Desert Heartlands—Introduction (04:11)
In the far west of America lies a legendary land that was home to Native American civilizations, cowboys, the gold rush and countless natural wonders. The deserts of the west are harsh and survival requires adaptation and perseverance. Mustangs embody the spirit of the wild west.
Roaming Mustang (04:22)
A band of mustangs roam the high desert in search of water. An adult mustang requires 70 liters of water per day. A mustang foal struggles to keep up with the herd. Mustangs use teamwork and tenacity to survive in the unforgiving desert.
Deserts of the West (05:17)
The deserts of the West span thousands of kilometers between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. The giant saguaro cactus grows in the Sonoran desert. See footage of a Gila monster hunting for quail eggs. Horned lizards eat ants for food and moisture.
First People (04:21)
Approximately 1,500 Years ago 5,000 people lived in the desert settlement of Mesa Verde in Colorado. Hopi are the descendants of that civilization and now they live in the high deserts of northern Arizona. Hopi farmer Leigh Kuwanwisiwma speaks about desert farming techniques, history, and culture.
Water and Rock (02:32)
Western deserts, 1 million years ago, were covered in lakes and rivers, but the climate shifted and the water disappeared. The Navajo knew the slot canyons as "Tse bighanilini." Today, the largest permanent water course in the area is the Colorado river.
After the Rain (04:17)
Weather patterns bring torrential rain to the desert for a few weeks per year. See footage of the desert blooming with life after the rainfall. Many species of birds make their homes in the cacti. The rain brings about cactus bee mating season and birds come out to feast.
Flowering Cacti (04:00)
After the rains, giant Saguaro cacti put forth fragrant blooms at night, attracting the lesser long-nosed bat. Honey pot ants have a bizarre adaptation that helps their colony survive the dry season in the desert.
Death Valley (04:41)
The Mojave Desert is the lowest point in America and holds the record for high temperatures. Prospectors found gold in California in 1848 and sparked a gold rush. The Badwater Ultramarathon sees runners trek 217 km across Death Valley and the Sierra Nevada.
Coyotes and Tortoises (03:52)
Coyotes in the desert travel long distances to find food and water which keeps them smaller than coyotes in lusher habitats. A tortoise leaves its burrow to search out a mate. The tortoise tries for hours to woo his potential mate.
Mono Lake (03:16)
The lake is the remnant of an ancient lake that once covered much of Utah and Nevada. Despite highly alkalinity, it is home to life. Migrating birds feast when alkali flies swarm in the trillions.
Salty Oases (06:35)
A giant freshwater aquifer lies underneath the desert; in some places the water escapes to the surface and creates pools. As the water absorbs desert minerals, it becomes three times saltier than the ocean. Furnace Creek, California is one of the strangest wildlife refuges in North America.
Water is Life (02:01)
In America's Wild West, the hostility of the desert is a constant challenge. Denizens of the desert will continue to make their home in the West and find a way to survive.
Credits: Desert Heartlands (00:34)
Credits: Desert Heartlands
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