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Miners and ranchers began coming in the 1860s, including the McHaney brothers, who established the Desert Queen Ranch. Later on, Bill Keys acquired it, and he lived with his family on the property, now known as the Keys Ranch, until his death in 1969. Many of the ranch structures have been restored to their Keys-era condition, painting a compelling picture of how one hardy family made a home in the unforgiving desert. Admittance is limited to official Park Service tours.

You can find petroglyphs near Barker Dam, where an easy 1.1-mile loop hiking trail leads to a small artificial lake framed by the Wonderland of Rocks. After scrambling a bit to get to the dam, you'll find a sandy path leading to the "Disney Petroglyph" site. Its wry name stems from the fact that a 1950s movie crew retraced the ancient rock carvings to make them more visible to the camera, defacing them forever. If you investigate the cliffs along the remainder of the trail, you're likely to find some untouched drawings depicting animals, humans, and other aspects of desert life as interpreted by long-ago dwellers. You'll see more petroglyphs along the 18-mile Geology Tour Road, a sandy, lumpy dirt road accessible only by four-wheel-drive vehicles or hardy mountain bikers.

During World War II, George S. Patton trained over a million soldiers in desert combat at several sites throughout the Mojave and Colorado deserts. Tank tracks are still visible in the desert around the former Camp Young, near Cottonwood Springs. The Camp Young Memorial marker is 1 mile east of Cottonwood Springs Road, just before the park entrance; an informational kiosk there gives details of the training maneuvers and daily camp life. To learn more, you can visit the General Patton Memorial Museum (tel. 760/227-3483; www.generalpattonmuseum.com) in Chiriaco Summit, on I-10 about 4 miles east of the Cottonwood Entrance. The museum contains an assortment of memorabilia from World War II and other military glory days, as well as displays of tanks and artillery; it's open daily from 9:30am to 4:30pm (except Thanksgiving and Dec 25). Admission is $5 for adults, $4.50 for seniors 62 and older, $1 for children 7 to 12, and free for children under 7.

Desert Bizarro

The Joshua Tree area has long attracted outcasts, misfits, and eccentrics looking for a place where they can let it all hang out. And they've definitely left a mark. Check out the landmarks left by two late desert notables, George Van Tassel and Noah Purifoy, in the respective forms of the Integratron near Landers (tel. 760/364-3126; www.integratron.com), and the Noah Purifoy Sculpture Park Museum in the town of Joshua Tree (tel. 213/382-756 for an appointment to visit; www.noahpurifoy.com). The former is an amazing wooden dome with unbelievable acoustics and public sound baths on two Saturdays and Sundays a month at noon and on other days by appointment, and the latter is an outdoor museum of contemporary art made mostly from media that other artists would have thrown away.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.