The Mojave Desert (pronounced: // mo-hah-vee) is a desert that occupies a significant portion of southeastern California and smaller parts of central California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona in the United States. The term Mojave originates from the Spanish language while the spelling Mohave comes from modern English. Both are used today, although the Native American Tribe officially uses the spelling Mojave; the word is a shortened form of ‘Hamakhaave’, their endonym in their native language, which means ‘beside the water’. The Mojave Desert displays typical basin and range topography. Higher elevations above 2,000 feet (610 m) in the Mojave are commonly referred to as the High Desert; however, Death Valley is the lowest elevation in North America at 282 feet (86 m) below sea level and is one of the Mojave Desert’s more notorious places.
The Mojave Desert’s boundaries are generally defined by the presence of Yucca brevifolia (Joshua trees), considered an indicator species for this desert. The topographical boundaries include the Tehachapi together with the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountain ranges. The mountain boundaries are quite distinct since they are outlined by the two largest faults in California, the San Andreas and Garlock faults. The Great Basin shrub steppe lies to the north, and the warmer Sonoran Desert (the Low Desert) lies to the south and east. The desert is believed to support between 1,750 and 2,000 species of plants.
While most of the Mojave Desert is sparsely populated, several large cities can be found there including Lancaster, Palmdale and Victorville in California, as well as Henderson and Las Vegas (the largest) in Nevada.