular with watchers of the night sky because there’s little light pollution in the area.


Bee activity led rangers to shut down Jumbo Rocks and Cottonwood campgrounds in early July. They reopened later that month. (Through Sept. 4, all camping in the park is first-come, first-served.)

In general, these are perilous days in the desert. On Saturday, the park put a flash-flood watch into effect, along with a poor air-quality warning. On Tuesday, rangers upgraded an existing heat advisory to an excessive heat warning, to be in place through Thursday. (Tuesday’s forecast: 100 degrees, with an overnight low of 76.)

Meanwhile, authorities recently diagnosed rabbit hemorrhagic disease in a rabbit near the park — a case that could substantially impact the area’s rabbit population.

Rangers say the rabbit virus does not infect humans, but they urge visitors not to touch any wildlife because some diseases can harm humans.